Chapter 5. Pre-Program Activities
5.1 Home-side activities
5.1.1 Develop an advertising and recruitment strategy
Develop a recruitment strategy that will attract qualified applicants from the target audience, including members of underrepresented groups (women, minorities, and persons with disabilities). Provide equal access for students at institutions where opportunities for research are limited. The overall quality of advertising, of the student recruitment mechanism, and of the selection processes and criteria are important elements since these will be scrutinized in agency evaluation of the international REU site program proposal for funding.
Web resources provide ready assistance in developing outreach to underrepresented groups. Some useful sites are:
American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES)
Association for Women in Science (AWIS)
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
Minority On-Line Information Service (MOLIS)
National Society of Black Engineers
Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS)
Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
[Each of these sites offers many useful links to additional societal and institutional resources.]
Active partnerships with minority-serving institutions can increase the numbers from underrepresented groups in the applicant pool.
The NSF Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program supports partnerships among academic institutions, government agencies and laboratories, industry and professional organizations for the purpose of increasing the number of minority students successfully completing baccalaureate and advanced graduate degrees in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Active LSAMP programs have established networks of contacts that can be utilized for dissemination of program announcements. The LSAMP Program Web site includes a list of program awardees; the URL is:
Real and/or perceived cultural barriers may deter some students from pursuing the application process. Clarity in advertising can highlight the accessibility of programs to all qualified undergraduates, and encourage their application. For some students, there may be a lack of understanding by the family of the value of the additional research experience (beyond the normal academic year program) and the necessity of leaving home to do this. There may be too few role models for leadership in the particular field of study, or they may not be fully accessible to the targeted student audiences. The professional societies listed above provide important networks to address these issues. Some students and their families may rely on summer employment for financial survival; for these students, the value of the summer allowance can be a critical factor in their decision to participate.
Primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) offer another academic "tier" for targeted recruitment. The Council on Undergraduate Research promotes undergraduate research-based education in PUI settings. The Council maintains a directory of institutional members and a registry of undergraduate researchers at its comprehensive Web site:
Establish effective recruiting linkages with PUIs, especially if they are minority serving. Partnership with local PUIs is an effective first step in opening up single-institution REU programs while simultaneously adding an additional dimension of diversity. Strive for diversity in partner institutions as well as applicants. If possible, formalize (or "franchise") these institutional partnerships and build them into the proposal for funding.
Utilize electronic communication, the most efficient and least expensive advertising mechanism. Effective use of electronic dissemination requires time investment in "targeting," however. Whereas "broadcast" e-mails can potentially reach large audiences, application returns from selected addressee audiences generate higher quality, more appropriate applicants. Develop program-specific distribution lists along the following lines:
- chairs of academic/departmental programs in specific fields of science and engineering*;
- membership lists of professional societies*;
- professional society newsletters (especially student newsletters);
- student participants in other REU site programs (this is useful if previous research experience is desirable);
- other agency-sponsored undergraduate research programs (e.g., NIH Minority Access to Research Careers); and
- research centers and field stations.
[* Target especially individuals at institutions with strong evidence of research and academic activity in the target disciplines, and institutions with more than two faculty members in the field.]
Send each target audience a "personalized" letter with the program information that is most relevant to the reader, and request that the announcement and the Web address (URL) be shared with students and mentors.
5.1.2 Maintain a content-rich Web site
An informative resource site is essential, especially for larger programs looking to tap a national applicant pool. A content-rich Web site with clearly visible contact information provides interested viewers with an exciting overview, and a means for communicating with program staff. Prospective students learn about the program through Web-based features highlighting program activities, laboratory projects and foreign host sites, alumni reports (Section 7.1), etc. Clearly state eligibility requirements (for example, that only U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible under program funding from NSF), and post application materials as downloadable documents. Word processor documents and interactive PDF files are ideal for this purpose.
If possible research topics were solicited from host scholars (Section 5.2.2), make these topics available on the program Web site before applications are due, so students can rank order their preferred projects. Or, give applicants this choice after applying or even after acceptance.
