NIU President John G. Peters
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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
March 12, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University President John Peters today praised the introduction of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act of 2007, legislation to establish a national study-abroad fellowship program.
The bill (H.R. 1469), introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee respectively, would create a national fellowship program, increasing the numbers of students studying abroad to 1 million per year.
Administered by an independent entity, the program would provide key support for necessary modifications at institutions of higher education to allow all college students the opportunity to study abroad.
Peters served on the Congressionally appointed Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program and has been a leader in the call to increase the number of students studying abroad nationally and at his own university.
“I’m pleased to support this legislation,” he said. “It would greatly increase the number of opportunities for American students to study abroad.
“Study-abroad programs at NIU and universities across the country enrich students’ education and provide them with a necessary understanding of the diverse cultures in our world today,” Peters added. “Students who study abroad are better equipped to compete in the global marketplace and will be better prepared to tackle the needs and issues of tomorrow, including those related to diplomacy and national security. That is why we at NIU envision ourselves as a global university and continue to work toward internationalizing our curriculum and encouraging more NIU students to study abroad.”
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 presents workshops for academic advisers at NIU, updating them on international opportunities for students to study abroad or pursue internationally focused minors. Presentations also are 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 that taps the expertise of alums of the study-abroad program.
The newly introduced legislation is named after the late Sen. Paul Simon (D-IL) who was a strong proponent of international education. His efforts led to the creation of the bipartisan Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. Many of the recommendations contained in the Commission’s 2005 report, “Global Competence and National Needs: One Million Students Studying Abroad,” are included in this legislation.
Currently, about 200,000 undergraduate students study abroad each year. The bill’s objectives include ensuring that the demographics of the study-abroad participation will reflect the U.S. undergraduate population and that an increasing portion of study-abroad students will go to currently nontraditional study-abroad destinations.
“One million students studying abroad per year will transform our country in a positive and powerful way,” said Peter McPherson, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and former chair of the Commission on the Abraham Lincoln Study Abroad Fellowship Program. “For the American workforce to be competitive in the global marketplace, our students need experience in and knowledge about the world outside the U.S.”
Last year a similar bill in the Senate received overwhelming bipartisan support and had 46 co-sponsors before the session ended. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Norm Coleman (R-MN) will re-introduce a Senate bill in the coming weeks.
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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 215 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 Abraham Lincoln Commission on Study Abroad , or to download the report, “Global Competence and National Needs: One Million Students Studying Abroad,” please visit www.lincolncommission.org.