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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Joins Coalition to Double Number of Students Who Study Abroad by End of Decade

Old Dominion 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. The university has committed to increasing the number of undergraduate students who study abroad by 252 students over the next five years.

Leading up to IIE's centennial celebration in 2019, 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. ODU 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.

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.

"Our target by 2020 is to have 500 students in study abroad programs," said Chandra de Silva, ODU vice provost for faculty and program development. "We have already attained more than a 20 percent growth in study abroad in the last two years, with 2013-14 figures projected to exceed 300 (from 248 in 2011-12) due to the new Chinese language study abroad program funded by the Confucius Institute, the French Holocaust spring break program of Annette Finley-Croswhite (with funding support from the Tidewater Jewish Federation) and the Contemporary Israeli Literature summer program, underwritten in part by the Tidewater Jewish Foundation as well as grants from local donors.

"This year we have a new freshman program to Greece supported by the Hellenic Foundation that will add to our numbers. Next year our students should become eligible for IIE study abroad scholarships and that will help enrollments as well," de Silva added.

ODU has long emphasized the importance of global education and awareness, according to Provost Carol Simpson.

"This program will help ODU provide more of our students with the critically important global perspective that they will need to succeed in today's world. A study abroad experience opens the door to global consciousness, increases a student's sense of independence and allows a different perspective on concerns back home," Simpson said.

Currently, ODU students can choose from roughly 30 faculty-led study abroad programs annually, as well as more than 250 exchange and 1,100 affiliated study abroad programs to more than 90 countries each year. In 2011-12, 248 students (203 undergraduate and 45 graduate) studied abroad in 23 countries. This total represents a participation rate at the university of 5.5 percent for undergraduate and 3.3 percent for graduate students (or 4.9 percent total).

"ODU study abroad programs are open to all majors, and more than 60 percent of study abroad participants receive scholarships," said Steve Bell, ODU study abroad director. "Additionally, aside from work/study, all forms of federal, state and institutional financial aid are applicable to study abroad experiences. A strong majority of ODU study abroad participants utilize financial aid to help offset travel, program, and other expenses associated with studying abroad."

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, president of IIE. "Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders."

IIE is launching Generation Study Abroad 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 released by IIE last 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.

With 2.6 million students graduating with associates or baccalaureate degrees each year, it is clear that major segments of America's young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues.

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