Additional Web links for logistical-related information are useful at later stages when accepted students are preparing for their travel:
[*Links to Web-based weather services and currency converters appear on the weather and financial pages, respectively, of on-line editions of major newspapers.]
5.1.3 Launch an effective participant selection scheme
Each international REU site program will develop a selection scheme that is best suited to the nature of its program. Effective design of application forms provides the director or screening committee with the most useful information possible for participant selection. Application forms serve the program staff in other ways. They provide important information for host matching, for follow up communications and program evaluation and reporting to the sponsoring agency, and even emergency contact information (this is required information in the case of successful applicants). Request the following information on the application:
- Home Address/Phone/E-mail
- Institutional Address/Phone/Fax/E-mail
- Citizenship (U.S. Citizen/U.S. Permanent Resident/Other; if permanent resident, request citizenship to confirm visa eligibility and requirements)
- Passport Number (So as not to deter application by those student presently lacking a passport, simply alert applicants that a passport will be needed for program participation.)
Emergency Contact Information (this can be collected from accepted applicants):
- Year in School (Freshman/Sophomore/Junior/Senior)
- Coursework Summary
- Name/Address/Phone/E-mail of Department Chair/Advisor
- Parent/Guardian Name/Address/Phone
- Parental Permission
- Insurance Information and Consent to Treat
- Physician's Medical Certification
Ask students, "How did you learn about the program?" Their responses contribute to more effective advertising and promotion.
Academic credentials are useful for evaluation and selection of participants. According to the scientific objectives of the program, the following components are suggested:
- Statement of Career/Research Interests and Objectives
- Summary of Previous Independent Research
- Undergraduate University Grade Transcript
- Letters of Reference from those familiar with the applicant (the reference form should include space for writer's contact information, should follow-up communication be necessary)
- Language Training (Foreign Language and Years of Study) and International Experience
Address the readiness of the applicant to pursue an overseas research project in the application package through either self-assessment or through directed queries to the reference writers. In the context of an application for an international study and research experience, reference letters from writers outside the applicant's home department may be more revealing (and valuable) in terms of assessing the applicant's interpersonal skills and his/her ability to function in novel and/or stressful situations. Use targeted questions to elicit from recommenders the information that you desire, viz., indications regarding the likelihood of student success in a specific overseas program, especially where cultural or field condition concerns exist. It may be useful to request at least one letter from someone who has seen the student in a variety of situations (or, at least, in situations outside of the classroom) and who can speak to those observations. Bluntly stated, a faculty member who sees the applicant for less than three hours per week in many cases will know that person in only limited ways, and may not be able to comment on the student's ability to travel and study abroad. Similarly, letters from the department chair will be of little practical use unless the chair also has been an instructor of the student. Explore personal readiness (maturity, independence, etc.) and interest level with the applicant through directed questions on the application, or through in-person or telephone interviews. Consider results of these assessments in the context of the specific host site, and the availability on-site of support and personal interactions.
A sample application and related program forms appear as Appendix 3.
Consider application mechanisms that permit (or even encourage) e-mail or electronic submission. Similarly, devise a document management scheme that provides convenient access to those who will review the applications. A Web-based application system efficiently addresses both goals.
The selection process yields a pool of applicants to whom acceptance packages will be sent. Draft a congratulatory acceptance letter, but also include a clear statement (and calendar) of obligations including: timely acceptance of the participation offer, completion of the parental consent form, participation contract, and associated health and personal information documents, etc. Obviously, some time is required to complete these formalities. Nevertheless, an earlier deadline for their completion and submission is preferable to a later deadline. Students not intending to participate might delay their withdrawal notification in the face of relaxed deadlines, and make it unnecessarily difficult to fill the vacated space on short notice. Ask the accepted applicants to execute their formal acceptance through a signed letter of intent, or perhaps through a contract-like document that includes parental consent, acknowledgment of participant responsibilities, a participant's code of conduct, waiver of liability, etc.
