NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University pledged to join the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. SFA has committed to increasing the number of undergraduate students who study abroad to 3 percent during the next five years.
Leading up to IIE's centennial celebration in 2019, Generation Study Abroad will engage educators at all levels and stakeholders in the public and private sectors to drive meaningful, innovative action to increase the number of U.S. students who have the opportunity to gain international experience through academic study abroad programs, as well as internships, service learning and non-credit educational experiences. SFA is among the lead partners who have committed to specific, measureable actions that will help reach this ambitious goal; the result will be thousands more American students graduating with the international experience necessary for success in a globalized world.
Building on its nearly 100-year commitment to study abroad, IIE has committed $2 million of its own funds to this initiative during the next five years. SFA will focus its initial efforts on the Honors program to "inject" into the SFA student community a good number of students studying abroad who will talk about their experiences and encourage other students to follow them. SFA has outlined a five-year plan with different levels of financial assistance and expects that at the end of this period, more students will consider study abroad as a viable academic option. Working with Honors students gives the university a narrow target group to test different promotion strategies and abroad courses and to monitor progress. These students also qualify for at least one scholarship, which will give them even more financial incentive to study abroad. In addition, Honor students will be good ambassadors of the study abroad experience among their peers and in other non-honors classes across campus. SFA hopes that through coordinated efforts, this will be the beginning of a tradition and expectation of study abroad on campus.
Along with this targeted effort, the university also is investigating complementary strategies such as establishing linkages to make study abroad a part of academic programs (i.e., supporting new reciprocal exchange programs in colleges), promoting study abroad provider affiliate programs that offer scholarships specifically for SFA students, and encouraging students to pursue an international certificate (of which study abroad can be a major component).
Support for study abroad has come from many levels of the university. Dr. Adam Peck, dean of students, noted, "Participation in study abroad is among the most mind-expanding opportunities available to our students. As a person leading a trip abroad this year, I have seen how the experience causes my students to see the world differently. They are excited to see things from the perspective of others, and to see how what they are learning here at SFA works in other environments. It has quite simply been the greatest experience of my professional career."
SFA emphasizes the importance of global awareness and believe that a study abroad experience enhances a student's global outlook and overall education. This year SFA anticipates more than 100 students will study abroad in the 12 locations, ranging from countries in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. SFA offers an average of 12 programs administered by the university, as well as programs in conjunction with institutions such as La Rochelle University (France), University of Tasmania (Australia), Rose Bruford College (England), and organizations such as International Student Exchange Program, International Studies Abroad and Knowledge Exchange Institute. All eligible students receive the Study Abroad Scholarship ($500 to $1,200), which is funded by the international education fee students pay each semester.
"Our world has become a global society, and students benefit personally and professionally from experiencing a culture other than their own," said Dr. Baker Pattillo, SFA president. "On behalf of SFA, I strongly support this initiative and the students who participate in SFA's study abroad programs."
More than 150 higher education institutions from 41 U.S. states have already signed the Generation Study Abroad Commitment, including large state and private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and historically black colleges and universities and other minority serving institutions. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and several foreign governments, as well as key higher education associations and study abroad provider organizations, also have pledged to support the goals of the initiative. Recognizing the importance of an internationally focused workforce, IIE also is actively seeking the participation of corporations and the business community.
"Globalization has changed the way the world works, and employers are increasingly looking for workers who have international skills and expertise," says Dr. Allan Goodman, president of IIE. "Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders."
IIE is launching Generation Study Abroad because the number and proportion of today's students who graduate with an educational experience abroad is far too low. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic career. According to the Open Doors Report on International and Educational Exchange released by IIE last November with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 295,000 students studied abroad in the 2011-2012 academic year in credit-bearing and non-credit programs. Generation Study Abroad aims to grow participation in study abroad so that the annual total reported will reach 600,000 by the end of the decade.
With 2.6 million students graduating with associate or baccalaureate degrees each year, it is clear that major segments of America's young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues.
For more information on IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative, and a complete list of commitment partners, visit www.iie.org/generationstudyabroad.