Graduate students immerse in fieldwork in Italy

December 03, 2012

What do College of Professional Studies (CPS) graduate students from Haiti, Taiwan and the United States have in common with experts in Italian history, economics, and culture? Both were part of a 10-day field immersion program in Florence, Italy designed specifically for graduate students.

As part of Northeastern University’s objective to internationalize, the College of Professional Studies graduate team set out to provide an opportunity for students to travel and study abroad. These are students who have other life commitments, such as work and family, while they pursue a part-time graduate degree program. Students expressed an understanding of the value of international study to their competitiveness in their careers, so a team of program directors and faculty created an international academic field experience.

The program that emerged is, Critical Scholarly Investigation (CSI): On Location, an eight week summer session beginning online, continuing on-site in Florence for 10 days, and ending online.

The course had three primary objectives: expose students to a foreign country’s culture; have students observe and meet with local professionals in their field of study; and utilize on-site, field experience for learning.

Students enrolled from a variety of graduate programs including Leadership, K-12 education, Project Management, Corporate and Organizational Communication and Global Studies. Experiences while in Florence ranged from meeting with the Chief Rabbi of Florence, to visiting the Florence immigration office, to consulting with the head of Italy’s only pediatric emergency room.

The program stretched students’ understanding of culture and their understanding of themselves as global citizens. Yolanda Kee noted, “What we learned during one week of study abroad cannot be learned by reading a textbook or even listening to great lectures from a Northeastern classroom. The assets of an international study program include connections with local people, and an ability to learn and reflect on personal values.” She went on to say, “In the future…I won’t be as intimidated to approach strangers, or have a social and/or academic conversation with the purpose of learning something new.”

The trip broadened many students’ career perspectives. One student took her field research project comparing Reggio Emilia pre-school education in Italy and used it to gain a position at a charter school that wanted to incorporate this philosophy.

After the immersion experience, Ya-Wen Hsu, another student in the program, spoke about the importance of internationalization, “Last but not least, sometimes you just need to go out of your country to see what happened in the world; you might find interesting things and refresh your soul!!”

Based on the enthusiastic response of students, Critical Scholarly Investigation (CSI): On Location, plans are in the works for another offering in 2013.


Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies (CPS) is committed to providing career-focused educational programs that are designed to accommodate the complex lives of motivated learners. Offered in a variety of innovative formats, CPS courses are taught by accomplished scholars and practitioners who have real-world experience. The result is an educational experience founded on proven scholarship, strengthened with practical application, and sustained by academic excellence.

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a comprehensive, global research university. The university offers more than 80 undergraduate majors and more than 165 graduate programs, ranging from professional master’s degrees to interdisciplinary PhD programs. Northeastern’s research enterprise is aligned with three national imperatives: health, security and sustainability. Northeastern students participate in co-op and other forms of experiential learning in 90 countries on all seven continents.