There is substantial competition among REU programs for the best student applicants. Timely acceptance actions by the screening committee, competitive allowances, and the overall attractiveness of a program contribute to successful recruiting. Increase the acceptance rate of first-round offers by establishing personal contact with accepted applicants. Call each student on the telephone to deliver a congratulatory message, and encourage him or her to stay in contact by e-mail or telephone, as necessary.
Consider selecting several candidates as program alternates to fill participant slots should they become available as a result of participant withdrawal. Selection of alternates depends on the study interests of participants and the negotiated student-host pairings; appropriately identified, program alternates with compatible interests can be seamlessly placed into host labs. As with accepted students, establish personal contact with those on the "alternate list" to retain their interest. This may also encourage reapplication in the following year of students near the top of the alternate list. In any event, preparation will allow quick action, if needed, to replace participants who withdraw. (See Section 5.1.14 below on withdrawal procedures.)
At some point during the application review process, ask the foreign host or potential foreign mentors to review the credentials of those student applicants slated for acceptance (Section 5.2.3). For reciprocal programs, a parallel review of foreign student applications will be underway by domestic program mentors. Following approval by the host scholar, send accepted students a letter of invitation to the program that includes the name of the assigned host and suggested scientific topic(s) for research. Ask the students to respond formally and in a timely manner to the invitation. Although it sounds overly complicated, this carefully choreographed notification and acceptance by host and student offers both the chance to withdraw from a possible mismatch. This deliberate exchange leads quite naturally to the virtual introduction of host and student, and to the initiation of communication regarding the student's research work (Section 5.2.3).
5.1.4 Protect program information
The program office gathers and maintains personal and potentially sensitive information during the application and screening processes. As with other university records, the use and distribution of these materials is regulated. Specifically, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA; 34 C.F.R. Part 99) is a Federal law designed to protect the privacy of education records. Under FERPA, postsecondary students also have certain rights with regard to viewing their educational records, including reference letters. Program staff should be trained in appropriate document management procedures; the home institution likely has established guidelines in place, and the office of general counsel can assist in policy design and implementation.
Consider incorporating on the reference request form a waiver statement concerning rights to access. A sample reference request form including a waiver statement is included in Appendix 3 as part of the sample application. Information on FERPA is available on-line at the Family Policy Compliance Office of the Department of Education at:
Consider privacy implications as they affect alumni tracking and plans for longitudinal evaluation, especially if the services of a third-party contractor are envisioned.
5.1.5 Organize and execute pre-trip orientation
The pre-trip orientation is an efficient mechanism to distribute information to program participants, and to collect information (for example, final check on program documents and completion of a pre-trip questionnaire, if desired). The pre-trip orientation can be "virtual" by way of an informative Web site operated in much the same way as a distance-learning course; an on-line handbook and readings coupled with e-mail communications comprise the minimal components, and these may be adequate for some programs. During this period, be sure to maintain telephone or e-mail contact with students, and encourage them to communicate in return. Alternatively, the orientation can be a gathering in the United States from which all participants depart for the foreign site, or it can occur several weeks in advance of departure. All approaches have merits and costs; the selection of the most effective and efficient mechanism depends on the size of the program and the geographical distribution of participants. Face-to-face orientations are ideal since they allow efficient transfer of large amounts of information (including necessary paperwork) in a "captive" setting. Orientation meetings include ample opportunities to solicit questions from participants and to provide immediate feedback.
Provide to all participants through advance mailing the supplementary forms that are to be submitted prior to departure (participation contract, health and emergency contact information, etc.). Request that these be completed prior to arrival at the orientation, or that they be received at the program office by a specific date. Similarly, ask students to provide any special information needed for program administration (for example, bank routing and account information if the stipend will be delivered by direct deposit). Do not neglect to poll the students regarding individual dietary needs or special medical requirements. International travel with prescription medications and paraphernalia (for example, insulin and hypodermic syringes and needles), may require a physician's prescription or other documentation.
Screen participants for language proficiency, if this is a concern. Use the results of a placement test to estimate instructional needs at the on-site program.
