GW looks into Latin American abroad center

Study abroad officials are in the early stages of determining whether to open a new center in Latin America. Officials said they hope to explore potential locations this summer.

With GW study abroad centers in London, Madrid and Paris satisfying demand for European programs and an increase in student interest in Latin America, the “next logical step” for the University would be to open a center in the region, said Donna Scarboro, associate vice president for Special Academic Programs.

“There were many things that went into the plan – strong student interest, interest in Spanish language, interest in Latin American culture and the politics of the area and strong faculty interest and research ties,” she said. “We’ve set out to build something for a broad range of students.”

Since fall 2002, more than 80 GW students have studied in Latin America, said Lynn Leonard, director of study abroad. She added that the number of students studying in the region has doubled in the past year.

Scarboro said she would be working closely with GW’s budget office and other University officials in the next few months to determine whether it would be in GW’s best interest to open a new center. She added that the University has not formulated a cost for installing the center.

“Plans for a new study center in Latin America are in a very primitive stage right now,” she said.

Scarboro added that the University is considering putting the center in a number of countries and universities that offer adequate housing and study programs.

“We need a partner who can work with us very well and is responsive,” she said.

In establishing a study center, the University forges a partnership with a foreign university that enables students to attend classes – taught by local and GW professors – at the host school. The agreement does not require GW to build new facilities at the foreign school.

A center in Latin America would build on current GW-affiliated programs in nine countries that include Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico, Scarboro said.

In addition to its three study centers in Europe, GW offers exchange and affiliation programs with universities in more than 50 countries around the world.

This year, 860 students participated in study abroad programs, a 28 percent jump from last year, Leonard said.

The increase comes despite a GW decision to limit students to about 200 affiliated programs at the cost of full tuition – $14,675 per semester – and only allow students to petition to participate in more than 2,000 programs unaffiliated with the University, many that cost significantly less.

Although GW has experience in setting up other centers in Europe, officials would not be following any precedents in establishing a new hub in Latin America.

“We don’t follow any clear pattern in setting up a center,” Scarboro said. “It is very specific to geography and faculty champions of the idea.”

Some students studying abroad in Latin America this semester said they have benefited from their experiences.

“The program is fabulous. A couple of the classes that I am taking are working to my advantage and I am participating in an intensive Spanish program two hours a day in the morning,” junior Devan Atanian, a student studying in Guadalajara, Mexico, wrote in an e-mail Monday.

Scarboro said GW is not advertising the prospective center because the project is in the “information gathering phase.”

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