Study abroad program ranks fourth



Thomas Celona

The Institute of International Education has ranked Villanova University No. 4 on its annual list of institutions for total number of study abroad participants (master’s category), moving up one position from last year’s ranking. “Open Doors,” the annual report, was released on Nov. 17.

These high rankings confirm the rising trend of study abroad participation at Villanova and the University’s role as an institution increasingly known for its international program offerings.

“In the past eight years, we’ve have a 200 percent increase in the number of students [participating in study abroad programs],” said Lance Kenney, director of International Studies.

The rankings were based on data submitted to IIE by over 2,800 accredited universities across the nation. Much like U.S. News and World Report’s categorization, IEE places Villanova in the master’s category as one that grants master’s degrees but does not have a full doctoral program.

IIE, the same non-profit group that sponsors Fulbright grants, is seen as the most preeminent organization in the field of international study, according to Kenney. The rankings reflect participation for the ’06-’07 school year.

During that period, a total number of 710 Villanova students participated in a study abroad program, up from 681 last year. The report also reflected that participation in study abroad programs nationwide is up from last year.

In addition to the overall No. 4 position, Villanova was ranked for its student participation in both mid-length and short-term study abroad programs. With 336 students participating in single-semester programs, the University landed at No. 5 on the mid-length rankings, up from No. 8 last year.

Meanwhile, the 390 students who partook in summer programs earned Villanova the No. 10 ranking on the short-term list. The University is down from No. 5 last year, even though the number of participants was higher. Junior Alison Posluszny originally planned to study abroad for a full semester but decided Villanova’s School of Business summer program in Rome, Italy was a better option.

“I really wanted to have the experience of being abroad, but I couldn’t be away from Villanova for four months,” Posluszny said.

Kenney said that he felt the rankings reflected the increased prominence of study abroad options in the minds of people on campus.

“It shows that it’s something that is in the consciousness of the students, administration and faculty,” Kenney said. “Students are hearing about the importance from administration, deans, peers.”

Kenney also said that within the profession of collegiate international studies, Villanova is beginning to be seen as more of an institution known for its study abroad offerings.

This renown is spreading to high school students looking at potential colleges. The American Council on Education reported that upwards of 65 percent of high school seniors express interest in studying abroad, according to Kenney, making a university’s offerings a potential draw for candidates.

“Admissions is reaching out to us as an office more and more,” Kenney said.

While the rankings reflect the successes of the Office of International Studies, Kenney also said they point toward the need to continue developing its offerings.

“I think [the rankings are] an indication that, as an office, we should have more resources,” Kenney said. “Our biggest challenge is that there are still groups of students still not studying abroad in the number I’d like.”

Among these groups Kenney noted are students in engineering and the sciences who have program requirements that make it more difficult to work studying abroad into their course schedules.

While many may expect that the declining value of the U.S. dollar against foreign currencies may have deterred students from studying abroad, the report indicates a consistent rise.

“The exchange rate hasn’t hurt us that much,” Kenney said. “Students see [studying abroad] as value-added, so students are willing to do it.”

The upward trend at Villanova continued this semester.

“Our fall semester broke records,” Kenney said.

However, the upcoming semester will see a decline in student participation. Kenney said that there will be a 10-20 percent drop for spring enrollment in study abroad programs. Kenney noted that this may be due to the perception of the economy, but he also pointed out another possible reason.

“The only other time I’ve seen a drop in the spring semester was the other time Villanova’s [men’s basketball team] was ranked preseason,” he said.

Despite the anticipated drop, the Office of International Studies is experiencing a period of success, much of which is due to positive word of mouth among students.

“The study abroad office makes it really easy to make sure your classes abroad fit with your major’s curriculum,” said junior Kathleen Nihill, who studied abroad in Galway, Ireland last semester. “Ireland was the time of my life. It was amazing.”

Through both national recognition and peer feedback, an increasing number of students at Villanova are deciding to study abroad through programs from the Office of International Studies.

“More and more students are realizing how important it is to have an international component – not just for resumé building, but to have that in your consciousness,” Kenney said.

Laura Welch contributed additional reporting to this article.