President's Corner: Worldwide Web of Learning

International study is an important part of higher education.

Understanding a variety of cultures has always been a valuable ability, and perhaps at no other time in history has it been as critical for success—not only in one’s career, but in all aspects of life. The world is more interconnected than ever, and this trend will only continue.

I can personally attest to the value of an international perspective. As you may know, I was born and raised in Canada and am now a citizen of both Canada and the United States. Now I serve on the binational board of the Foundation for Educational Exchange between Canada and the United States, which sponsors the Killam Fellowships Program for student exchanges. Ithaca College has hosted three Canadian Killam fellows, and this year Nicole Reustle ’09 is attending the University of Toronto.

More than 200,000 American students study abroad each year. At Ithaca we encourage students to study internationally for at least one semester; between 20 and 30 percent of our graduates have had an international study experience. We recognize that immersing students in a different culture and giving them the opportunity to learn in a new environment is an excellent way for them to grow as global citizens. But we are careful to prepare them well, to ensure that during their travels they are safe and act responsibly to conserve the environment of their host countries and foster the well-being of local people. To study abroad, Ithaca students must meet certain academic grade point requirements, which vary by program.

Our admission and international programs staff members work hard to recruit students from many other countries (as well as U.S. students from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds) to study on South Hill, thereby enriching the multicultural experience of all our students.

The Office of International Programs, based in the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies, offers a smorgasbord of international study options from which students can choose. The mainstay of our programs is the Ithaca College London Center, which since 1972 has occupied a historic Victorian mansion in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With 15 to 20 regular faculty members, it draws nearly 200 students each year to study varied and variable offerings from art history to business to sport studies to theater arts, and many subjects in between. The overall goal is to mix courses and field trips that have contemporary relevance with traditional British culture classes and excursions. During their time in London, students often participate in internships, giving them an even deeper immersion in British life.

But London is just one of many international options. The IC Gerontology Institute and the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance (as well as the Roy H. Park School of Communications) have an exchange program with the Swedish Jönköping University that is designed specifically for aging studies, health studies, and communications majors. Students study at the university’s School of Health Sciences or School of Education and Communication with some of Europe’s most distinguished faculty in their fields. Another course, Healthcare and Culture: An International Field Experience, is offered most summers and takes students in the health sciences to the Dominican Republic to investigate the sociocultural context in the delivery of health care and rehabilitation services in an international setting. This year, thanks to the efforts of Dean Steven Siconolfi, 14 students from the School of HSHP will be spending a fortnight in two Chinese cities, Beijing and Chengdu, exploring rehabilitation and health promotion philosophy, methods, and systems.

Other short-term courses include an international field experience in the Dominican Republic (sociology) and summer courses in Italy (language, culture, and photo­graphy), Costa Rica (tropical ecology), and Ghana (African drum and dance performance). Over the past four years we have run Walkabout Down Under (ICQ 2004/3 cover story) in Australia. During spring, fall, and winter breaks, faculty members take groups of students to study in countries such as Panama and Antigua. 

Through other Associated New American Colleges (ANAC) institutions, and affiliate arrangements with the Center for Cross-Cultural Studies, the Institute for the International Education of Students, and the Institute for American Universities, students may study various disciplines in other nations. With the permission of Ithaca College, students may also elect to study abroad with programs sponsored by other accredited institutions.

A summer, semester, or year abroad is almost always a life-changing experience for the students, but it can change lives for the better in the host country as well. Often our students and faculty serve the host country in fruitful ways large and small. Read, for example, on page 11 of the sustainable microenterprise work that is being done by business professor David Saiia and his students in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. Such endeavors place Ithaca College on the map as an innovative institutional global citizen—and make us all proud.