Optimally, include as much host lab placement information as possible for the participants at the orientation meeting; the name and contact information for the assigned host/mentor, and the research topic or field of study, are essential. Contact information (especially e-mail addresses) for past participants, or the use of "advice letters" solicited from this group, adds to the successful preparation of student travelers. Consider inviting program alumni to the orientation program. Their commentaries based on personal experiences will both excite and reassure new student participants.
Begin a virtual introduction of each student participant to his/her intended host by providing a copy of the host's resume, some selected reprints and background information on the proposed student project(s). Add a note of formality and build student confidence in the program by assembling the information in a presentation packet to be delivered at the orientation. Alternatively, ask the host scholar to send these materials directly to the student with an invitation to initiate direct communication. Soliciting these materials early in the cycle stimulates the host to consider seriously the student's role in the foreign laboratory, and in the specific research project. Indeed, the earlier that the student participants know some details about the work the better. Encourage the students to read and to arrive at the international site prepared to begin their projects. All of these strategies reduce the barrier to a quick and effective start. Whereas bringing all international host scientists to the orientation is impractical, one or more foreign scholars can represent the group; they can present an overview to the foreign site facilities and program activities, and they can begin a personal association with the participants.
For many participants, the international REU experience is the first opportunity to travel and to study abroad, or even to venture outside their home state (!). Consequently, students may harbor some apprehension about this academic and scientific "adventure." Include an overview of the foreign culture in the orientation program, especially if the host culture is one to which the participant has probably received little exposure through foreign language coursework or through the anecdotal reports of classmates who have traveled to the region. Do not neglect a frank discussion of "culture shock" as part of the pre-departure exercises or the on-site orientation. Many resources exist to meet this challenge (Section 6.8). Faculty or local scholar-scientists who have worked in the foreign site can bring interesting and useful commentary to a group presentation. In addition to an overview of an American's life abroad, a scientist or engineer can comment on the scientific, and perhaps academic, infrastructure that the student will encounter. Similarly, scientists visiting the U.S. from the foreign host site (or simply from the foreign country) can offer commentary and practical advice.
Do not neglect to brief the student participants on standards for acceptable dress and behavior, if this is a concern in the host country.
A wealth of print information is available from tourist bureaus; many of these organizations maintain offices in major U.S. cities on the East and West Coasts. Embassies, consulates and foreign trade organizations may be able to assist by providing maps and brochures. City and regional maps, especially, will help students establish an early "connection" with the host site. Encourage every participant to purchase a commercial tourist guidebook for use in his or her individual explorations.
Provide explicit instructions for contacting the participant abroad. A simple guide to international dialing, including telephone number and country and city codes and the time difference for the foreign laboratory or housing site, will be a ready reference to those desiring telephone communication (Section 5.1.2). Include the fax number at the foreign institution, should there be need to transmit documents. Ask student participants to share this information with their families. Include contact information for the program director, as well, should the participant's family need this in the event of emergency.
5.1.6 Elucidate clearly program requirements, goals and expected behaviors
The REU program is a rigorous, research-based study experience, quite different from traditional study abroad programs with which the student may be familiar. Host scientist-engineers invest quite heavily in the program (through both laboratory resources and personal time) and students must accept a substantial degree of participatory engagement and responsibility. Elucidate clearly both program and individual goals. Stipulate in advance any requirements for scientific reporting and program assessment, and for a final written technical report. Inform students early on codes for behavior, policies with respect to alcohol and drug abuse and sexual harassment. If the ages of program participants span the legal drinking age in the foreign host site, directors need to consider carefully their alcohol policy, their ability to enforce it while on site, and reasonable measures to protect the interests of the program, the director and the other student participants. Aside from the responsibilities borne by the program and the director for the overall well-being abroad of participants, some foreign governments severely punish drug law and other violations.
With the advice and assistance of general counsel at the home institution, develop a contractual document to be signed by each participant that outlines a code of behavioral conduct and proscribes the consequences of violations. An example is provided in Appendix 3.
