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William & Mary garners top spot in study abroad among public universities

  • International education:
    International education:  In the 2015-2016 academic year, by IIE criteria, 755 William & Mary undergraduate students (48.9 percent) had studied abroad during their time as undergraduates.  Photo courtesy of the Reves Center for International Studies
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William & Mary has the highest percentage of undergraduates participating in study abroad programs compared to any other public university in the United States, according to a report released Nov. 13 by the Institute of International Education (IIE). In the 2015-2016 academic year, by IIE criteria, 755 William & Mary undergraduate students (48.9 percent) had studied abroad during their time as undergraduates.

The university is a leader among global education even when compared with private universities, ranking 20th in the report’s list of top 40 doctorate-granting institutions, both public and private, moving up from 22nd (with 47.4%) in 2014-2015.

“William & Mary is committed to intellectual and international openness, and in both large and small ways, we enact and expand on this commitment every day,” said Teresa Longo, Acting Vice Provost for International Affairs and Director of the Reves Center for International Studies. “Through our study abroad programs, 53 percent of our undergraduate students dedicate their time, energy and intellect to study abroad during their time at William & Mary. The university’s commitment makes possible a crucial, transformative process of opening oneself to the unfamiliar.”

The Open Doors Report on International Exchange is published annually by the IIE with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The 2017 Report measures the number of students who studied abroad in the 2015-2016 academic year and coincides with International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States. 

William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies offers students a diverse selection of study abroad opportunities through the Global Education Office (GEO). Students receive support, information, resources and guidance on various study abroad programs and international university exchanges through GEO, which also provides workshops, peer advising and re-entry assistance for students returning from their study abroad experience.

“Study abroad has become an integral part of the W&M undergraduate experience for so many of our students. Students and families are recognizing the importance of global experiences and are supported by the entire W&M community, especially our faculty and academic programs,” said Sylvia Mitterndorfer, Director of Global Education for the Reves Center. “We continue to work to make study abroad even more accessible to all students and are especially grateful for the significant increases in scholarship funding in recent years.

Americans studying abroad

The report shows that 325,339 American students received academic credit last year at the home campus for study abroad in 2015/2016, an increase of four percent from the previous year. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled in the past two decades. U.S. higher education is increasingly focused on preparing U.S. students to secure jobs after graduation in order to advance their careers, as well as preparing them to thrive in the multicultural global marketplace. Studies have shown that studying abroad helps students develop the skills needed to succeed in today’s interconnected world.

Twenty-five percent of all students who studied abroad were majoring in STEM fields, a number which has been growing faster than the average, followed by Business, Social Sciences, Foreign Language and International Studies, and Fine and Applied Arts.

International students in the U.S.

In 2016/17, for the second consecutive year, U.S. colleges and universities hosted more than one million international students, reaching a record high of 1.08 million. This also marks the 11th consecutive year of continued expansion of the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. William & Mary hosts more than 1,000 students representing more than 60 countries and more than 40 languages.

“International student exchange is an essential contributor to America’s economic competitiveness and national security. The U.S. higher education sector remains the global leader in welcoming students from around the world, and at the same time, we are committed to increasing opportunities to study abroad for Americans,” said Alyson L. Grunder, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Policy in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We need to develop the talent and skills necessary for 21st century careers. It is in our national interest to build and grow the international relationships and networks that are key to addressing the global challenges and opportunities we face going forward.”

Reports show that international students benefit U.S. communities, colleges and universities, in many ways, including economically. In 2016 international students brought $39 billion to the United States economy, through their spending on tuition, room and board and living expenses, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. According to data from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students and scholars in the Williamsburg area had more than a $50 million impact on the local economy.

“Countries and multinational employers around the world are competing to attract top talent. As more countries become active hosts of international students and implement national strategies to attract them, the competition for top global talent in higher education and the workforce will only intensify,” said IIE President and CEO Allan E. Goodman. “It is critical for U.S. institutions to set strategic goals and be proactive in reaching out to students and families in a wide range of countries in the coming year, and for the United States to keep its academic doors open to students from all over the world.”

According to its mission, the Institute of International Education, (IIE) works to build more peaceful and equitable societies by advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity. As a not-for-profit with 19 offices and affiliates worldwide, IIE collaborates with a range of corporate, government and foundation partners across the globe to design and manage scholarship, study abroad, workforce training and leadership development programs. Further details on the Open Doors 2017 surveys and their findings is on the Open Doors website.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private sector exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programs. Approximately 50,000 participants annually embark on these exchange programs, including the flagship Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program.

The Reves Center for International Studies is the home of the office of the vice provost for international affairs, the Global Education Office and the Office of International Students, Scholars and Programs at William & Mary. The mission of the Reves Center is to promote international teaching, learning, research and community involvement across our university by serving as the central administrative “hub” for comprehensive internationalization at William & Mary.