March 3, 2014

Half of undergrads will study abroad by 2020, Cornell pledges

A new agreement effectively sets a date for Cornell University to reach President David Skorton’s goal for 50 percent of students to study or have meaningful educational experiences abroad: 2020. Cornell and more than 150 higher education institutions from 41 U.S. states have signed the Generation Study Abroad Commitment, a five-year initiative to double the number of U.S. college students studying abroad.

The Institute of International Education (IIE), the program’s sponsor, reports that fewer than 10 percent of U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic career. According to a report, 295,000 students studied abroad in 2011-12 in credit-bearing and noncredit programs; the program seeks to increase the number of U.S. students studying abroad to 600,000 by the end of the decade.

In “Bringing Cornell to the World and the World to Cornell,” Skorton’s 2012 white paper, he noted that only 27 percent of Cornell students had “significant international experiences” as undergraduates – a rate lower than the university’s peers. A subsequent faculty task force report offered more than two dozen recommendations to enhance and expand the university’s international activities, engagement and student experiences.

“I am very excited that Cornell has joined the IIE’s initiative, and I am particularly pleased that Cornell’s pledge goes beyond pure numbers and aims to link meaningful international experiences to the curriculum,” said Marina Markot, director of Cornell Abroad. “Achieving this ambitious goal will take coordination of major efforts on the part of multiple academic and administrative units, very much in the spirit of the recent Symposium on Meaningful International Experiences.”

Markot said these steps include integrating study abroad program development with the international expertise of Cornell faculty members and the curricula of undergraduate majors; encouraging learning outcomes-based innovation in study abroad programming; streamlining undergraduate study abroad advising and support to reach broader populations of students, foster early planning, active goal setting and critical reflection; examining and revising policies to facilitate greater access to international experiences for all Cornell students; and improving data collection and reporting.

“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,” an IIE press release said.