Nine students who were expecting to be in the Netherlands this fall will have to make other plans.
Perspectives on Globalization, one of five study away programs directly administered by Macalester in conjunction with a foreign university, was canceled for the fall semester by the Institute for Global Citizenship (IGC), citing lack of necessary applicants. Nevertheless, the program may return in the future.
Many of the students who attend the program and applied this year are international students, who take advantage of the program’s unusual provision that allows international students to use their financial aid while abroad.
Vincent Siegerink ’14 is a student from the Netherlands who applied to the program this year.
“I am disappointed by the decision because the college took away the only loophole for those international students that are very passionate about studying abroad,” he wrote in an email.
The program description on Macalester’s website reads, “Using globalization as a master concept, the program engages students in major questions concerning the human condition: human rights, urban diversity and global governance. Students participate actively, in and beyond the classroom.”
Students begin in August with a four week seminar in The Hague, Netherlands, conducted by a Macalester professor. They then directly enroll at Leiden University College in The Hague. While abroad, students complete an independent study project and globalization essay worth four credits.
The program description states that all Macalester students in good academic standing with a declared major are eligible to apply.
Students who went on the program in the past expressed admiration for its academic quality and accessibility to international students.
“I have such special memories from that program, and it utterly upsets me that it won’t be happening,” wrote Ceren Kaysadi ’14, who enrolled in the program last semester.
“I initially chose to go to this program because, honestly, that was my only option as an international financial aid student,” Kaysadi wrote. “I really wanted to explore life elsewhere, but then I analyzed the program’s brochure [in] more detail and saw that it perfectly fit my major and career path in general.”
June Ban ’14, who also enrolled in the program last semester, agreed with Kaysadi’s assessment.
“Out of six people who went to the program last semester, I was the only American,” Ban said. “That says something. It shows how the demand by international students is high and their willingness to be part of this abroad experience that I think everyone should have a chance to have.”
“For an international student like me, the ability to transfer financial aid was the principal reason I chose the Netherlands as my study abroad destination,” wrote Petar Petrovic ’14. “I think my opinion on whether the decision was right or wrong is irrelevant, but I will say that International Center, with International Studies, should promote the program more next year.”
Wendy Weber, a professor in political science, facilitated the summer seminar portion of the program last year while Ahmed Samatar was a member of parliament in Somalia. She expressed support for the program’s continuation while emphasizing that the ultimate decision was out of her hands and that she was unaware of the reasoning behind it.
“I was not involved in the decision-making process [to end the program for this semester],” Weber said. “I think it’s something that doesn’t happen at the level of faculty, but it happens at the level of the administration because I think the issues were principally about cost.”
Weber also hypothesized that the range of opportunities for study abroad probably made recruitment more difficult. “I think now it’s been a little bit tougher probably to recruit ten students because students at Mac can go anywhere, and this is just one place,” she said. “I think it always might be a bit of a challenge, but if we’re better prepared on this end and do a better job in the run-up to the program, we’ll get that number for next year.”
According to Christy Hanson, Dean of the IGC, the program cancellation is only for this year and is not permanent. As she explained in an email, the nine applications received did not provide the number of qualified students needed to continue the program this year.
“This academically rigorous program was initially intended to competitively select ten students from a larger pool of qualified applicants,” Hanson wrote. “However, we did not even receive ten applications.”
“Not all of the applicants would have received approval to participate in the program, given their academic record and/or progress toward their majors,” she wrote, adding that number of students is often further decreased by attrition before the program starts.
Although students who enrolled in the program in the past were surprised over its cancellation, they acknowledged administrative concerns that had been expressed earlier.
“I don’t know if I was surprised, as Nelson and others in the department have been stressing for years that if we don’t get enough applicants, it won’t happen, but it seems ridiculously arbitrary,” Wouter Hammink ’14 wrote.
Hammink, who enrolled in the program in 2011, emphasized the program as exemplary of Macalester. “The program was amazingly successful with nine students, and from what I’ve heard was great with six as well,” he wrote. “As long as there are enough students to promote an open discussion, there are enough. It’s not necessarily the number of the students, but the quality.”
“I think the reason brought up for canceling the program, namely the fact that the IGC wanted to select from a competitive pool of applicants, is not in line with the information that was provided beforehand,” Siegerink wrote in an email. “If the IGC really wanted to select from a competitive pool, then I think it set unrealistic goals for the program, and cancellation could have easily been foreseen.”
“I knew they were not going to continue the program,” wrote Ariadne Baskin ’14, who also enrolled in the program last semester. “I think the people at the International Center knew that, too, but were just offering it anyway to stop protest from all the international students. The International Center did not contact a single one of us to advertise the program or speak to people about it in which they did heavily last year. There were hardly any posters of it.”
Soo Young Lee ’14 agreed with Baskin’s assessment that there was not enough promotion. “I’d like to point out that the program was noticeably less advertised this year,” she wrote. “None of us who were on the program last semester were asked to speak in classes, or at a panel like last year, despite the fact that we explicitly expressed interest in doing so.”
Last year, the Resource Planning Committee (RPC) released a report on the state of study abroad at Macalester, titled “Study away at Macalester – Expanding access and controlling costs.” The report was commissioned by President Rosenberg “in order to enhance the College’s study away program while ensuring that the program remains affordable for the college.” The report notes that study away costs have grown from four percent of the college’s total budget in 2005 to nearly six percent of the total budget in 2011. It is available in full on the college’s website.
Recommendations of the report include creating a manageable set of approved programs that are not run by Macalester (the report recommends 60 or fewer) that are both high quality and affordable, requiring students to live on campus the opposite semester of their time abroad, and expanding opportunities in January and summer for students who cannot go abroad otherwise.
According to Hanson, a major review of Macalester’s study away options is currently underway in response to the RPC report with the goal of providing the opportunity to study abroad to all students in the future.
“The disappointment that has resulted from the cancellation of a single program is a symptom of a much bigger issue,” Hanson wrote. “There is a committee, the Study Away Review Committee (SARC+), consisting of faculty, staff and students, that is reviewing study away and has recently proposed learning objectives for study away. This will help us to identify the program options that best serve Macalester students and will enable us to realign our portfolio to serve more students.”