5.1.7 Choose efficient international travel mechanisms
Manage international travel arrangements more simply through effective early planning. The details of international travel will be handled differently if students leave from a common domestic airport, compared with beginning their international travel from their various hometowns throughout the country. A common port of embarkation simplifies the international travel leg since all participants depart as a group; although there may be some added expense, this arrangement is ideal for programs that hold immediate pre-departure orientation sessions. Alternatively, there may be some cost savings if participants travel through the international portal nearest their homes. For greater efficiency and to remove from the director the burden of this management task, assign a program assistant or travel agent the responsibility for travel arrangements. An early query to participants regarding their intended departure and return cities (Appendix 3) saves much time in last-minute follow-ups as tickets are booked; additionally, travel costs can be estimated early in the program's budget cycle.
Do not assume that the student participants have international travel experience. Care is necessary to inform students of travel needs, requirements and restrictions according to country and city destinations; this avoids unnecessary, costly and disruptive misunderstandings and problems. A detailed procedure for arrival on site should be posted on the program Web site and sent to every participant well before departure. Specifically, describe the configuration of the international arrivals lobby of the airport (some airports have on-line maps and terminal plans) and clearly identify a meeting point where a program representative will greet participants. Provide participants with a photograph of the foreign program director or reception person to aide in recognition. Consider asking participants to take shuttle transportation to a nearby hotel with facilities to accommodate a welcome desk or hospitality room. Prepare similar protocols for check-in at participant housing and at the host laboratory. (See Section 6.1)
A good working relationship with a single, qualified travel agent/consultant cannot be understated. In addition to the convenience of a single contact for travel planning, find a travel agent committed to locating the most economical fares for a particular level of service. Be advised, however, that some lower fares carry restrictions regarding itinerary changes and fees may be imposed for changes. If restricted tickets are used, flight insurance is desirable to protect program investments in airfare. Discourage student participants from capriciously changing their itineraries. Medical and family emergencies are legitimate reasons for alterations in travel plans, and flight insurance is a wise investment to protect the budget from these unavoidable circumstances (and, perhaps, in the event of program withdrawal; Section 5.1.14). Economy/coach fares on U.S. flag carriers (wherever possible) are the rule, although in rare cases a participant with special needs (physical disability, for example) necessitates an upgraded class of travel. Upgrades require justification to the project director's sponsored research office. To facilitate participants' interactions with the travel agent, supply the agent with a list of participants including their contact information, departure cities, intended dates of travel and itinerary.
If programs elect to leave travel arrangements to the participant, reimbursement of airfare will entail additional paperwork, or providing additional funds to the student through the allowance mechanism. Provided in this way, participants will be free to manage fully their own itineraries, and use the lowest cost airfare (restricted or not), if they wish. (It may be a beneficial experience for some students to assume this responsibility.) From the program perspective, this can create problems in synchronizing participant arrival at the foreign site. If this model is followed, set a reasonable arrival window at the foreign airport.
No matter which mode is selected, the project director must provide to the foreign host a complete roster of participants with their respective travel information (flight dates and times, flight numbers, originating airports, etc.). Then, if flights are delayed or cancelled (due to weather, for example), all parties are able to make and follow informed contingency plans.
Three particular items deserve special note, especially for new project directors. First, early planning and action with respect to international travel cannot be overemphasized. Depending on the international destination and the seasonal nature of some tourist travel, obtaining reservations on popular routes is difficult for a large number of travelers and this can become increasingly so if all participants are to travel as a single contingent. Second, pay careful attention to restrictions on the use of carriers. Most likely, the funding award will carry provisions regarding the use of U.S. flag carriers for project-related travel. The use of non-U.S. flag carriers can be requested on some routes when this is the only available service, or in emergency situations (urgent medical or other evacuation from the foreign site). The Federal Travel Regulations, under 49 U.S.C. 40118 (commonly referred to as the Fly America Act), dictate permissible air carrier use. A plain language version of the Federal Travel Regulations is available on-line at:
Knowledgeable travel staff at sponsored research offices can answer questions as needed. Also, project directors will be expected to purchase only economy class tickets on U.S. carriers for participants and project staff. Travel using other than economy class may be necessary in some circumstances, and requires justification. And third, some universities may dictate competitive bidding procedures for large numbers of ticket purchases; plan early!
