Study abroad under scrutiny PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Staff Writer   
Monday, 28 April 2014 10:00
Bowling Green State University officials are looking for ways to save money near and far, and the far would include its myriad of study abroad programs.
This year, the university decided not to continue its program in Tours, France, and it restructured its program in Madrid, Spain.
Vice Provost for Academic Operations and Assessment Joe Frizado said the actions are a part of a continuing study of the university's study abroad programs, and that's all part the continuing effort to cut spending at the university.
The provost, he said, brought together a working group on study abroad that was "charged... to build a process by which the programs would be sustainable in three to five years."
The programs, he said, need to be able to pay for themselves.
The programs in Spain and France were looked at because they each had a resident director who was a BGSU non-tenure track faculty member. This came at a time when the university was not renewing contracts for dozens of non-tenure track faculty on campus.
The program in France, said Frizado, had only six undergraduate students and a few graduate students. The working group could not see a way to make that program sustainable, so the director was sent notice that the contract would not be renewed.
That doesn't mean, he said, that BGSU students won't be able to study in France. The university will help students make arrangements with one of several other external providers. He said a half-dozen students had already indicated they wanted to study in Tours.
In Spain, Frizado said, changes were made to have the director teach, hire fewer adjunct instructors and streamline the course offerings as well as a eliminate one of several field trips. With that new structure, the program was sustainable, he said.
Dr. Beatrice Guenther, a professor in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies, said the changes in France will affect teaching here. Under the program, she said, students studying for master's degrees in France would spend their first year in Tours, and then return and teach on campus for their second year. Also, the arrangement brought French graduate students to BGSU.
Now that master's program is suspended for a year while other arrangements are looked at.
Her sister Dr. Christina Guenther, a professor of German, said that study abroad is an important element of the undergraduate education. "You cannot duplicate that linguistic and cultural immersion. ... It gives students a chance to connect to the rest of the world. Once they've had that experience, the world is open to them in a way it wasn't even imaginable before."
Also, those programs and the partnerships they involve help globalize a campus in an area lacking in cultural and linguistic diversity.
"We would be giving  Asian and European students an unfair advantage if did not provide our own students with study abroad opportunities as part and parcel of their undergraduate or graduate programs," Christina Guenther said.
This would not be as affordable because of the higher fees charged by private providers, Beatrice Guenther said.
BGSU's study abroad programs, she said, also help the university recruit students from abroad. President Mary Ellen Mazey has repeatedly cited the need to recruit international students as a way for the university to achieve financial stability.
Beatrice Guenther said that it's unfair to make judgments based on low enrollments in the past couple years because the administrative structure for study abroad has been centralized, and she feels the university's programs have not been promoted as much as they were when they were centered in the language departments.
The university has multiple study abroad programs and exchanges with universities.
The oldest is in Salzburg, Austria, now in its 46th year, said Christina Guenther. As with the Spanish and French programs, the university pays to have a faculty member serve as director. In that case, the position rotates among the German faculty, who serve one-year stints in Salzburg.
Students from other universities also study at Salzburg, Frizado said.  It's all part of a trend for universities to drop their programs, enter consortium with other institutions or contract with private providers to provide these opportunities. Often, he said, universities including BGSU will advertise all the offerings without distinguishing what programs are administered by the university itself and what are provided by outside providers. All outside programs are vetted for quality so students can receive BGSU credit for their work.
"There's no single model or arrangement that has been repeated anywhere," Frizado said. "Each one has its own nuance and aspects to it."
As with other study abroad programs, the Salzburg program is open to all students, not just those studying the language.
Christina Guenther said students in math, political science,  computer science, psychology, art history and political science have also studied at Salzburg.
That interdisciplinary appeal may pave the way to the future, she said.
A new type of program involving a wider range of subject areas is being studied.
She credited her sister's advocacy throughout the year in the Faculty Senate as helping to make the case for study abroad.
It's possible, Christina Guenther said, that the current retrenchment are "transitional pains."
Coming up with the new interdisciplinary program is complex, she said. "We have the support  of the administration to proceed and that is heartening. Students will be the ones who benefit ultimately."

Last Updated on Monday, 28 April 2014 10:26

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