March 3, 2014

Cornell Seeks to Double Study Abroad Reach

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Cornell has pledged to have half of all undergraduates study abroad by 2020 as part of its new Generation Study Abroad Commitment, which was signed and launched Monday.

Over 150 colleges from 41 states in the United States have already signed the commitment, according to the Institute of International Education, the sponsor of the initiative. In his 2012 presidential white paper — “Bringing Cornell to the World and the World to Cornell” — President David Skorton said international programs at Cornell have been given “insufficient attention” in recent years.

“The de-emphasis of area studies as a national priority has been detrimental to the vitality of area studies programs at Cornell and nationally,” Skorton wrote in the 2012 paper.

According to Marina Markot, director of Cornell Abroad, the University aims to maintain its historically prominent standing by increasing its focus on international programs.

“Cornell’s strong international standing as a premier world-class university is also very important, and if study abroad can contribute to this in a small way, it is certainly a goal worth pursuing,” Markot said.

Currently, Skorton said, 27 percent of Cornell students earn academic credit for “meaningful international experience.” The commitment’s goal is to have this proportion of students reach 50 percent.

Fredrik Logevall, vice provost for International Affairs, said it is “crucial” to know what “meaningful” really means for Cornell students.

“It is important that overseas experiences be integrated into the curriculum,” he said. “[They] should include mentoring and facilitated reflection whenever possible.”

Logevall added that Cornell is “taking a global approach,” planning to offer more diverse locations for studying abroad.

“We definitely need to offer opportunities all over the world,” Logevall said. “More can be done to get students off the beaten path.”

Markot said Cornell Study Abroad will implement several steps in pursuing this commitment, one of which is integrating study abroad programs with “curricula of undergraduate majors.”

Skorton cited Cornell’s high fee for study abroad as part of the reason why the number of Cornell students studying internationally are lower than desired, adding that the price is “unaffordable for many.”

“Cornell’s fee for study abroad, which to my understanding is the highest in the country and more than twice as high as that of any of our Ivy peers, is a significant impediment to study abroad,” Skorton said in the paper.

According to Markot, there will be additional funds allotted to study abroad as part of Cornell’s commitment, which she thinks will affect Cornell “only for the better.”“I think it’s a great thing that Cornell students go and study abroad all around the world, and that Cornell welcomes people from all over the world.” — Brendan O’Brien

“Some of the internationalization funds allocated to the vice provost for International Affairs’ efforts have been earmarked for the study abroad initiative,” she said.

Logevall said he thinks an increased effort to emphasize international programs will strengthen Cornell and that it is “imperative” to secure funding for international programs, citing professional reasons for students to engage abroad.

“Cornell graduates will need to be able to navigate nimbly and sensitively as they move into their careers and enter a more fluid world structure,” he said. “We want our students to be able to compete for the best jobs. Many of these positions will be international.”

Brendan O’Brien, director of the International Students and Scholars Office, said he had similar opinions.

“I certainly support the initiative,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s important that Cornell prepares students for the global workplace.”

O’Brien said the 2013 to 2014 academic year has seen an increase in international students — the highest number at Cornell to date — and that the number of students studying abroad should reflect the same trend.

“I think it’s a great thing that Cornell students go and study abroad all around the world, and that Cornell welcomes people from all over the world,” he said.