Assuring program accessibility to physically disabled individuals may require special travel arrangements (including upgrade to business class air service). Since accessibility standards differ at international sites compared with those in the U.S., carefully examine the foreign site (and other anticipated foreign destinations that may be part of site visit activities) for accessibility. For example, stairs-only access to public transportation is an insurmountable physical barrier for some participants; providing taxi service when necessary removes this impediment to full participation by a disabled student. Survey the foreign site for accessibility, and develop contingency plans (and hold commitments of contingency funding) for challenged participants.
5.1.8 Require emergency contact information
Ask each student participant to complete an emergency contact information form, included as part of the acceptance package sent to participants. Retain original forms in the program office, and provide copies to the project director and to the foreign site director. The emergency contact information form also includes consent-to-treat language, if the director or home institution deems this necessary. Review consent-to-treat language with general counsel at the home institution. Sample forms are presented in Appendix 3.
5.1.9 Seek written parental permission
According to the ages of the participants and following the recommendations of the home institution, parental permission is essential for the student's participation. A separate, signed parental release for international travel by the student may also be desirable. As with emergency contact information and consent-to-treat, parental permission is requested in the acceptance package sent to the participant. Telephone contact with each participant's parent(s) or guardian(s) by the program director can allay parental concerns, should they exist, and may strengthen parental support and encouragement to the student. Discuss issues of parental permission and consent-to-treat with general counsel at the home institution, and with the foreign host institution as well. Sample forms are presented in Appendix 3.
5.1.10 Assist with passports, visas and travel documents
Explore fully the passport and visa requirements for lengthy stays in the foreign locale since the maximum permissible stay without a visa can vary greatly. Coordination with a single consular office simplifies visa processing for the group; make an effort to brief the consular staff in advance. Processing by a single consular office reduces confusion resulting from slight differences in interpretation of rules from consulate to consulate. In some cases, letters of guarantee (or equivalent documents) are required in support of visa applications. Prepare these using a template and send them to participants as part of the program acceptance package with specific instructions for visa application, including the address of the appropriate consulate. Tailor the letter of guarantee to suit the needs of the consulate; typical information includes: name and home contact information of traveler, institutional affiliation, clear statement of the REU site program, dates of formal program activities, contact information for the foreign-side director, and assurance that the traveler's expenses (including return airfare) are provided by the program.
Alert student participants to the typical time required to process a visa application, and encourage them to apply early. U.S. permanent residents who will travel under a foreign passport may have different visa requirements. Use the citizenship information on the application form (Section 5.1.3 and Appendix 3) to anticipate these cases, and be prepared to provide additional documentation in support of visa applications. Build in a flexible budget element to accommodate the costs of visits and permits (Section 4.5.1).
5.1.11 Coordinate visit with U.S. Embassy
Contact the U.S. Embassy in the foreign country regarding the extended visit of undergraduate scholars under the international REU site program. The requirements may vary but, at a minimum, provide Embassy officers with the identity and contact information for the U.S.- and foreign-side program directors and a roster of participants. Additionally, some countries have required procedures for registration of visitors, and the Embassy or Consulate can advise on this matter. If the Embassy has a science officer, extend an invitation for that person to meet the student participants and their mentors; offer the opportunity to attend and speak at the opening ceremony.
5.1.12 Arrange to deliver participant stipend/allowance
The amount of the participant allowance or stipend depends on the nature, duration and site of the REU activity, and on how travel expenses to the foreign site and housing accommodations will be provided. The foreign site director will be instrumental in assembling the budget for the host site support and activities. Since many participants will forego summer employment to participate in the REU activity, this should be factored into the calculation of the allowance.
