The Office of Global Education has undergone a significant number of changes in the most recent academic year, as the department has been going through massive staffing turnover. Donna Kish-Goodling, Ph.D., who retired as director of global education in 2022, fell back into her old position last semester.

As of Feb. 19, Kish-Goodling is listed as the interim dean of global education, while Marcia Morgan, Ph.D. is designated as the dean of global education as per the College’s website. When asked what impact the new dean of Global Education will have on the Muhlenberg Integrated Learning Abroad (MILA) program, Provost Laura Furge, Ph.D., working in response with  Morgan stated, “The new dean, Marcia Morgan is fantastic! She has been a professor at Muhlenberg for nearly two decades, lived abroad, held highly prestigious international scholar positions and she will be a great partner with faculty. Note that starting fall 2024, we will also have a ‘Coordinator for MILAs’ position that will be held by Associate Professor of French Eileen McEwan, Ph.D. who has led MILAs and she will have a huge impact on supporting MILAs.”

Since this new change in the staffing of the Department of Global Education, there has been a plethora of changes to the MILA program, through individual MILA courses and the structure of the program as a whole. 

Though unclear exactly when, there seemed to be a pause on MILA programming. Senior Lecturer of Biology, Kimberly Heiman, Ph.D., one of the professors currently leading the Japan MILA, touched upon this. “There was a pause in planning for MILAs, that happened for a small window of time when there was a transition of leadership. But that was just a pause that has now been restated.”

This semester, there were originally four MILAs that were going to run – trips to Panama, the Potomac, Costa Rica and Japan. However, Panama and the Potomac were canceled at the end of last semester due to “insufficient enrollment.” This message was shared with students through an email that went out the Thursday of finals week, Dec. 14, well after students were advised to register for spring semester courses. 

With the courses being canceled so late in the semester, course registration was a challenge. Almarah Urman ‘26, who was enrolled in the Potomac MILA, shared their challenging experience. “I struggled to find a course that worked with my schedule and fulfilled at least some of the requirements Potomac would have filled for me, and ultimately, I ended up in a class that I don’t enjoy and am not getting much out of.”

When Furge, with Morgan aiding in response, was asked about the impact that the late cancellation had on students, their response was, “Muhlenberg offers a diverse range of courses and even after registration is complete, there are many courses that have open seats across all disciplines and many opportunities to do something interesting, different and challenging. If a student has a particular graduation requirement they still need to meet and it’s already spring of senior year, they may work with the dean of academic life to explore options.”

The Office of Global Education would not individually respond to requests for a comment, despite multiple attempts at contact.

The issue of insufficient enrollment seems to be the focal point of a myriad of discussions surrounding the MILA program. When asked about the quota for MILA courses, Maddie Davidson ‘25 gave her opinion. “I think the quota makes a lot of sense. Admin needs to justify such a hefty cost, especially because a lot of us request financial aid. I do wonder, though, how many students make a transformative experience like the MILA Potomac worth it? Still, while there’s a quota, there will continue to be cancellations. I think we could have seen this cancellation coming sooner, though.”

It seems that this policy of cancellations isn’t becoming more lax, rather, it is becoming stricter. This semester, the Office of Global Education is in the process of revising the MILA handbook. Neither the new MILA handbook nor the old MILA handbook can be found online, though the general faculty handbook is easily accessible. When asked if The Weekly could obtain a copy of this handbook, no response from Furge was given.

On Feb. 8, The Weekly contacted Associate Professor of English Linda Miller, who is one of the faculty members on the Ireland MILA. Miller was also supposed to be on the Potomac MILA this spring. When asked if she had this new handbook, she mentioned, “Yes, I was sent one.” 

In a similar vein, The Weekly spoke with Heiman on Feb. 9. She stated, “I will say that I received the updated handbook. It was only updated about two days ago.” Later, she mentioned, “I received the information on about the sixth [of February].” Heiman also claimed that the handbook change “might be a codification of some procedures, but it didn’t strike me as anything shifting policy dramatically in any way.”

