Story by Cindy Mooy
JMU moved up five notches to second place nationally among master's degree-level universities for the number of U.S. students who include academic credit-earning study outside the United States in their college careers.
In its Dec. 12 issue, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported JMU's 391 students, or 3.3 percent of its enrollment who participated in study-abroad programs in 1995-96, ranked just behind the University of St. Thomas, which sent 410, or 4 percent, of its students abroad.
The weekly newspaper reported a 5.7 percent increase nationwide in U.S. students studying in foreign countries in 1995–96, the most recent year that statistics are available. The increase continues a decade-long trend that underscores "the growing importance that young Americans now place on gaining international experience."
"Students see the career advantage to cite a serious international experience as part of their undergraduate portfolio," says Bethany S. Oberst, executive director of JMU's Office of International Education. For today's students, international communication and transportation, and greater flexibility and ease of crossing borders are "everyday occurrences," says Oberst, whose office advises† students interested foreign study.
In JMU's annual freshman survey, 44 percent of freshmen said they wanted to include an international experience in their college career.
JMU students and professors who have had foreign study and teaching experiences encourage students to take advantage of study-abroad programs.
"They bring out their enthusiasm in the classroom," says Oberst. "It's contagious.
"JMU made a commitment in the late '70s in international education," Oberst says, "to ensure an academically rigorous program, to make the curriculum ‘site-specific' and link programs to the location, to develop the faculty-in-residence program, so that the university's programs in international education would be of high quality."
Today, JMU sponsors international experiences in more than 25 cities and countries and coordinates with other institutions at additional locations.