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 Tuesday, April 24, 2007 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Office of International Education: Global outreach from a very small place
By Linda Besen, Publications and Creative Services

"We provide opportunities that encourage understanding of and appreciation for all people and cultures of our world," says the vision statement of the Office of International Education (OIE). OIE reaches out to students, researchers, and faculty at CU-Boulder.

"I often explain our office as the campus's import/export office," said Larry Bell, director of OIE. At any given time, over 1,200 CU students are on study abroad programs throughout the world, and about 1,000 international students are here learning and researching.

On the "export" side, approximately 25 percent of CU graduates include study abroad as an integral part of their undergraduate degrees. In comparison, most large research institutions send around 10 percent. Bell feels that our ideal would be substantially higher than 25 percent—maybe double.

On the "import" side, currently about 3.5 percent of CU's student body is international. At many similar institutions, international students comprise over 10 percent of the student body (such as the University of Texas at Austin with 12 percent). "I would like to see a larger number at CU," said Bell. "I think it would be good for the campus."

OIE also reaches students who neither study abroad nor visit from abroad, for example through the SHIP Residential Academic Program and the popular International Festival. Bell explained that the purpose of the International Festival is to give CU students who can't participate in a study abroad program authentic experiences of world culture.

OIE provides resources for faculty in the form of grants allowing them to travel abroad to internationalize their curriculum (about two each year) and sponsorship of faculty-led programs abroad (about 10 each year).

Finances are available for growth. For example, companion bills currently in the U.S. Senate and House would increase money for study abroad. A new scholarship program, the Paul Simon Study Abroad Scholarship, if passed and funded by Congress, will increase the number of American students going abroad from 200,000 to over a million annually in the next ten years.

The growth constraint for OIE is office space. Currently they are housed in the basement of the Environmental Design Building, where they have grossly outgrown the available space. "Right now we have resorted to putting two people in one cubicle and we do advising, sometimes rather sensitive advising, in a corner of the reception room," said Bell. Since all staff work with students in one way or another, offices need to be convenient to students. "Space is a huge issue," said Bell. "The campus is aware of that, we're working on solutions, but they are still a ways away."

For more information, visit the OIE website.

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