USD's Participation in Study Abroad Ranked No. 1


“My experience in Jamaica was invaluable. The program’s heavy emphasis on cultural immersion and outreach left me returning home with the understanding that there is not one right way to live, just many different ways from which to choose. Three weeks in Jamaica taught me infinitely more about the world and myself than any amount of time spent in a classroom.” — Elizabeth Mason ‘11

Go International. Go see and experience the world. Study abroad and return with a wider and deeper perspective on people, knowledge and life. Mason’s reflection on her University of San Diego study abroad experience in Duncans, Jamaica, provides just one view, one person’s voice, but to USD and the Institute of International Education (IIE), the number one is significant.

The IIE’s latest Open Doors publication, examining institutions and their undergraduate student participation in study abroad for 2009-10, ranks USD first percentage-wise (71.4 percent) among doctorate institutions. Data indicates 825 students of the 1,156 total undergraduate degrees conferred at USD in 2009-10 studied abroad for a semester, summer or during the January Intersession.

The announcement of USD’s No. 1 ranking pleased Kira Espiritu, director of International Study Abroad undergraduate programs since September 2007. In that time, she said, USD has gone from not being ranked among the top 40 doctorate institutions in the 2007 Open Doors publication to sixth in 2008 and second each of the last two years.

“The ranking is a testament to the support for international education from administration and faculty so that students can have this experience,” said Espiritu, PhD. “It’s also a testament to the students’ interest and them knowing the importance of an international education experience.”

In addition to the No. 1 ranking, Espiritu said USD moved up nine spots this year to No. 31 for the total number of students — undergraduate and graduate — that studied abroad (1,409) during the 2009-10 data period.

News of the top ranking comes as USD is celebrating the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education’s International Education Week, Nov. 14-18, with several on-campus events.

One such event tied in is a photo exhibit of students’ images from study abroad trips. The UC Exhibit Hall offers glimpses of USD’s Second-Year Experience trips to Florence, Italy and Barcelona, Spain as well as Semester at Sea trips that take students on a 100-plus day, 12-country tour. The exhibit, which runs through Nov. 23, has a wall dedicated to the popular Jamaica trip that Mason and others experienced.

Espiritu credited study abroad destination expansion and faculty-led programs for a wider number of undergraduate students as contributing factors for the new ranking. Helping to build the rise to the top ranking, though, was USD’s decision to put several international resources — the Office of International Students and Scholars, undergraduate study abroad and more — together in Serra Hall, Room 315 in 2007.

“The creation of the International Center four years ago was the culmination of one of the strategic initiatives of the university and all our stakeholders,” Associate Provost of International Affairs Denise Dimon, PhD, said. “The International Center consolidated and built upon the efforts that have been taking place at USD for a very long time. This achievement reflects a focus on designing internationally relevant opportunities for our students for many years.”

So now that USD has reached No. 1 status, what does this mean for Espiritu, Dimon and others focused on internationalization?

“It definitely motivates us and keeps us thinking creatively,” Espiritu said. “We have more than 70 percent doing study abroad, but it makes us think harder about the nearly 30 percent we’re missing and how we can reach them.”

Dimon, director of both the International Center and the Ahlers Center for International Business, said USD’s bid to enhance global education could only grow.

“The next steps will be designing more creative and innovative international programs. We will design and develop new partnerships and ways to partner, perhaps develop a global campus, create more international dual degree programs, enhance opportunities in countries and regions not well served at this point in time, etc. These ideas are all coming from the USD community. My hope is that the International Center can provide a platform to help put these ideas into a reality. We are just beginning.”

— Ryan T. Blystone