September 17, 2013

Cornell Embraces Global Studies

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More than a year after President David Skorton released a white paper urging Cornell to invest in international studies, University officials say they have seen rising enrollment in not only study abroad programs but also foreign exchange programs.

In the white paper, Skorton says the University’s goal is to have more options for students to have an international experience, “whether through Cornell Abroad, other overseas study programs, well-designed internships or service learning.”

“Our goal should be to ensure that no less than 50 percent of Cornell undergraduates have an international experience by the time they earn their degrees,” he says in the paper.

According to Kristen Grace, associate director of Cornell Abroad, there has been an increase in the number of people going abroad through C.U. Abroad both for the fall semester and for the whole year. It is, however, too early to tell what the enrollment numbers will be for this spring, she said.

“Last fall, we had 101 students, [and] this fall, [we will have] approximately 130 students. For the full academic year, we had 44 students in 2012-13. This year, we have 45, but our spring numbers are much heavier — [typically around 350 students],” Grace said.

Grace added that even before the 2008 financial crisis — when the number of people going abroad dropped dramatically — numbers for fall semester abroad only approached 117 people.

“[After the financial crisis hit in 2008], the number of students studying abroad went way down right away. Since then, [the fall numbers] have been hovering around 100, so to go up to 130 is a big jump,” she said. “Hopefully that will continue with spring as well, but really it’s too early to know.”

The number of graduate and undergraduate students who went abroad and earned credit from Cornell increased from 1,478 in academic year 2010-2011 to 1,773 in 2011-2012.

However, C.U. Abroad is not the only group that sends students abroad, according to Grace.

“As far as enrollment goes, there are lots of pieces to the whole enrollment picture. Cornell Abroad is the biggest but not the only one sending students abroad,” she said.

According to Christine Potter, study abroad and exchange advisor for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, there has also been an increase in the number of people who participate in CALS exchange, a way many students in CALS are able to study abroad.

“It’s still too early to say if there will be an increase for the 2013-14 academic year, but yes, in recent years, we have seen an increase, especially in participation in the CALS Exchange,” she said. “Last year, our numbers were up by 30 percent.”

Grace noted, however, that it is “hard to know” what is driving the numbers.

“[It is] always hard to know what’s driving numbers like that — the economy is better now than it was, and I think thats a real factor, but the administrative support have been loud and clear, and I certainly hope students are getting that message too,” she said.

This spring will mark the two-year anniversary of the release of the white paper, which Skorton released on March 2, 2012. In the white paper, Skorton says the University must pay more attention to internationalization.

“Despite this long history of distinction, in recent years, considering the interdependence of people and nations in the 21st century, insufficient attention has been paid to international studies and international engagement at Cornell,” the paper stated.

Recently, however, Grace said that Skorton’s call has been headed by the colleges.

“All the colleges have been internationalizing, but I would say [President] Skorton’s message has really resonated with faculty and administrators who have interest in international matters,” she said.

Potter echoed Grace, saying that CALS is working to build upon its already “long tradition” of partnering with institutions abroad.

“In the next year, we hope to add an additional 10 partners to our existing portfolio of 21 agreements,” she said. “We’re growing partnerships in Latin America, including Ecuador, as well as building onto our already popular European destinations.”

Potter said the faculty play a large role in the facilitation of international partnerships.

“Whether partnerships flourish out of joint research interests or other academic alliances, our faculty are the champions in identifying international partners that aim to augment our students’ education,” she said.

Grace also said that internationalization has become a larger part of the Cornell experience.

“Where it used to be seen as ‘well why would you ever want to leave Cornell,’ now it’s seen as ‘well this is an important part of undergraduate education, and Cornell should be a part of it,’” she said.