The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Maastricht study abroad program to end next year

By Emma WestRasmus

The Globalization in Comparative Perspective study abroad program in Maastricht, The Netherlands, which was started in conjunction with the Institute for Global Citizenship, has been touted as an educational program that embodies the many of Macalester’s hallmarks-academic rigor, internationalism and global citizenship. But students hoping to take advantage of the Maastricht program during the 2010-11 school year are out of luck. Due to a lack of interest in the program-it received only four applicants this year-the college has cancelled it for the coming school year.

The Globalization in Comparative Perspective study abroad program is a yearlong study abroad program in which students spend the fall semester at a study abroad destination of their choice worldwide. The students then unite in January in Maastricht for an intensive month-long seminar on globalization. They spend the spring semester studying at Maastricht University.

The “sudden drop off of student interest,” as Macalester’s Study Abroad Coordinator Paul Nelson described it, left the administration shocked.

“The people most affected are still reeling from the failure of the program,” Nelson said.

Michael Monahan, director of the International Center at the IGC, said he was disappointed by the low student interest in a program he says “was designed very thoughtfully.” Monahan co-created the Maastricht program with IGC dean and International Studies professor Ahmed Samatar, and the two both travel to Maastricht in January to teach the seminar and take the students on three excursions throughout the semester to the Hague, Brussels and Amsterdam.

“I was upset to find that the Maastricht program had been canceled, but honestly was not that surprised,” said Jordan Vesey ’12, who was one of the four applicants to the program for next year. “I had heard of very few people who had applied and kind of expected that something like this might happen.”

In light of the cancelled program, Vesey, an International Studies major and Music minor, has decided to stay on campus next fall and study abroad in Buenos Aires in the spring.

Monahan attributes the lack of student interest in the program to a combination of factors, including the yearlong duration, which he says may deter some students. The study abroad trend in recent years has been in the direction of semester-long programs.

The administration also credits the program’s perceived academic difficulty for the drop in student interest.

“I think students perceive that admission for the program is very competitive, but the truth is that has not been the case,” Nelson said. “Very few students who have wanted to participate have been denied, but perceptions linger despite their divergence from reality, and it can be hard to correct them.”

Liz Larson ’10 participated in the program last year, spending the first semester at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and the second in Maastricht, and echoed Nelson’s concern about perceived rigor of the program.

“I think that the program was billed as being very competitive and challenging, which is what attracted me to it, but may have presented obstacles in continuing interest,” Larson said. “I think that it may have been better to attract students if the challenging aspect of the program had not been so heavily emphasized, and let student interest and the reputation for rigor build on its own.”

According to Nelson, the program was designed and began at a time when student interest was high. The first two years of the program it was full at its ten-student cap, and fell to seven students the following year. Six students were planning on participating during the current academic year, but after two students dropped out, the number of students in Maastricht dwindled too much.

Monahan said that it was not cost-effective to send both Monahan and Samatar to Maastricht to conduct the January seminar, which both Monahan and Nelson described as “the lynchpin” to the entire program.

The drop in applications for the Maastricht program is in line with the overall drop in study abroad participants at Macalester. There has been a 25 percent decrease in students studying abroad in the past three years, which Nelson attributes to the economic crisis.

Despite the current enrollment challenges, the administration does not intend to cut the Globalization in Comparative Perspective program from its offerings.

“We’re not giving up on the program,” Nelson said. “It won’t be abandoned.”

Attempts will also be made to improve promotion of the program on campus, and to advertise the program to faculty in all departments to increase the diversity of students from a variety of disciplines. The faculty development seminar will also take place in Amsterdam this year, which Monahan hopes will generate interest in the program.

“We’re hoping it will help create a positive vibe for the program and for what one can do in the Netherlands,” Monahan said.

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    Charles KnoxSep 7, 2019 at 1:04 pm

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