programs send students around the world
last summer two new faculty members, Rebecca Brown (at right,
back) and Sandi Smith, took up offices on the second floor of
Minor Hall with an ambitious
agenda. The two are charged with boosting participation in U.Va.
study-abroad programs to 80 percent.
by Jenny Gerow
By Elizabeth Kiem
the Universitys new full-time director of International
Studies and first-ever director of study abroad, Rebecca Brown
and Sandi Smith were immediately challenged with the task of transforming
what, in the past, had been little more than an administrative
center for incoming foreign students and outgoing study-abroad
candidates, into a central hub for international programs, events,
students and faculty university-wide.
are a lot of pieces to put into place before we can even move
into the direction we want to, said Brown, who was director
of international and intercultural education for the Maricopa
Community College district in Arizona before becoming center director
here in late August. As a newcomer to the University she faces
the ambitious recommendations of the Virginia 2020 Commission,
which targets international studies as one of four key areas the
University is dedicated to enhancing over the next two decades.
was not daunted by the commissions vision, which included
higher study and research abroad quotas and an internationalization
of curricula across all departments. When I was weighing
professional options I saw the 2020 initiative as giving clear
indication of higher administration support. I read that and thought,
this is an institution that is ready to move forward with international
of the most ambitious objectives of the Virginia 2020s international
initiative is to boost participation in study-abroad programs
from roughly 15 percent 80 percent, a goal Brown calls very,
very high indeed. Few schools can boast such rates, and
those that come close are small private institutions. Among two
of U.Va.s traditional peers, UNC and Duke sent between 20
and 30 percent of their students abroad last year. UNC has a full-time
staff of 10 study-abroad administrators, while Dukes office
has 12 advisers just for undergraduates.
at U.Va. there was one full-time staff person acting as a study-abroad
advisor to the entire university. Professor William Quandt, who
was named vice provost for international affairs last year in
response to the 2020 recommendations, said that after looking
at peer institutions it was pretty clear that we didnt
have the administrative support [to meet those goals.]
Smith as director of the study-abroad program was the first step
to meeting the 80 percent target. A career expert on international
study programs who worked previously at Lehigh and Emory universities,
Smith recognized that among the many existent programs across
Grounds (some of which the ISO directors confess to still be discovering),
there was one uniform short-coming: Chief among the drawbacks
was the credit-issue, said Smith, referring to the bane
of study-abroad programs for U.Va. students transfer credits.
now, students spending a semester or summer abroad had to transfer
credits to their U.Va. transcripts. But after a fast-track fall
that required close work with nearly every division of University
administration from deans and department heads to the registrar
and financial aid office the ISO is offering five new fully
accredited summer programs overseas. (See related story.)
these initial programs were chosen from about 15 faculty proposals,
Smiths plan for the future is to consult with students when
seeking recommendations for additional programs. Her aim, she
said, is to create a study-abroad program for every undergraduate
is more work to be done in the spirit of internationalizing academic
work across Grounds. Were interested in promoting
the need for infusing international perspectives throughout the
curriculum. Thats not just international courses like foreign
affairs that could be a math class, Brown said. Some
of the most basic classes can have international perspective.
expects scholars and researchers across the campus to be interested
in their peers activities in shared geographies, just as
they would in shared fields of study. Sometimes theyre
out there doing something and they dont know about each
other, she said, emphasizing the need for a central networking
role for the ISO.
In addition to Brown and Smith, Carolyn Laquatra, one of this
years U.Va. administrative interns, is coordinating efforts
to review the schools orientation programs for incoming
foreign students. Also new to the ISO, Murielle Kervizic recently
has taken the job of study-abroad adviser. Quandt expects the
office to grow by two or three members over the next few years,
but there is no immediate budget for more personnel.
fact, funding concerns affecting the entire University has Brown
and her team looking at some possible revenue-generating options,
and plans are afoot to partner with the University development
office. We think that some of the programs would be a very
natural place for donors and we also think it would be
a place to help join people together to create endowments.
would especially like to see scholarships made available for those
students who have not had the opportunity to travel before. Some
of these students have never even been out of Virginia,
she said, adding that the offices mission is to foster a
global Academical Village.
in their shared tenure, Smith and Brown found world events pressuring
further review of the ISOs role. The events of Sept.
11 mean we need to focus more carefully on safe security and risk-management
issues, said Brown. If Vice Provost Quandt is correct in
his prediction that this year will see the highest number ever
of students traveling abroad, the ISO will have its work cut out
in tracking all those students and ensuring security for them
Fridays meeting of the Universitys Board
of Visitors, Quandt made a presentation on the progress he
and his staff have made during the past year. He outlined the
guiding principles that have helped shape their work and
the five new programs they have created. They include being able
to grant full U.Va. credit, academic excellence in courses closely
aligned to U.Va. curriculum, attention to safety and security,
and interesting and exciting locales.
gave an overview of the five new summer initiatives before announcing
a proposed semester-long program in London that could begin as
early as next fall.
program, in association with New York University and the University
of London, would offer a broad range of coursework and, again,
full U.Va. credit. Our goal, Quandt said, is
to create a whole menu of first-rate study-abroad programs with
U.Va.s brand name on them.