Western pledges to double number of students studying abroad

Western Today staff

Western Washington University has joined the Institute of International Education's Generation Study Abroad, a five-year initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. The initiative is also focusing on increasing the diversity of the students who study abroad, ensuring quality and removing barriers to participation.

As part of this initiative, Western Washington University has committed to doubling the number of students who study abroad to 1,000 annually by 2019.

"Increasing access to education abroad is one way in which Western can better prepare its graduates to function as workers and citizens in an interconnected world," said Vicki Hamblin, executive director of the Center for International Studies, professor of French and chair of the department of Modern and Classical Languages. "We are excited to take part in the challenge to double the number of Western students who participate in an educational experience abroad."

The Generation Study Abroad initiative now has more than 300 commitment partners, double the number who had signed on by the March launch date. They include: 241 U.S. colleges and universities from 46 states; nine non-U.S. institutions; 13 education associations; 34 study abroad organizations; and 11 U.S. and foreign government entities, including the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recognizing the importance of an internationally focused workforce, IIE is also actively seeking the participation of corporations and the business community.

The International Programs & Exchanges office at Western reports that while the number of students studying abroad has increased over the years, with just more than 500 students who studied abroad in 2013-14 to 50 countries, this is only 3 percent of the total student population at Western. The national average is 10 percent.

"Our participation in the initiative demonstrates the university’s commitment to becoming more globally engaged," said Liz Partolan-Fray, director of International Programs & Exchanges at Western. "We are excited about expanding our outreach efforts and sending more students abroad."

The goal to double the number of students studying abroad includes expanding student diversity by increasing the number of underrepresented and underserved students studying abroad.  Plans to reach this goal include identifying sources for more scholarship funds for study abroad, the curricular integration of education abroad through internationalization initiatives that are currently underway and enhancing International Programs & Exchanges' outreach and marketing methods to underrepresented students.

"Globalization has changed the way the world works, and employers are increasingly looking for workers who have international skills and expertise," said Allan Goodman, president of IIE. "Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders."

Generation Study Abroad will engage educators at all levels and stakeholders in the public and private sectors to drive meaningful, innovative action to increase the number of U.S. students who have the opportunity to gain international experience through academic study abroad programs, as well as internships, service learning and non-credit educational experiences. Building on its nearly 100-year commitment to study abroad, IIE has committed $2 million of its own funds to this initiative over the next five years.

For more information on IIE's Generation Study Abroad initiative, and a complete list of commitment partners, visit: www.iie.org/generationstudyabroad.

International Programs & Exchanges, a part of the Center for International Studies, is Western Washington University’s comprehensive resource for study, exchange, intern, and service learning  experiences worldwide.

Monday, November 17, 2014 - 9:55am