MSU Takes Leadership Role in National Conference
A highly successful national invitational conference that reinforced Michigan State University's national leadership in study abroad took place in Washington, D.C., October 22-23, 2001. The conference- "Study and Learning Abroad: Quality. Value. Access. Safety." -originated with Congressional testimony by MSU President Peter McPherson and was organized by MSU's Office of International Studies and Programs. It attracted close to 300 participants, including university and college presidents, chief academic officers, senior international administrators, and leaders from international education organizations as well as the public and private sectors.
The gathering was unique both in its cosponsorship by six national higher education and three major international education associations and for its prominent speakers. It provided opportunities for top university and college decision makers along with international education professionals to network and explore important issues in study and learning abroad.
Keynote speakers included top leaders from the U.S. Departments of State, Education, and Treasury, as well as the private sector and higher education. The occasion marked the first public presentation of Assistant Secretary of State Patricia deStacy Harrison after her early October Senate confirmation. Although Peter R. Kann, chairman of the board and CEO of Dow Jones & Company, had canceled all of his public speaking engagements after the September 11 tragedy in New York City, he kept his promise to deliver a keynote address emphasizing the importance of study abroad for the private sector.
At a time when many may have expected international education and specifically study abroad to back away from promoting international travel, conference attendees-who turned out in much higher numbers than originally planned and, in fact, increased by about 50 percent after September 11-shared the sentiment that study abroad is more important now than ever before. Deborah Pierce, a participant from Loyola University Chicago remarked, "The attacks on the East Coast make it clear that our mission in study abroad must go forward. If we back down now, we have no business asking our students to cross borders. We must keep this project on the front burner, even (and especially) now."
John Hudzik, MSU dean of International Studies and Programs, set the tenor with his opening remarks. "Our challenge is nothing less than to democratize access to the opportunity for study abroad and global learning through cost containment, expanded and enhanced program choices, integration and collaboration across the curriculum, and attention to safety and security. . . . We cannot pretend to be graduating 'educated persons' if their curricula have not exposed them to international perspective through a weaving in of global and comparative content. This was true before September 11 and even more so since."
President McPherson was a keynoter for "How to Make Study and Learning Abroad a Core Component of an Institutional Vision." In addition to highlighting the benefits of study abroad not only for students but also for the university and nation overall, he emphasized making study abroad accessible and affordable for both students as consumers and the institutions as providers.
In a focal panel on safety and security, MSU University Physician Elizabeth Alexander addressed the conference regarding health issues related to study abroad.
In the closing plenary panel, MSU Provost Lou Anna K. Simon shared how Michigan State is working to make study abroad an expectation for all students, not just an opportunity for a few. She addressed ways that study abroad can be integrated into the student experience and the life of the university. Further, she outlined study abroad's role at MSU as a "gigantic lever" for building the entire academic experience.
For more information about the conference, visit the Web site at http://www.saconf.msu.edu/