Allen brings world to U

Heather Fors

As University officials rack their brains to find ways to attract more students to campus, one administrator is concentrating on sending students away.
C. Eugene Allen, the new executive director of the Institute of International Studies and Programs, is working toward giving students the experience of a lifetime — in another country.
Developed in 1993, the institute encompasses almost all international studies programs on campus and serves thousands of students each year.
As director of these programs, Allen’s top priorities are bringing the world’s cultures to the University and getting more students internationally involved.
“We live in a global area now that is so pervasive,” said Allen, who began as program director this month.
Just about every aspect of life has a connection to another country, which makes it increasingly important for younger generations to be involved with and informed about the world, he said.
While there are a handful who study abroad through the University’s Global Campus — last year 1,261 students applied to the program — Allen said he wants many more students to take advantage of the available programs.
To support their agenda of globalizing the school, University officials will bring their ideas to state officials in hopes of gaining financial support.
Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost, said the University will be asking the Legislature for about $1 million to $2 million in the next session to expand the study abroad program.
He said the money would go toward scholarships, travel grants and support for faculty to work on projects abroad.
Allen is also working on the idea of combining internships with study abroad programs.
Once semester conversion hits the University next fall, the possibility of using the intersessions — the three-week period between the end of spring semester and the beginning of summer semester — for unique, short study abroad periods is wide open.
“It’s frequently a life-changing experience,” Allen said. “Sometimes that starts with a relatively brief period of two weeks.”
Taking an extra one or two semesters to graduate is nothing compared to the invaluable experiences of being abroad, he said.
Allen compares studying abroad to food: “How do you know how something tastes without tasting it?”
Kay Thomas, director of International Students and Scholar Services as well as vice director of the Institute of International Studies and Programs, said she’s especially pleased that Allen recognizes the value of the University as an international school.
But bringing the world to students doesn’t have to mean bringing them to other countries. Allen is also hoping to make better use of the resources already here.
With about 4,000 international students and scholars at the University, Allen said he wants to integrate their cultures into classes and the lives of other students at the University.
But whether students experience the other cultures here or halfway around the world, it’s the people that count.
“I have never been any place in the world that I haven’t fallen in love with the people,” Allen said.