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My esteemed counterpart at Oberlin College, President Marvin Krislov, recently wrote in the New York Times, “As the world changes around us, educational institutions must lead courageously.” Lycoming College is no exception. We are courageously leading, in part by reinvesting in our study abroad programs — programs that deepen our liberal arts foundation of intellectual curiosity, inquiry, critical thinking and socio-cultural awareness, and that accelerate the evolution of a broader worldview.
Our roots have always been firmly planted in the liberal arts, and as I embark on my fourth year at Lycoming College, I would like to reflect back on the strategic plan we set in motion shortly after I joined the College: We made a commitment to “deepen, sustain and enhance academic excellence … and invest in those ideas.” One way we are doing this is by bolstering our Center for Enhanced Academic Experiences, so that more students can reap the benefits of study in a foreign country.
Study abroad isn't just about seeing the world and learning a new language, it is also about growth. Students sharpen their intellectual, linguistic and cultural skills. This then creates a new worldview. Learning through study abroad also includes accepting challenges, negotiating differences, embracing flexibility and gaining confidence. This growth distinguishes our students in the eyes of prospective employers.
Following commencement in May, several student groups set out for different corners of the globe, embarking on new adventures in China, Honduras, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. I accompanied the Lycoming College Tour Choir to China, and I can tell you it was extremely gratifying to see our students thrive in an environment so different from their normal surroundings. I credit, in large part, their Lycoming education for their ability to acclimate and flourish so effortlessly.
The value of a liberal arts education supplemented with study abroad opportunities is evident in Lycoming College students and graduates who have taken advantage of these opportunities. Our students return to us changed scholars — more compassionate, more willing to look at the world from different viewpoints and more confident in their scholarly and career pursuits.
During the 2015-16 school year, more than 135 students completed academic experiences in 20 countries, including independent study abroad programs, faculty-led travel courses, the choir’s China trip and independent research projects on archaeological dig sites. This month’s newsletter highlights the experiences of student travel during May Term, and as you read those articles I ask you to reflect on how influential global travel can be to the development of Lycoming students, and on how it changes lives forever.
Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Lycoming College.