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A ‘Quandt-um’ leap in international activity
Bill Quandt wraps up successful tenure as U.Va.’s first vice provost for international affairs

William B. Quandt is credited with nearly doubling the number of U.Va. students who study abroad.
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
William B. Quandt is credited with nearly doubling the number of U.Va. students who study abroad.

By Elizabeth Kiem

A quantum leap in international activity has occurred at the University, thanks to the direction of William B. Quandt.

Since becoming vice provost for international affairs in 2000, Bill Quandt — who steps down from the office Jan. 1 — has helped
propel the institution toward its Virginia 2020 strategic planning goal of creating an “international university.” Once lagging behind peer institutions in international activities, the University is now regularly sending Virginia students overseas, hosting foreign scholars on Grounds and developing and coordinating other types of activities and services designed to create and enhance a globally aware, culturally diverse education and research environment.

In the three years since the Virginia 2020 commission laid out primary objectives for the University, the number of U.Va. students enrolled in study-abroad programs has nearly doubled, with 34 percent of the 2003 graduating class having participated in some form of educational or research activity overseas.

Ten direct U.Va.-credited programs are now offered beyond
national borders, and some of them are so popular that they are being offered in duplicate. This summer an anticipated 50 students will travel to Shanghai alone for culture and language, and hundreds more will be flocking to South Africa, Australia, Spain and beyond.

International Studies Office: A Valuable Compass
When it comes to questions about overseas study, ISO has the answers

Serving more than 1,000 U.Va. students studying abroad and 1,600 foreign scholars on Grounds is the job of the International Studies Office, located in Minor Hall. Its staff responds to individual needs, including questions about visas, travel and academic credits for overseas study. Many questions can be found online at the ISO web site www.virginia.edu/iso.

Under Study Abroad, www.virginia.edu/iso/study abroad/prosprograms.html, students can read about semester programs in London, Lyon, Lima and Valencia, or about shorter programs in Australia, China and South America. The site offers answers to frequently asked questions, dispels common myths, outlines steps for applying and offers financial and scholarship information. It also provides contact information for program representatives and faculty and links to government travel advisories.

The link to the International Students and Scholars Program, www.virginia.edu/iso/issp, provides visitors with complete visa information, helpfully organized by visa type. Work rules for foreign students, as well as forms for advisers of foreign students, are posted. University employers can also access information on obtaining work visas for international employees here. Parents of international students will find links to the office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs, as well as to other relevant U.Va. departments and offices.

The ISO also administers the Lorna Sundberg International Center, found online at www.virginia.edu/iso/ic/.

The center provides a comfortable and dynamic forum for exploring the world’s cultures through speakers’ series, language programs, library services, field trips and scholarships.

Quandt, who joined the faculty in 1994 and holds the Edward R. Stettinius Professorship of Politics, says he is pleased with the upward spike in study-abroad enrollment and is optimistic that the University will see half of all its students involved in some form of foreign study abroad within a decade.

To facilitate this booming interest in study abroad, Quandt has transformed the International Studies Office from a little-known destination in Minor Hall to a humming headquarters with a staff of 14. “You wouldn’t recognize us,” said ISO director Rebecca Brown of the changes since her arrival two and a half years ago.

President John T. Casteen III credits the vice provost for enacting changes that both expanded and simplified the process for students and faculty alike. Quandt “has led in resolving ancient bureaucratic regulations that formerly penalized students for studying abroad,”
Casteen said. “He has engaged faculty members in new ways. And through it all, he has been wise, cordial to one and all, and totally committed to educating students to live and lead in the world to which they will go after graduation.”

The increase in overseas study is just one of a number of successes overseen by Quandt. With a modest annual budget of about $175,000, he has also supported projects from virtually every school — each representing visions of varying scope and expense.

Prior to the creation of his position, Quandt said, there was no obvious University official to solicit when a student or professor wanted to move forward with an international project. “I have a tendency to say ‘yes’ if people have good ideas,” he said. “So instead of seeing [my position] as a roadblock, they saw that all of a sudden they could get a quicker and more responsive answer than perhaps they were used to.”

Dr. Richard L. Guerrant, professor of international medicine, was among the first faculty members to visit the new vice provost for international affairs at his Booker House office and talk to him about his vision for a center that would address issues related to health around the world. Quandt recognized the value of a multidisciplinary program for international research of this sort and moved quickly to build on Guerrant’s proposal to create a Center for Global Health at U.Va.
“I had, since the first of Casteen’s commissions, been tenaciously looking forward to seeing the University address global health issues,” said Guerrant. “Quandt has helped put us on the University’s agenda.”

Since its creation two years ago, the Center for Global Health has been bringing together scholars and students from across the University to study and address issues of poverty and public health in developing nations. It has granted more than two dozen scholarships to undergraduates to conduct research projects in the Third World.
Quandt says the center is one of the finest examples of his office at work, and he expects it to be “a model for other universities.”

Another project that Quandt singled out for commendation
is the International Residential College. Conceived as a home for international students, the four dorms instead have also become a home for American students. Half of the residents at the international college are U.S. citizens, seeking to broaden their cultural horizons in their living environment.

At the recommendation of Quandt’s office, the University has also added residential housing for students who want to practice Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Hebrew — languages that are typically less popular with U.Va. students.

Currently, U.Va. hosts about 1,600 international students and scholars. This number has held steady over the past few years and is effectively capped by the University’s need to maintain present in-state and out-of-state student ratios. If the number of international students “expands very much,” Quandt said, “it will be at the expense of a very large number of American students” who want to attend the University and who live out-of-state. He notes that an increasing number of in-state students have foreign backgrounds, which is due largely to the diverse immigrant communities of Northern Virginia.

Still, there is one group of foreign scholars that Quandt would very much like to see in bigger attendance on Grounds: Those who study America. “American Studies overseas is quite a big deal; every major European country has an American Studies program at its universities,” he said.

Unfortunately, Quandt’s vision to create an International Institute of American Studies, which would establish U.Va. as the principal locus for scholars of American Studies in foreign universities, remains his single disappointment. Last year, he and other U.Va. faculty members attempted to secure a government grant that would allow the University to host an international summer-long seminar in American Studies, but despite their intensive efforts, they did not win the grant. The American Studies institute is now on hold until some new major funding opportunity arises, Quandt said.

At the International Studies Office, however, nothing is on hold, Brown said. “We’re kind of moving into a different stage, not just because of Bill’s transition, but because it’s the natural order of things.”

Quandt’s successor as vice provost for international affairs is pediatrics professor Dr. Leigh Grossman. She will oversee the ISO’s next stage of growth. “Of course, we’ll miss Bill a great deal, but the timing is pretty good,” Brown said.

As for Quandt, he begins a 12-month sabbatical in January. “The nice thing is, I don’t actually have to decide what I’m going to do,” Quandt said when asked about his plans. He did add, however, that he intends to spend several months abroad, in the Middle East.


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