This Week's Message
Some Thoughts on Augustana and Europe
A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the nagging feeling that insufficient numbers of Augustana students are studying abroad in Europe. While Augustana College operates a Europe Term every three years, there is some fairly convincing evidence that the demand for studying on "the Continent" is not being met by our institution. After operating every three years for over a quarter of a century, it may be that the format for Europe Term has either run its course or needs to be supplemented. Certainly it bears scrutiny from Augustana faculty and administrators who wish to have Augustana students participating in study abroad programs as part of the liberal education offered by Augustana College.
While the number of students who participated in Europe Term in fall 2008 was a fairly robust 96, it was slightly lower than in previous years. The chief culprit for the slight decline was most likely the economic recession in the United States. Other programs in Europe - Vienna at present, Ireland (spring 2010), and Rome (May, 2010) - have full numbers and in the case of the Ireland and Rome - long wait lists. These data are consistent with figures throughout higher education in America. Nationally, Western Europe is the destination of choice for over 60% of American students who study abroad. According to the Institute for International Education (IIE) the top 10 destinations for undergraduate American students are (in order): the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, China, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Ireland and Costa Rica. Taken together, these ten countries account for 63% of students studying abroad in 2006/2007.
Assuming that the Augustana market for study abroad is at all similar to that of the nation as a whole, (and the strong student response for Augustana program offerings in Ireland, Vienna, and Rome confirm this view), we should consider ways to expand the menu of choice on the continent of Europe for Augustana students.
What is to be done? I would like to have Augustana faculty take this opportunity to revisit the format and structure of Augustana's Europe Term specifically and our European offerings in general. In our thinking about Augustana programming in Europe, we should be mindful of the new Augustana calendar and the possibilities it affords us in structuring our programs. The winter term has seen two successful programs, one in Australia and another in Vietnam, which had less than ten weeks in country, but afforded an opportunity for significant familiarization with the history and culture of the destination in a classroom setting. It is at least arguable that this coursework made for a richer experience on the part of the students.
We might also think about expanding the European menu, either through more frequent programs, or more offerings. One benefit of approaches such as these might be in having smaller numbers on programs (say 30-50 instead of 100), while still enabling more Augustana students to participate on programs in Europe. What if, for example, Augustana had a fall term in the United Kingdom (London/Glasgow), and a spring term in Central Europe (Prague/Budapest/Krakow)? Each could operate with 30-50 students. What if we shifted to offering a smaller Europe Term every two years? It would require commitment and expertise of our faculty engaged in research and teaching on European-based topics, but would pay large dividends for Augustana as an institution.
I offer these thoughts and examples as a means to stimulate thinking on the topic. The next Europe Term is scheduled to operate in the fall term of 2011. No decisions about structure, direction or destination have been made at this time. Now is the time for thinking and conversation. I would appreciate your thoughts.
Kim Tunnicliff, Director