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The School for Field Studies
Programs and Reviews
The School for Field Studies (SFS) offers programs that revolve around field studies and research. The programs involve exploration of the human and ecological aspects of issues having to do with the local environments. Students assist SFS' global partners and host communities in their research, finding meaningful solutions to real environmental problems. Study abroad with SFS to have an experience of a lifetime while making a difference in the world!
Mark Seifert has been the Assistant Dean at SFS for almost two years. For the past twelve years, he has been working as an instructor and researcher in topics related to Human Ecology. He has also served as a higher education administrator for several research universities in the Boston area.
What separates SFS from other study abroad program providers?
SFS is focused on building meaningful connections between our students and the natural world. We are the most prominent environmental studies study abroad provider in the United States and we have been providing experiential learning for over thirty-two years (15,000+ alumni).
We operate from seven program centers throughout the world and will be expanding our operations in the near future. We are dedicated to a rigorous interdisciplinary approach to environmental studies and our students get to perform meaningful research that benefits the local people in the countries in which we share a home.
Did YOU study abroad?
I studied abroad twice: in London with a Michigan State University study abroad program and again the following year in Costa Rica with The School for Field Studies. I found SFS to be foundational in the way I think about my life as a member of the planet and it strongly influenced much of my professional development.
A recent report suggested that up to 50% of incoming freshman stated that they intended to study abroad during college, but then only 3% actually did. What's going on here?
Interesting. Most of our sending institutions have a significant portion of their students studying abroad - some as high as 60% of all enrolled undergraduate students. There is little reason why every undergraduate student should not have the opportunity to study abroad - the opportunities to do so are so numerous. Perhaps students don't know of the great programs that exist for them; programs like SFS that attracts students who are serious learners that want a sense of adventure along with deep learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
Which country do you think is an underrated study abroad destination? Conversely, do you think there is a country which is overrated?
I don't believe that any country is under or overrated. I think there are some countries that are under visited. For example, we just opened a new program on island biodiversity in the Panamanian Caribbean because too few students have had the advantage to study in this most dynamic of natural places. As far as being over visited, I would say England or Italy - students need to get out of the cities and visit wild places more. They need to come to SFS.
There is little reason why every undergraduate student should not have the opportunity to study abroad - the opportunities to do so are so numerous.
What position do you hold at SFS? What has been your career path so far?
I began my interest in International Educational Exchange in high school when I participated in an exchange to Alicante, Spain. While completing my B.A. at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I spent my junior year abroad in Seville, Spain studying Spanish language, literature, and culture. I returned to the U.S. and began working in the International Programs Office at my university. I went on to receive my masters degree in International Relations from Lesley University in 2006.
I joined the SFS team in October 2007. Previous to joining SFS, I worked with CIEE on their Work & Travel Program. I'm thankful to have traveled extensively through Eastern Europe as well as Western Europe and parts of South America for work in the last few years.
Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?
I studied abroad in high school in Alicante, Spain and again during my Junior year of college in Sevilla, Spain. I chose to study abroad because of an inspiring teacher in high school who was able to demonstrate the value of cultural immersion for better language acquisition...if you are thirsty and no one around you understands English, you suddenly remember the word for water! I was also inspired to study abroad because of a curiosity about the world and other cultures, which has fully developed into an insatiable thirst for travel.
What is your favorite story of a student's experience with SFS?
It's not even a story, it's one line that a student wrote in a program evaluation in response to their overall rating and experience in the program... "I plan on changing the world. Thanks for the jump start!". While it always makes me smile, and feel good about our work here at SFS, I believe this quote demonstrates the transformative experience study abroad and specifically SFS programs can have on a student.
What makes SFS programs stand apart from other program options?
I wish I knew about SFS when I studied abroad. With increasing options for international travel, it's easy to travel to a place like Spain on vacation or perhaps volunteer for a few weeks. On SFS programs, however, you are part of a community and they value the research and work you are a part of. For example in Costa Rica, the SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies is currently working with local residents to test water quality and clean up their watershed. Students are making a real impact on people's lives and becoming active stewards of the environment. I think, more so than other study abroad programs, SFS inspires students to take action and instigate positive change around them.
What are you hoping to achieve with these new SFS program offerings?
SFS has successfully be running programs for over 30 years. As we create new programs, we wish to create a portfolio of programs that would offer something to all students, remain the leading provider of international environmental education for colleges & universities, and provide students with the most rigorous field research opportunity available.
Our new program "The Living Mekong" is going to be a particularly dynamic program. After decades of being inaccessible due to war, Cambodia is now presenting research opportunities for scientists to study habitats that have been inadvertently protected by conflict. Along with rapid development, there are frequent discoveries of new species. As the country develops, it is only with careful study and activism that these areas can be protected. By conducting research in the region, SFS stands to play a critical role in capacity-building through education and in benchmarking and monitoring the rapid changes to this biodiverse environmental system.