Lead a Penn Global Seminar

Penn Global Seminars are a partnership between Penn Global and Penn’s academic departments. This program could not exist without the support and interest of Penn’s faculty, department chairs, deans, and administrative staff.

Penn Global Seminars (PGS) combine intensive semester-long study with a short-term travel component during a break period that is intended to deepen students’ understanding of concepts discussed in the classroom. These courses require the same number of contact hours per week as a typical undergraduate seminar, in addition to the embedded 8-12 day travel abroad component during winter break, spring break, or early-mid May. Undergraduates from all disciplines are encouraged to take a Penn Global Seminar during their time at Penn, and these courses are particularly advantageous to freshmen and sophomores, first-generation students, low-income students, and students who typically face challenges to study abroad for a semester or academic year, such as athletes and students with particularly rigorous curricular requirements.

Penn Global will accept proposals for Penn Global Seminars for the 2021-2022 academic year from May to September 2020.

Penn Global is pleased to announce that the Penn Global Seminars model has expanded to accommodate a wider range of courses, including courses with pre-requisites, courses taught in a language other than English, and major- or program-specific courses. Penn Global will continue to encourage proposals for the traditional PGS model of courses that are open to students from every discipline without pre-requisites or language requirements. Penn Global will also continue to offer several PGS writing seminars in collaboration with the Critical Writing Program.

PGS faculty leaders can expect to spend more time developing and teaching a PGS course than any other course they have previously taught. Instructors are not required to have prior experience leading undergraduate students abroad, but are expected to be open to the additional responsibilities implicit in this position. Penn Abroad staff will be available to guide faculty and provide support through each step of the process. Faculty responsibilities above and beyond teaching a normal class include:

  1. Admissions process: Faculty leaders will be a vital partner in developing an application for the course, reviewing student applications, and conducting interviews (optional). With guidance from Penn Global, faculty leaders make final decisions regarding student admissions. The admissions process always takes place during advance registration in the semester prior to the course, and faculty are expected to make final decisions within 3 weeks of the application deadline.

  2. Rostering the course: Because Penn Global is not an academic department, it cannot roster the course or enroll students. The faculty leader is responsible for obtaining approval to teach the course, rostering the course within their department/program, and issuing permits to accepted students.

  3. Selection of a travel provider: While Penn Global takes the lead in identifying potential travel providers, it is imperative that the faculty leader participates in this process in order to ensure that the provider is the right fit for the program. Faculty leaders would be expected to join phones calls with potential providers, assess the providers’ proposals, and maintain ongoing communication with the provider in the months leading up to the travel.

  4. Developing the travel itinerary: Faculty leaders will work with their local contacts to set up meetings and site visits in advance of the travel component. This can often be a complicated and time-consuming process involving considerable back-and-forth with contacts regarding scheduling and last-minute changes. Active and ongoing communication is required in order to ensure that the academic objectives of the travel component are met and that the travel component reflects the vision of the faculty leader.

  5. Pre-departure activities: Faculty leaders will work with Penn Global to run a pre-departure orientation, make time in class for a group health consultation (when applicable), and follow-up with students as needed on missing paperwork and documents.

  6. Participate in a trip leader training: Penn Global will offer a required trip leader training prior to the course travel component. This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss the complexities of student group travel and troubleshoot potential issues with fellow faculty and staff leaders.

  7. Leading the travel component: The faculty leader is considered the primary leader of the travel component. Penn Global provides a staff member to serve as the staff leader of the trip, and this individual’s primary purpose is to be the main point-of-contact with the travel provider, ensure that the program runs smoothly, and serve as the liaison with students on any non-academic issues, including illness, student conduct, roommate disputes, etc. Faculty leaders are required to assist Penn Global in the enforcement of PGS student participant policies.

Penn Global works closely with faculty leaders and guides them through every stage of the course development process. Upon completion of the program, many faculty leaders report back that teaching a Penn Global Seminar was the highlight of their teaching career at Penn. The relationships that are fostered between the faculty leader and the students are unlike any that can be achieved in a normal course, and many faculty leaders are able to build upon existing partnerships abroad by running a PGS consistently to the program site.

Penn Abroad accepts new proposals for Penn Global Seminars each year. Proposers must have a faculty appointment within an academic department and be able to roster the course within a department or program. Seminars are offered at the undergraduate level only and cannot enroll graduate students. 

The proposal form includes four main sections:

Section 1: Information about Faculty Leader(s)

Section 2: Course Description

Section 3: Travel Component Information

Section 4: Documents 

Proposal review:

Penn Global Seminars proposals are reviewed each fall by a committee made up of Penn Global staff and representatives from each of Penn’s four undergraduate Schools. The committee looks to approve courses that fulfill the following criteria:

  • The faculty leader has significant experience and expertise in the program location

  • The course aligns with strategic curricular or global goals of the department and School

  • The course will provide value to students’ overall academic experience and will enrich and diversify their Penn education

  • The topic of the course is interesting and accessible to a broad range of student backgrounds

  • The proposed travel itinerary takes advantage of the specific location, including local people, sites, and cultures

  • The proposed travel itinerary will add significant pedagogical value to the course

  • The travel location is unique, well-suited to the topic of study, and offers the opportunity for significant cultural exchange and immersion

  • The course has the potential to run every two years

Faculty will be notified of the status of their proposal in early December 2020. Approved courses will be announced to the University community in January 2021.

Need some inspiration? Take a look at these stories from Penn News Today covering recent Penn Global Seminars to see the impact of the program on the Penn student experience!

Do you have an idea for PGS that you would like to discuss with Penn Global Seminars staff? Do you have a question about eligibility requirements or the role of a faculty leader? Let’s talk! Please reach out to pgs-abroad@upenn.edu to start the conversation.

Faculty interested in leading a Penn Global Seminar are encouraged to sign up for our mailing list and indicate your interest in PGS. Joining our mailing list is also a great way to stay connected with updates from Penn Abroad.