However, on Feb. 13, when asked about the new and revised procedures that MILAs have to abide by, Furge, in collaboration with Morgan, stated, “Handbook is still being crafted.”

Miller gave insight on some of the more controversial policy shifts that the new handbook lays out. “The issue that I think might discourage faculty is the rigid requirement in enrollments, 15 students for a MILA taught by two faculty and 22 for a MILA taught by three faculty. MILAs taught by three faculty also need special permission from the Provost.” She went on, saying, “I think that these hard set numbers are discouraging to faculty members who do the hard work of planning a MILA.”

Miller continued to specifically discuss the Potomac MILA. “The Potomac MILA was canceled during final exam week, and that was very disappointing and frustrating for the faculty. I can’t speak for the students enrolled in the MILA, but I can imagine that they were as frustrated and disappointed. Of course, if you are going to decide to cancel a MILA based on enrollment numbers, then the final decision to run a MILA will happen after registration. And that means that MILA faculty have to hope and pray that they get the required number of students because if numbers are short, then their course will be canceled at the last minute,” said Miller.

At Muhlenberg, under typical circumstances, full-time professors are required to teach three classes a semester. So, if a MILA gets canceled at the last minute, professors have to scramble to teach another class the upcoming semester. If they fail to find a new class to teach, they are required to teach an additional course in a future semester. Miller discusses her situation in finding another class, along with  Professor of Neuroscience, Jeremy Teissiere, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Theater, Matt Moore, Ph.D., and how luckily they were all able to work it out. However, this doesn’t mean it’s automatically the case for all faculty members.

Miller continued, giving a holistic perspective, stating, “It’s not ideal to put faculty in a position where a class could be canceled. This is especially true for MILAs where faculty have already spent hours and hours of time arranging lodging, transportation, field trips and guest speakers. The Potomac MILA, by the way, had 12 students enrolled, and I was told that Muhlenberg had never previously canceled a MILA with that many students enrolled in it.” She then added, “If Muhlenberg wants to support MILAs and encourage faculty to design one of these classes and trips, then perhaps we need to commit to running a MILA even if numbers are lower than the handbook mandates.”

There is a lot that is unfortunately still unknown about the new MILA guidelines, but as previously noted, there seem to be changes in the strictness regarding enrollment rates that are bound to have large implications on the MILA program. There also seems to be a change in initial deposit amounts for students.

Furge, in collaboration with Morgan, touched on one of the new changes to the MILA program saying, “For students to count as enrolled in a MILA they must put down a [now] $100 deposit. If a MILA is canceled, the deposit is refunded.”

Still, students have overwhelmingly positive, nuanced experiences with the MILA program across various MILAs. Harli Strauss-Cohn ‘24 touched upon their experience in Bangladesh, stating, “My overall MILA experience was a good one though I had complex feelings about the structuring of the course and found traveling like this to be a fascinating experience. Not for any explicitly bad reasons it was just new and different to be in a foreign country with a group of classmates and professors.”

Noah Halterman-Mitchell ‘24 also commented on his MILA experience in Bangladesh. “The trip itself was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We met Nobel prize winners, talked to leaders from massive think tanks and NGOs, traveled and saw first-hand the destruction that climate change has caused and continues to cause in the parts of the world that are currently experiencing the most severe consequences of climate change.”

Though the Bangladesh MILA doesn’t run anymore, students consistently speak highly of their experiences. When asked why the MILA came to an end, Professor of Political Science, Mohsin Hashim, Ph.D., who ran the MILA with Professor of Political Science, Jack Gambino, Ph.D., stated that “it just ran its course,” shortly followed by “all good things must come to an end, right?” 

As of now, students are not able to openly view this handbook, and are arguably left in the dark surrounding the new guidelines. This may affect the study abroad experience of all students choosing to partake in the MILA program, an integral part of Muhlenberg’s study abroad program.

Amy Swartz ‘26 is an English & creative writing and political science double major. She is a General Editorial Assistant, and is thrilled to be a part of such an amazing organization! Outside of the Weekly, you can always find her reading a new book, updating her Spotify playlists, or rewatching an episode of New Girl!


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