April 3, 2000
Volume 52, No. 27
Study abroad program takes big steps away from home
By Eric Rangus
Back in the mid-1990s, Emory's study abroad program was . . . well, limited.
It consisted of one person sitting in White Hall, handing out brochures featuring international programs offered by other schools. The main question was whether the credits would transfer.
While Emory-sponsored summer study abroad programs were popular, semester-and year-long study was practically nonexistent. With the growing globalization of the world economy and increasing diversity at home, Emory appeared to be falling behind.
So the University took action.
A blue-ribbon committee consisting of administrators, faculty, staff and students addressed the situation and in 1997 produced Internationalizing Emory: A Strategy for Leadership in Global Education. One provision to strengthen Emory's commitment to international education was to expand the study abroad program.
The number of students studying abroad has increased tremendously since Internationalizing Emory was released. During the 1996-97 academic year, just 27 students participated in semester- or year-long Emory study abroad programs. By the 1999-2000 year, that number was 227, an increase of 740 percent. The number of Emory students abroad during the summer also climbed slightly over the same time period (250 students in 1996-97 to an estimated 272 for this summer). In all, the number of Emory students studying abroad has doubled over the past three years.
That increase can be directly related to opportunity. Semester abroad programs have grown from four initiatives in four countries to more than 40 programs in 15 languages spread across 23 countries, encompassing every continent but Antarctica.
No less important was the availability of financial aid. Prior to the 1997-98 academic year students had to pay all their own bills for studying abroad, which kept participation down. To help defray the often hefty costs of studying internationally, Emory extended financial aid to qualified students.
The interest was always there. A total of 176 Emory students studied abroad through programs sponsored by other schools during the 1996-97 year. With Emory's increased offerings, that number has dropped to 120, a 68 percent decrease.
"There was a significant interest in a small group of students who realized that international study was important," said Howard Rollins, director of the Center for International Programs Abroad. "Since then, because we have been much more aggressive in promoting our programs, we are reaching a much wider audience of students."
The program is expanding into some edgy areas as well. New programs include a partnership with the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Dharamsala, India, for a semester abroad in Tibetan studies; a summer Spanish program at the Instituto del Librowith in Havana, Cuba; and a semester exchange with the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
Participation cuts across all Emory programs. While language and literature students are easy sells for study abroad programs, scientifically leaning majors are not. According to Rollins, CIPA addresses these students' concerns by mixing major-study classes with other subjects specific to the country where the students are located (a biology major taking a course in Shakespeare while studying in London, for example).
"We've gone faster than anyone expected," said Marion Creekmore, vice provost of International Affairs. "There is a momentum that has been established in the last two, three, four years that will continue into the future."