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VCU joins coalition to double number of students who study abroad

University Public Affairs
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By V. Renee Russell
VCU Global Education Office
(804) 828-3636

RICHMOND, Va. (March 3, 2014) — Virginia Commonwealth University has pledged to join the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s Generation Study Abroad initiative to double the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade. 

VCU has committed to double the number of its undergraduate students who study abroad over the next five years by growing study abroad stipend support by 20 percent, launching new major awards for academic units that develop study abroad programs designed for their disciplines and developing a fundraising plan to support a series of endowed scholarships dedicated to supporting study abroad. 

VCU’s strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, sets forth the vision for VCU to become the nation's premier urban, public research university, with its first institutional priority “to become a leader among national research universities in providing all students with high-quality learning/living experiences focused on inquiry, discovery and innovation in a global environment.”  

“Study abroad is a very important component of who we are as an institution and the experience VCU must provide for its students,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “Through study abroad, we are committed to equipping students with the broad perspectives they need to compete on a global scale and to navigate an increasingly interconnected world. Most of our students are leaders; we want them to be worldwide leaders.”

“Being part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative increases our ability to build a culture of awareness of the importance of study abroad on a national level,” Rao continued.

VCU emphasizes the importance of global awareness and believes that a study abroad experience enhances a student’s global outlook and overall education. During the past five years, 5 percent of VCU’s student body has studied abroad in more than 40 countries. VCU offers more than 30 programs administered by university faculty and hundreds more in conjunction with the International Student Exchange Program, VCU’s partnership universities and third-party program providers. 

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. VCU plans to disburse $100,000 in study abroad scholarships this fiscal year and award $15,000 to academic units that develop study abroad programs. Roughly 20 percent of VCU students who study abroad receive scholarships to do so, and about half of study abroad students apply their financial aid to that purpose.

Leading up to IIE’s centennial celebration in 2019Generation 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. VCU is among the lead partners who have committed to specific, measureable actions that will help reach this ambitious goal; the result will be thousands more American students graduating with the international experience necessary for success in a globalized world. 

More than 150 higher education institutions from 41 U.S. states have already signed the Generation Study Abroad Commitment, including large state and private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges and historically black colleges and universities and other minority-serving institutions. The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and several foreign governments, as well as key higher education associations and study abroad provider organizations, have also pledged to support the goals of the initiative. Recognizing the importance of an internationally focused workforce, IIE is also 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,” said  Allan Goodman, Ph.D., president of IIE. “Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders.”

According to IIE, Generation Study Abroad is now being launched because the number and proportion of today’s students who graduate with an educational experience abroad is far too low. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic career. According to the “Open Doors Report on International and Educational Exchange” released by IIE in November with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 295,000 students studied abroad in 2011-12 in credit-bearing and non-credit programs. Generation Study Abroad aims to grow participation in study abroad so that the annual total reported will reach 600,000 by the end of the decade.  

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

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