LAWRENCE — Already recognized as a national leader in study abroad, the University of Kansas has set a goal to significantly increase undergraduate participation in study abroad from 22.8 percent to 30 percent over the next five years. As part of that effort, KU is one of 156 charter members to partner with the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad Initiative, a five-year plan launched earlier this week to double the number of U.S. college students studying abroad.
Generation Study Abroad will engage educators and stakeholders in the public and private sectors to increase the annual number of U.S. study abroad participants to 600,000 by 2020. IIE has committed $2 million to this initiative over the next five year and has established a Study Abroad Fund to provide scholarships to college students and grants to institutions.
“Our partnership with IIE will result in more KU graduates who have studied abroad and gained invaluable experience that will translate well in today’s global economy,” said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, associate vice provost for International Programs. “Our goal is not only to boost participation but to increase the number of students who participate in semester-long experiences. We will be working closely with departments across campus to meet this goal, in particular to integrate study abroad into curriculums to fulfill the KU Core.”
The KU Core, KU's first universitywide undergraduate curriculum, supports the university’s ambitious study abroad participation goals. The KU Core allows students to meet educational goals and learning outcomes while engaging in experiential learning, including new cultural experiences. Many study abroad opportunities will fulfill the Culture and Diversity learning outcome.
With 130 programs in countries, ranging from India to France, students have a wide variety of study abroad opportunities to choose from. KU is currently ranked 29th in the nation among public universities for undergraduate participation in study abroad, according to the 2011-12 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. Additionally, financial aid opportunities make international experiences attainable for more students. Students’ financial aid is applicable to study abroad programs, and most KU scholarships and grants can be applied to study abroad.
According to a 2012 Open Doors report, only 10 percent of students who graduated with an associate's or baccalaureate degree participated in a study abroad experience. Although 156 higher education institutions from 41 states have already signed the Generation Study Abroad Commitment, IIE hopes to expand institutional commitment to 500 in order to increase this percentage. Recognizing the importance of an internationally focused workforce, IIE 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 Allan Goodman, president of IIE. “Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders.”
By partnering with IIE, KU can work with institutions around the nation to raise awareness about the importance of foreign language and cultural skills, identify and break down the barriers to study abroad participation, share best practices to increase international experiences among students and mobilize additional financial resources for study abroad.