The mechanism for delivery of the allowance depends strongly on the home organization's sponsored programs and payroll offices, and they should be consulted in this matter. However, there may be some discretionary authority on the part of the director(s) in determining the number and timing of payments. Payments can typically be made as a lump sum or as installments during the program period. The payroll unit can arrange direct deposit of installment payments into a student-participant's bank account; with an automatic teller machine (ATM) bankcard, students can retrieve the funds while abroad. If students are expected to pay individually for transportation expenses, then it is important for the payment (or, at least, the first installment) to reach the student in a timely manner. Similarly, the director may choose to withhold the final payment until all of the reporting requirements are completed (Section 7). The campus sponsored programs office provides important guidance regarding the forms necessary to initiate payment to participants, and the deadline dates for forms submission to assure payment on a particular schedule (many campus systems have a fixed calendar of payment dates, and deadlines for payroll actions). Send the necessary appointment and payroll forms to students as part of the acceptance package.
5.1.13 Insure student participants
Although participants may carry individual insurance of their own, alert them to the possible need for repatriation and medical evacuation and encourage them to look into this special coverage. Refer students to their home university's international studies office for detailed information on insurance companies that provide travel insurance for students. Alternatively, the program may opt to provide an insurance package to its participants, or to require its purchase (and, perhaps, provide the funds for this as part of the student allowance). If the foreign counterpart organization has access to insurance coverage for visiting scholars, explore this option with the foreign host. At the time of publication, the following companies provide student travel insurance (no endorsement or recommendation is implied):
Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
205 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017
(This is the organization that provides the International Student ID cards. The cards automatically cover the holder with basic accident/sickness insurance; additional insurance packages are also available through the CIEE.)
HTH Worldwide Insurance Services
12900 Federal Systems Park Drive
Fairfax, VA 22033-4421 USA
In some countries, laboratory-related insurance is required; determine these requirements well in advance of student departure for the foreign site (Section 5.2.6). Include the cost of student insurance in the budget request.
For reciprocal programs, the domestic institution may require specific levels and types of insurance coverage for visiting foreign students and scholars.
5.1.14 Establish deadlines and procedures for participant withdrawal
Participant withdrawals at late dates pose a variety of problems-return of a purchased airline ticket and cancellation of foreign housing (perhaps incurring a financial penalty), disappointment of an international host scholar who has already committed laboratory resources and invested intellectually in the mentor-student relationship, and the possibility of running an underenrolled international REU program if an alternate participant cannot be enlisted on short notice.
It is very difficult to enforce deadlines for program withdrawal. A participant contract, carefully drafted, can set the necessary tone regarding the seriousness of commitments by the program and research mentors, and the student. Practically speaking, any reimbursement of financial losses other than return of the unused airline ticket and the participant stipend or allowance will be difficult for the program to realize. There may be legitimate reasons for some withdrawals (medical or family emergency, for example), and care should be taken to distinguish between these unavoidable circumstances and capricious withdrawals (resulting, for example, from shopping around for alternate research programs or summer employment). As discussed above (see Section 5.1.7), flight insurance can be a worthwhile investment to limit the financial impact of a withdrawal, especially in larger programs where the likelihood of a withdrawal event is greater.
5.2 Foreign-side activities
5.2.1 Seek coordination with foreign host institution
Obtain approval for the proposed activity from the foreign host institution as required. This is beneficial for several reasons. Official sanction of the activity adds legitimacy to the project (a factor in considerations of safety and security; see Section 4.5.2), and is an important factor in obtaining domestic funds for the program. Formal recognition of the activity by the foreign host institution provides essential groundwork for obtaining support services, including foreign-side funding, access to university facilities, assistance with and priority for on-campus housing arrangements, and access to higher-level foreign administrators for representational appearances at program functions. Recognition by university administration can be a form of reward for foreign researchers that take on the duties of host and mentor without additional compensation.
5.2.2 Identify potential international host scholars
A successful, long-running international REU site program depends on first-rate host researchers. Prior to the host selection process, the domestic and foreign project directors assemble a list of potential host scientists/engineers/scholars. The list will ideally have been assembled and scrutinized earlier in the planning phase of the REU site program (Section 3.1.6), but changes in site staff through time and findings from post-program evaluations call for the regular review of the roster. The roster includes scientists whose research interests match appropriately the needs of the program. Additionally, devise a screening or evaluative "quality control" mechanism to gauge either the demonstrated or potential effectiveness of these individuals as mentors, and their laboratories as successful research and learning environments. Important criteria include:
Optimally, the foreign site director will know all potential hosts personally and professionally, and can assess their suitability. Recruitment of potential host scholars begins by invitation from the domestic and foreign project directors, but can be expanded at any time to include recommended colleagues of current hosts and even self-nominations. Involve the U.S. program director, if possible, in the recruitment and selection processes.
