ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan surged to No. 10 in a ranking of U.S. schools with the most students studying abroad in 2011-12—a big jump from the No. 16 spot last year, a key survey of global education trends said Monday.
The strong growth reflects U-M's ongoing commitment to helping students go overseas. The university had 2,060 students studying abroad in 2011-12—a 6 percent increase from 1,946 in the previous period, according to the Open Doors Report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit group.
Education-abroad experiences provide immense value to students, said James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education at U-M.
"These global engagements help students develop capabilities that cannot be developed through the traditional classroom environment," Holloway said. "They help students observe and understand people from other cultures. They also help students become more flexible, persistent and self-reliant decision makers."
The most popular destinations for U-M students studying abroad were Spain (312 students), Italy (188), Germany (183), United Kingdom (148), China (137) and France (130).
Holloway added that U-M's expansion in education abroad has come largely in the professional schools, such as engineering and business, as well as in the fine arts. This illustrates the value of tailoring programs to the students' interests.
The growth has also been greatly facilitated by creating the right infrastructure to manage the programs, Holloway said. Such infrastructure includes data systems that allow students to easily search for programs that fit their needs. The same systems enable administrators to manage the process—from program selection to departure and return.
"The right data systems allow us to track thousands of travelers abroad and to communicate with them when we need to," Holloway said.
Raising money for study-abroad scholarships and other student support is key to the recently launched Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion. Last month, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman and her husband, Kenneth Coleman, announced their gift of $1 million for global scholarships to U-M students.
The Open Doors Report also said that for the second straight year, U-M ranked No. 8 in the nation for the size of its international student body. The university had 6,827 students from abroad in 2012-13, a 7 percent increase from the 6,382 in the previous period.
"International students diversify the campus environment in important ways," Holloway said. "They allow domestic students to interact with and learn from others who are very different from themselves, while providing the international students with an important cross-cultural experience and challenge."
The 2013 Open Doors Report is available at www.iie.org/opendoors.
James Holloway, vice provost of global and engaged education, discussed the significance of the findings of the highly respected survey by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit group.
Why is it important for a student to study abroad?
Holloway: At the University of Michigan we know that education abroad experiences provide immense value to students. These global engagements help them to develop capabilities that cannot be developed through the traditional classroom environment. These experiences help students develop their capacity to observe and discover human needs within the context of cultural values, and they help students become more flexible, persistent and self-reliant decision makers.
U-M had a 6 percent increase in students studying abroad in 2011-12. What were some of the factors that made this growth possible?
Holloway: The expansion in education abroad at the University of Michigan has come largely in the professional schools like engineering and business, as well as in the fine arts, and illustrates the value of creating programs tailored to the interests of students. The growth has also been greatly facilitated by putting in place the right centralized infrastructure to support the management of these disciplinary-based programs.
Can you give some examples of the "centralized infrastructure?"
Holloway: I would say it includes data systems and coordinating systems. The right data systems allow students to search for and find programs that fit their needs, and that allows us to manage the process from application, selection, tracking pre-departure requirements, departure and return. Similarly the right data systems allow us to track thousands of travelers abroad and to communicate with them when we need to.
What kind of "coordinating systems" helped increase the number of students studying abroad?
Holloway: The coordinating systems include the Council on Global Engagement, which includes study-abroad administrations along with other faculty and staff involved in international education.
They meet regularly, discuss issues, share information and collaborate. This allows our large, complex institution to simplify the steps that students have to go through in order to take advantage of education-abroad opportunities. Cooperation across multiple offices - including financial aid, registrar's offices, education abroad offices, and advising offices - is important in making study abroad doable for students. Groups like CGE also allow successful models for engaging students to be shared across multiple units.
For the second straight year, the size of U-M's international student body was ranked No. 8 in the nation. Why is it important to have a large number of students from abroad?
Holloway: International students diversify the campus environment in important ways. They allow domestic students to interact with and learn from others who are very different from themselves, while providing the international students with an important cross-cultural experience and challenge.
What does U-M do to help international students make the most of their experience at the university?
Holloway: U-M provides international students with a number of specialized orientation and support programs to help them come to know their new community. To further leverage the presence of international students in Ann Arbor, U-M has recently created a funding program - Ann Arbor International Student Connections - to support new ideas in bringing domestic and international students together to learn from each other.