Texas A&M University has pledged a 100-percent increase over a five-year period in the number of students taking advantage of study-abroad opportunities — reaching a level that would exceed 4,000. Texas A&M officials say they believe their pledge represents the largest increase in Texas and among the largest nationally.
Texas A&M officials made the pledge as part of the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) “Generation Study Abroad” initiative to vastly increase the number of American students who study abroad by the end of the decade.
“Texas A&M has taken this bold step as part of its Quality Enhancement Plan, ‘Aggies Commit to Learning for a Lifetime’,” Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Pamela R. Matthews stated in the university’s written commitment to IIE officials. “When students make a commitment to engage purposefully in a high-impact learning experience such as studying abroad, they are developing habits and skills to prepare themselves for lives of leadership and service to society.”
In 2012-13, Texas A&M had more than 3,000 students studying or participating in non-credit programs in more than 90 locations around the world, officials note, with virtually all of its academic units represented. Texas A&M currently ranks 13th nationally among U.S. institutions that have students pursuing credit-bearing programs abroad, according to the most recent such assessment.
Jane Flaherty, director of Texas A&M’s Study Abroad Program Office, said both the state and Texas A&M figure prominently in study-abroad activities.
“For the last 11 years, Texas has been the top exporting state in the nation,” Flaherty noted. “In order for Aggies to assume their place as leaders in the Texas economy, they will need to have a familiarity with how other societies function and markets in other countries work. Going abroad facilitates the development of this knowledge.”
Leading up to IIE’s centennial celebration in 2019, “Generation Study Abroad” representatives 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.
IIE officials say Texas A&M is among the lead partners that have committed to specific, measureable actions that will help reach this “ambitious goal,” adding that the result will be thousands more American students graduating with the international experience necessary for success in a globalized world.
Building on its nearly 100-year commitment to study abroad, IIE has committed $2 million of its own funds to this initiative over the next five years.
Texas A&M officials are supporting deans’ goals for their colleges, in part by assisting with funding to help cover study-abroad expenses.
“To facilitate meeting the target, Texas A&M will continue to support college efforts in order to increase in the number of students participating in high-impact learning experiences, including study abroad,” Matthews said in the institutional commitment to IIE. “Funding to assist in meeting these goals has been disbursed, and progress will be tracked to gauge successful strategies and ensure accountability.”
At least 156 institutions from 41 U.S. states have already signed the “Generation Study Abroad” commitment, including almost 100 public colleges and universities. Texas is among the top five states in terms of institutions that have made commitments to date, officials note, adding that of those institutions, Texas A&M is the leader in sending students abroad for study opportunities.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and several foreign governments, as well as key higher education associations and study abroad provider organizations, have pledged to support the goals of the initiative. Recognizing the importance of an internationally focused workforce, IIE is also actively seeking the participation of corporations and the business community.
“Globalization has changed the way the world works, and employers are increasingly looking for workers who have international skills and expertise,” says IIE President Allan Goodman. “Studying abroad must be viewed as an essential component of a college degree and critical to preparing future leaders.”
IIE is launching “Generation Study Abroad” because the number and proportion of today’s students who graduate with an educational experience abroad is far too low, Goodman notes. Currently, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point in their academic career. According to the Open Doors Report on International and Educational Exchange released by IIE last November with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, 295,000 students studied abroad in 2011/12 in credit-bearing and non-credit programs. Generation Study Abroad aims to grow participation in study abroad so that the annual total reported will reach 600,000 by the end of the decade.
With 2.6 million students graduating with associate or baccalaureate degrees each year, IIE officials say it is clear that major segments of America’s young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues. For more information about IIE’s “Generation Study Abroad” initiative, and a complete list of commitment partners, visit the Generation Study Abroad website.
Media Contact: Lane Stephenson, News & Information Services, at (979) 845-4662