The Office of International Education (OIE) at the University of Richmond (UR) developed Encompass Southeast Asia (Encompass SEA) as part of a pilot program to engage students who have not historically participated in study abroad opportunities at UR and its partner institutions. Participants included students from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds, nontraditional students, students of color, athletes, males, and students with limited travel experience. Historically, such cohorts have not participated in semester-long study abroad programs due to the prohibitive costs, time commitments required, and social stigmas. The Encompass program, fully funded by a donor, included all travel expenses for student and faculty participants.
Encompass SEA developed from discussions between the two faculty member authors and the dean of OIE, Dr. Martha Merritt, with several goals: (1) build more connections between UR and partner organizations in Asia; (2) focus these connections based on the prior research expertise of both authors in the realm of anti-human trafficking studies; (3) provide students an immersive cultural experience that went beyond touristic experiences in Southeast Asia and instead illuminated the operational dynamics of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in their counter-trafficking work; and (4) bolster research collaboration opportunities and outreach between UR and nonprofits, other organizations, and educational institutions in Thailand and Cambodia. The faculty leaders for Encompass SEA also envisioned growing a cohort of faculty across UR with diverse interests in Asia and a collective desire to deepen connections between the university and Asian institutions. The faculty leaders of the trip created an itinerary that combined visits with nonprofits in Thailand and Cambodia, engaging with the children and youth served by these nonprofits, shopping in local markets and cooking Thai dishes at the home of local Thai colleagues, and visiting key historical and cultural sites in both countries.
Editor’s Note: For student comments on the study tour, please see the online supplements for this issue at www.asianstudies.org/publications/eaa.
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