Regents goal: internationalize U, despite program cuts

The board officially cut several minors with an international focus, including the learning abroad minor.

by Roy Aker

Study abroad participation at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is among the highest in the nation, keeping with the University’s overall goal to internationalize the institution.

But at a Thursday Board of Regents meeting, six minors and one major focused on international study — from Hebrew to Latin American Studies — were officially discontinued.

A consent report by the Academic and Student Affairs Committee found the discontinued programs were “not highly utilized by students” and that courses are “not offered with a frequency that allows students to make timely degree progress.”

Nanette Hanks, assistant dean for the College of Liberal Arts, said only seven students were enrolled in the learning abroad minor, which was among the programs cut.

“The students are voting with their feet,” she said.

The discontinuation of the course shouldn’t be seen as a signal that CLA isn’t committed to learning abroad, Hanks said, but that the school finds that students are choosing other majors.

She made clear that CLA hasn’t actively been discouraging students from these minor programs and that the college’s staff will work with students currently enrolled in the study abroad minor to ensure completion of the minor requirements.

Psychology sophomore Bryan Nelson called his adviser to declare the minor this spring, but was told it no longer existed. He wasn’t upset about the discontinuation, he said, and plans to complete a study abroad trip anyway as part of his foreign language requirement.

Currently, the Twin Cities campus is third among research institutions nationwide for study abroad participation. Thirty-two percent of undergraduates study abroad for credit, far higher than the U.S. college average of nine percent.

During the 2011-12 school year, more than 2,000

students studied abroad.

In her presentation to the Board of Regents Academic and Student Affairs Committee Thursday, Meredith McQuaid, associate vice president and dean of international programs, highlighted this trend and the strong-rooted study abroad programs offered at the University.

In her presentation, McQuaid said the University’s GPS Alliance program recognizes that not all students will be able to study abroad, which is why programs like Students Crossing Borders and specific courses that engage students with Cedar-Riverside residents have been created.

“If [students] graduate without the ability to navigate in a global context, we have failed in our duty as educators,” she said.


Attracting international students

Another part of internationalizing the University is attracting more international students, McQuaid said.

In spring 2013, 5,694 students enrolled at the University’s Twin Cities campus were international students.

Currently, 138 countries are represented by international students on the Twin Cities campus, McQuaid said, but added that the GPS Alliance’s goals are about more than just the number of international students on campus.

“Thankfully, most enlightened educators these days recognize that there’s much more to internationalization and to education than that,” she said.

GPS Alliance’s goal in the coming year will be to increase what they call “global competency” for all faculty, students and staff, she said.

“Our interests are to diversify our international population so that all of students, from wherever they come, have the opportunity to engage with people around the world.”