Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
July 27, 2006
Goal to increase participation to 1 million students studying abroad per year
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University President John Peters is applauding the introduction of federal legislation to establish a national study abroad fellowship program.
The Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Act of 2006 would create a national fellowship program, increasing the numbers of students studying abroad to 1 million per year over the course of the next decade. About 191,000 undergraduate students studied abroad in the 2003-2004 school year.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) introduced the legislation, spurred by the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. Both Durbin and NIU’s President Peters served on the Congressionally appointed commission.
“I am pleased to support this legislation that will do a great deal to assist more U.S. undergraduate students, particularly those who do not traditionally have the opportunity to study overseas,” Peters said. “It will dramatically increase the number of students who can learn firsthand how to excel in a global society.
“Understanding diverse cultures in our world today will help our college students be more informed and aware of the global needs and issues affecting our world,” he added.
The legislation would authorize the Secretary of State to set up a competitive-grants system for both institutions and individual students . It also aims to increase diversity among study-abroad participants, institutions, fields of study and destinations.
NIU’s Peters has been a leader in the call to increase the number of students studying abroad nationally and at his own university.
NIU’s Division of International Programs restructured its Study Abroad Office to devote more time to student outreach to bolster study-abroad numbers. Working with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, International Programs also presented workshops for academic advisers at NIU, updating them on international opportunities for students to study abroad or pursue internationally-focused minors. Presentations also have been made to NIU recruiters in the Office of Admissions to raise their awareness of study-abroad and foreign-languages options.
The Study Abroad Office at NIU also holds an annual study-abroad fair, offers faculty development workshops promoting the internationalization of curriculums, has initiated a series of informal presentations and question-and-answer sessions for students, has brought off-campus study-abroad providers to campus and offers a peer-advisory program tapping the expertise of alums of the study-abroad program.
“Strong study-abroad programs are vital to our economic competitiveness, international diplomacy and national security,” said Peter McPherson, chair of the Abraham Lincoln Commission on Study Abroad and president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC). “For students, and the American workforce, to be competitive in the global marketplace, they need experience living in and working with different cultures.”
Many of the Act’s provisions come from the groundbreaking report Global Competence and National Needs: One Million Students Studying Abroad, published last year by the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. Last year, U.S. Senate Resolution 308 established 2006 as the “Year of Study Abroad.”
“Students are our country’s best ambassadors. They tell a story about America no government official can,” McPherson said.
Founded in 1887, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges is a voluntary association of public research universities, land-grant institutions, and many state university systems. Its 214 members enroll more than 3.6 million students, award about a half-million degrees annually, and have an estimated 20 million alumni.
For more information on the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program, or to download the report Global Competence and National Needs: One Million Students Studying Abroad, please visit www.lincolncommission.org.