Should faculty members be compensated for teaching MILA courses?

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The José Martí Memorial in Havana, Cuba. Photo by Katherine Conlon '24

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about the Muhlenberg Integrative Learning Abroad (MILA) program. After numerous discussions with faculty, I gained insight on how much time faculty spend on their MILA programs. I had never explicitly thought about MILA professors getting stipends for their courses, I just assumed they did. After conducting interviews with faculty members about the new MILA guidelines, I learned that they don’t get any stipends for teaching a MILA. Professors get compensated the same way as they would for any other course here at Muhlenberg. For MILAs, professors act as educators, tour guides, chaperones, travel advisors, a liaison in learning different cultures and so, so much more. Yet, their compensation is the same as if they were to teach a 100-level intro course here on campus for 16 weeks.

The MILA program, along with the entire Department of Global Education, has undergone a significant amount of changes within the past year. Yet, the passion that professors have to teach these courses has stood unwavering, being a staple of the program that students can depend on. Professors are the backbone of the MILA program. Without professors who are willing to be responsible for a cohort of students for multiple weeks, as well as to be placed into the many aforementioned roles before and on the trip, the MILA program would never be possible. 

This is much more than solely using a stipend to incentivize professors to teach these courses. Clearly, as Muhlenberg has multiple MILAs running every single semester, professors are passionate about global education and understand the importance of these experiences for students. Instead of incentivizing professors with these stipends, professors should be awarded stipends for their MILA classes because of their exceptional dedication to their field of study, as well as their commitment to the holistic education that global study provides for students. 

A few weeks ago, when I asked Provost Laura Furge, Ph.D., questions on the MILA program as a whole, for the aforementioned article, I also asked her thoughts on professors not being granted stipends for teaching MILA courses. She responded, “Faculty can apply for summer stipends to develop new courses and pedagogies for their courses, including MILAs. The Office of Global Education is providing significant support for the MILAs and my goal is that [Global Education] will be the primary logistical support giving faculty more time to think about their pedagogies.”

It seems that there is no push from administration to take into consideration the work that professors are putting into specific courses that give students life-changing experiences.

On Feb. 29, an email was sent out to all non-graduating students that all students’ tuition would be raised for this upcoming academic year. The only details of tangible opportunities that coincide with this raised tuition are a renovated Finance Lab and a mock prehealth application process. Though these opportunities have the ability to be highly beneficial for students, they only directly benefit students in specific fields of study. 

The MILA program reaches all students, as the plethora of varied courses piques the interests of students ranging from theatre majors, to political science majors, to sustainability studies majors, to English majors, to Spanish majors and many, many more students who find nuanced connections between their interests and what the MILA program has to offer. 

The MILA program has the ability to make an impact on countless students here at Muhlenberg, especially with the aid that is available to students who choose to partake in the program. Providing proper compensation for MILA professors is the next step in this direction of making the MILA program a facet of Muhlenberg that accurately reflects the values that Muhlenberg promises to uphold.

As per the Muhlenberg College Mission Statement, “Our faculty are passionate about teaching, value close relationships with students and are committed to the pedagogical and intellectual importance of research.”

Faculty members who choose to run MILA programs are clearly passionate about what they do, and go above and beyond in sharing this passion with the students, to a degree that is simply extraordinary. They should be compensated appropriately for this commitment and dedication.

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