IIE Open Doors Report: USD Ranks No. 1 in Nation for Undergraduate Study Abroad Participation

IIE Open Doors Report: USD Ranks No. 1 in Nation for Undergraduate Study Abroad Participation

The University of San Diego has been named the nation’s No. 1 institution for undergraduate study abroad participation among the Top 40 doctorate-granting universities, according to the latest Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange data released on Nov. 13 by the Institute for International Education (IIE).


Using the IIE's most recent data available, USD’s 76.9 percent, based on an IIE formula to determine participation percentage, was the top score. Notre Dame was second (73.7), followed by Wake Forest (73.5), University of Denver (72.6) and Pepperdine (72.4).

“It is an honor to be ranked number one,” Denise Dimon, PhD, associate provost of international affairs, “but it is the consistent support and dedication of our administration, students, faculty and staff that allows us to develop and deliver innovative opportunities for our students. It is wonderful to receive this outside recognition. But it is the quality, diversity and innovation of our programs for which we are most proud.”

The university’s undergraduate study abroad program has been a consistent rankings success for more than a decade. Since 2007, USD has been ranked among the top 10 the same category. Eight of the last nine years, USD has finished among the top three, including No. 1 in the 2011 and 2012. USD first appeared in the IIE Top 40 list in 2006.

“This ranking is very exciting and is a testament to USD’s commitment to international opportunities as well as to the adventurous spirit of our students and faculty,” said Kira Espiritu, PhD, director of International Studies Abroad programming. “The USD International Center advising team works tirelessly to prepare our undergraduate students to study abroad and our faculty are dedicated to making the international experience the best it can be both academically and culturally.”

The university offers more than 75 different programs worldwide. It has a permanent international facility in Spain, the USD Madrid Center, which supports USD’s largest semester abroad program. It created the Second Year Experience Abroad for January’s three-week Intersession that is exclusively for sophomores. The School of Business recently launched a dual undergraduate degree program for incoming students who can earn a business degree at USD and an international business degree by attending a participating institution in Italy, France, Ireland, Spain or Portugal in a total of four years.

It’s this open-minded approach that has Dimon labeling USD study abroad program as innovative and diverse. “Most universities offer study abroad, but USD offers study abroad 2.0."

  • The International Center, located in Serra Hall 201 was “created (in 2007) to form a hub of support across campus and serve as a one-stop shop for undergraduate students,” Dimon said. “Yet, we also decentralized study abroad in our professional schools for our graduate students. As a university, we leverage advantages that come both from centralization and decentralization.”
  • Undergraduate students have upwards of 50 courses abroad to choose from each year that are led by USD's own faculty, across all disciplines and all around the world. “Our students like the personalization that comes with spending time traveling and learning with their own faculty,” Dimon said.
  • Faculty-led courses vary not only in location and discipline, but some are project-based learning opportunities, some engage with the community, others travel across several cities and so forth.
  • Said Espiritu: “Studying abroad contributes to USD's strategic initiative objectives by furthering our engagement globally. We work hard to make sure that studying abroad is accessible to all students.”

Students definitely enjoy opportunities to see another part of the world — just check out the @usdstudyabroad Instagram account that regularly posts students' cherished moments during their journey (see the photo slideshow above).

Clearly, USD's focus on global learning via its study abroad program has the nation's attention. The No. 1 ranking in the IIE Open Doors Report is a reward for this excellence.

“USD's dedication to international experiences for students and faculty is one of the distinguishing features of our university,” Espiritu said.

— Ryan T. Blystone


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