The University of San Diego ranks second among national universities for its percentage of undergraduate students participating in study abroad programs, the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors 2009 Report on International Educational Exchange revealed on Monday.
The university had a 78.5 percent undergraduate student participation rate, up from last year’s 60 percent participation and No. 6 ranking. The current ranking, USD’s highest ever in the IIE report, continues a sharp increase for the university, which, as recently as 2006, was not ranked. In 2007, USD was ranked 26th among the top 40.
“We’re really excited about the ranking,” said Kira Espiritu, director of international study abroad programs. “I think it’s a result of the momentum since the International Center came online. It speaks volumes for our administration and the resources we’ve been allocated for international programs. President (Mary) Lyons and Provost (Julie) Sullivan are very supportive in allowing us to make this happen.”
The International Center, located in Serra Hall 315, opened as a one-stop destination in August 2007 for students to find information about study abroad programs. The Office of International Students and Scholars and Carl Jubran, associate provost for international affairs, are also located in the center.
“It’s a huge testament to the support we get and a lot of really hard work by our staff of 12 people. I think of other places where they might have more (staff), but we’re doing really great things with the people we have,” Espiritu said.
Pepperdine University was No. 1 in the rankings, which documents the 2007-08 school year and figures in the student participation percentage based on the 2008 graduating class. USD had 892 students out of 1,137 who earned an undergraduate degree in 2008 participate in a study abroad program. The University of Denver, Wake Forest University and University of Saint Thomas (Minn.) rounded out the top five.
Espiritu said her staff has been working to meet the increasing desire students have to study and travel abroad. “Younger students, especially, are coming to USD and they’re starting to expect that they’ll have a study-abroad experience.”
She said USD offers 80 programs in 35 different countries for everything from short-term visits, unique Intersession programs (such as the summer class in Jamaica, pictured), the long-running Guadalajara, Mexico summer program to full semester offerings worldwide. Espiritu said her office also provides students a chance to participate by offering scholarships and financial aid package assistance. “We’re making a conscientious effort to make programs more accessible,” she said.
The demand has increased so much at USD that Jubran and his staff are testing a project called Second-Year Experience. The goal is for as many Class of 2013 students as possible to participate in a study abroad trip during 2011 Intersession to one of five international locations. The application deadline is Dec. 1, 2009.
Another way to stimulate student interest is on-campus events and programs with an international component. The International Center’s annual International Education Week begins today and runs through Friday with high-profile speakers, a one-day international bazaar with 50 booths lining Marian Way, faculty and graduate seminars and other special events showcasing USD’s wide range of international opportunities. “The caliber of speakers we have and the quality of the programming across the schools provides something for everyone,” Espiritu said.
— Ryan T. Blystone