|UT Study Abroad Celebrates 25 Years of Connecting Students to the World|
The year 1987 was a big year in news around the world—the Iran-Contra hearings were in the news; South Korean voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution; U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed a treaty eliminating medium-range nuclear missiles; and Robert Melias of England was the world’s first accused criminal to be convicted based on DNA-evidence.
Another important event took place in 1987—the launch of the university-wide Study Abroad Office at the University of Texas at Austin. For 25 years, UT Study Abroad has provided Longhorns a front row seat to the world, enhancing their education with a global perspective while providing academic credit toward graduation.
Starting with only about 150 students in 1987, study abroad is now a valuable part of the UT experience for over 2,200 UT students each year. The popularity of study abroad among UT students is due in large part to the increasing number of scholarships available and the wide range of programs tailored to a variety of student interests. From Argentina to Wales, UT currently offers 450 different global programs in 70 countries.
Scholarships for first generation college students and others with financial need have been key to helping thousands of UT students access study abroad opportunities in the last 25 years. In fact, the UT study abroad program was ranked #5 in the nation for 2011 in terms of student participation, according to a national survey conducted by the Institute of International Education, 2011 Open Doors report. “We’re committed to offering a range of credit-bearing programs and scholarships to help UT students participate in a life-changing educational experience, while also helping students stay on-track for four-year graduation,” shared Heather Barclay Hamir, Director of Study Abroad. “Students come back excited about their experience and ready to apply their talents in an even bigger way than they had previously imagined.”
Students, Faculty and Staff Partner to Build UT Study Abroad Program
UT Study Abroad has indeed come a long way in the past 25 years, thanks to the incredible commitment of UT students, faculty and staff. Dr. Ivy McQuiddy, the first director of UT Study Abroad, was instrumental in creating the foundation for the programs and scholarships available to UT students today. To recognize her incredible dedication to UT students and study abroad, her friends, colleagues and family established the $1,000 Dr. Ivy McQuiddy Scholarship for study abroad.
Students who had participated in a study abroad program were another group of passionate advocates for expanding financial support for their peers wanting to study abroad. A group of UT students who had studied abroad worked to pass a student referendum establishing UT’s first study abroad scholarship fund. The International Education Fee (IEF) was a $1 fee paid by every UT student each semester, creating a scholarship fund that greatly expanded access to study abroad programs. The program is still in effect today and other universities across the U.S. have replicated UT’s innovative, student-initiated approach to funding study abroad participation.
New Scholarships Helping First-generation Students Access Study Abroad
Today a full range of scholarships help ensure that every student, regardless of income, can participate in a study abroad program. One example is the First Abroad Initiative, designed to provide financial assistance for first-generation college students. The Hutchison International Scholars program is key component of this initiative, offering a $4,000 award to incoming students who are first in their family to attend college and have significant financial need. Hutchison Scholarships are funded by a generous estate gift from Anna Mae Hutchison of Greenville, Texas. Program alumni and other supporters are encouraged to make a gift to this important scholarship fund.
The Hutchison Scholarship helped UT sophomore social work major, Lorena Watson, participate in a six-week faculty-led program in Santander, Spain during summer 2011. While in Spain, Lorena completed local coursework in genetics and Spanish literature. The genetics course helped prepare her for medical school, and the chance to study Spanish literature in Spain simply intrigued her. “My philosophy has always been ‘go for it’ and this was a chance for me to put my personal motto to the test,” Lorena said, “Before receiving the Hutchison Scholarship I never would have considered studying abroad. Now I’m inspired to do even more traveling."
A Closer Look: Journalism Students Experience Reporting China
In addition to a variety or scholarships, UT also offers a wide variety of programs, including full-semester, partial-semester and “Maymester” sessions. Each program offers a unique experience tailored to students’ interests and career goals. As one example of a career-specific, faculty-led program, journalism Professor Tracy Dahlby, a former Tokyo bureau chief for The Washington Post and Newsweek, has taken three groups of UT students—in 2008, 2009, and 2011—on an intensive Maymester program, Reporting China. This session gives journalism students interested in international reporting the chance to literally hit the ground running –reporting on local Chinese news, creating and managing their own news blog—all while immersing themselves in Chinese culture and customs.
Professor Dahlby explains the practical, yet life-changing experiences students explore during the program: ”We talk to local experts on a variety of subjects, visit foreign news bureaus and talk to foreign correspondents, and hit the streets and village lanes in various locales to report for our dedicated news website. The students learn how to report at the grassroots, employ interpreters in getting the job done, and report on deadline while traveling the country. As a result these students see China in a way and at a depth that ordinary travelers rarely do.”
A Bright Future Ahead
In July 2011, UT Study Abroad sought and received an $150,000 grant from the Coca-Cola Foundation to support UT’s participation in the national “100,000 Strong” Initiative, which seeks to dramatically increase the number and diversity of U.S. students studying in China by 2014. As a result of this funding, new scholarships to China are available to eligible students beginning in 2012.
Students are already taking advantage of a number of UT study abroad programs now available in China. Hutchison Scholar Dominick Ruiz, a sophomore biology major from Canutillo, Texas, traveled to China in 2011. Interested in becoming a doctor, he chose to apply the $4,000 award toward the Community Health and Traditional Chinese Medicine program.”During my study abroad experience, I acquired an appreciation for how important Chinese medicine is and how much of an impact it’s starting to have throughout the world,” Dominick shared.
For the past 25 years, the UT Study Abroad office has worked closely with students, faculty and administrators to develop and support innovative international education programs on behalf of UT students. The future looks equally bright, shares Janet Ellzey, Vice Provost for International Programs. “UT-Austin has been at the forefront of international education since World War II. Over the last 25 years, thanks to the dedication of countless UT students, faculty and staff, the variety of programs and scholarships available means this life-changing educational experience is now available to many more students. We are committed to continuing to expand the accessibility of study abroad, so that all students, regardless of background or financial means can have the opportunity to integrate international education into their time at UT.”
Additional information on UT study abroad programs and resources can be found at http://world.utexas.edu.