- successful previous mentorship of undergraduate students (domestic or foreign);
- number of laboratory personnel (associates, post-docs, graduate students, and others);
- accessibility of the host scholar to students;
- size and funding of research program (a measure of how well the host can support the laboratory activities of a visitor); and
- English-speaking ability (if this is a program concern).
Solicit from each potential host scholar a short profile of his or her research interests and possible topics for student research. A sample host profile request form is included in Appendix 3. If received in the early stages of project planning, lists of possible student projects can be included in program advertising to engage student interest (Section 5.1.2).
5.2.3 Match host scientists/engineers with students
Begin the matching process at the home institution using the lists of acceptable applicants and available host scholars. Importantly, host availability and the potential for good, specific student-mentor matches contribute to final selection of participants. Engage the international counterpart in the matching process. Expedited delivery of students' applications to the host site(s) is essential for the matching process; this step can be nearly seamless using a Web-based application (Section 5.1.3). The foreign site director reviews the applications, considers possible placements in consultation with individual mentors, and reports his/her impressions to the domestic program director. This step is critical if student placement in specific labs (based on scientific interest and preparation) is a criterion for acceptance to the program.
The host profiles, including possible research topics (Section 5.2.2), together with the applicants' statements of interest and research preferences (Section 5.1.2) are immensely helpful in assigning students to host labs. Use these documents to achieve the best possible student-mentor match.
Notify host scholars and participants as soon as possible of the assigned matches. Provide contact information (e-mail preferably) to both parties and encourage early and vigorous communication (Section 5.1.3).
5.2.4 Organize and execute orientation for foreign host scientists and engineers
Prior to the arrival of participants at the foreign site, convene an orientation meeting to brief host scientists/engineers on the program calendar and administrative aspects of the program. Scheduling conflicts during the course of the program are certain to arise since some hosts will have special plans for themselves or for their students that will be difficult to rearrange (attendance at research conferences, or site visits to other labs). Reduce or avoid these conflicts through early dissemination to the host scientists of a calendar of program activities. Be realistic in your portrayal of which activities are critically important for participants (language lessons or disbursement of in-country allowance, for example) and those that are less important (field trip to a cultural site), and share this information with all program staff. Timely announcement of important dates such as those for the opening and closing ceremonies will pay off in greater host participation. If representation from governmental or host institution offices is desired, be certain to secure their participation as soon as possible through timely invitation.
5.2.5 Secure local accommodations for participants
Arrangement of local accommodations varies according to the host-side organization. When all participants stay at a single site, foreign directors negotiate for student placement in a single dormitory or other residence and arrange payment as a single transaction. When participants are distributed geographically to separate sites, host scientists request guest housing at their respective universities or institutions; payment mechanisms will be more complicated in this case.
Since the academic calendars at some foreign sites differ from those in the U.S. generally, do not rely on the availability of dormitory housing during the full summer vacation period for U.S. students. Resolve or avoid problems through early planning and adjustments in the program calendar where needed. For example, if cultural orientation and language training are planned during the first week of the program but dormitory space is not yet available, consider hosting these activities at another site. Alternatively, plan site visits for the final week, if housing must be vacated before the conclusion of the program.
5.2.6 Review and anticipate special on-site needs
As mentioned earlier (Section 5.1.13), discuss the issue of special laboratory-related student insurance with representatives of the hosting organization(s) since they share some exposure and liability during the extended stays of visitors under a formal program.
If English language textbooks or reference volumes are required, send these ahead when suitable resources are unavailable at the international host site. Field guides for species identification might be critical for an ecology field expedition, as would introductory texts on particle physics at a high-energy physics center.
Chapter 6 - Activities At Foreign Site
Last updated July, 2002