Post Classifieds

Faculty resign from Center for International Education

By Jake Heath
On September 5, 2012

After only a year as the first fulltime study abroad coordinator, Laura Johnson has left her position at the Center for International Education (CIE). With her leave, the former executive
director of the CIE, Ismael Betancourt, will not be returning to the department as well, ushering in another unfulfilling year for study abroad potentials as these changes continue to stunt the growth of the department and lose potential revenue for the university. Johnson and Betancourt were unavailable
to comment, but Anja Abney, program assistant of International Student Services, said that both expressed concerns with Xavier's ability to foster a growing study abroad program.
"[Betancourt] had a lot of international and study abroad experience and Xavier was kind of at a starting point with all this," Abney said in an email. "However, the ideas he brought from his other universities didn't always agree with Xavier. He tried to put in place procedures for Xavier study abroad programs, but got shot down by faculty." Johnson and Betancourt both received new positions at different schools, which added to their motives for leaving campus. "Both of the persons who left the CIE left for other opportunities. In the case of Ismael Betancourt, he left his executive direction position here to become the vice president of international programs at Upper Iowa University," Dr. Scott Chadwick, provost and chief
academic officer, said in an email. "I fully expect opportunities for students to learn internationally will grow considerably
over the next few years." Despite such optimism, Abney says
study abroad is far from being where it needs to be. "I think we need more Xavier programs going to other places besides Europe and I think we should figure out a way where students can apply their Xavier aid to third party programs. I know other schools do it. Internationalizing Xavier is a must and a priority," Abney said in an email. "We need more support from faculty. Nobody ever asks our office for help or advice when it comes to international programs which makes us feel like the black sheep. We have knowledgeable staff that would love to help faculty create these abroad programs." Both Johnson and Betancourt had high expectations for the newly founded CIE last year when the university hired them as the first full-time employees of the Xavier study abroad program, a
big step study abroad had not seen in years. Previously, Margaret McDiarmid, a French professor, ran the Department
of Study Abroad part-time. Last year, absorbed the branch, hoping to consolidate resources of international education
and study abroad and commit a full-time staff to attend to its growth. "Because Xavier didn't have a fully developed study abroad program, everything we are doing is stuff schools did back around 2002," Betancourt said last year. "We're trying to catch Xavier up with other universities when it comes to study abroad." Despite good intentions, growth for Xavier study abroad appears to be nonexistent with Johnson and Betancourt leaving after one year, especially when compared
to other universities. Prior to her leave, Johnson gathered statistics on Xavier study abroad students and used them
to scale Xavier's progress next to universities such as Indiana University, St. Mary's College, University of California at San Diego, University of Minnesota and University of Texas among others. As of the 2011-12 school year, 200 students were advised by the CIE in regards to studying abroad. Of these students, 25 percent used programs outside of Xavier to travel abroad during the summer or the semester and less
than .5 percent used a direct exchange program.
The rest engaged in short term abroad opportunities led by
Xavier faculty. "Based on our numbers, Xavier loses approximately $850,000 per academic year in tuition and fees of students who un-enroll to participate in third-party provider
programs," Johnson said in a report last year. "This number is projected to increase dramatically as more focus is placed on education abroad." According to the Xavier Study Abroad website, the Office of Study Abroad acts as a place to receive information about other study abroad programs, in addition to resources for university-endorsed programs such as University Studies Abroad Consortium, School for International Training and International Education of Students. However, many students have felt these programs cannot sufficiently
aid students studying abroad because of their lack of resources. "I tried to go through Xavier for a semester-long study abroad program to Spain, but they didn't really offer it," senior Steve Keating said. "The only time I could have done it would be in a summer for three weeks and when I tried to get into a summer semester program, they said I had to be a Spanish major." Keating was referred to use a third-party study abroad program called International Studies Abroad (ISA).
"They were really helpful with giving me all [the] extra time and paperwork. They still contact me about making sure that my trip went well," Keating said. Students at universities with
supported study abroad programs, such as Saint Louis University (SLU), feel differently about university study abroad programs. "I traveled to London last semester with our study abroad department and it was incredibly helpful and efficient," Chris Ackels, senior SLU undergraduate, said. "Not only do they give us a ton of options of where to go, they handle everything from applications, to passports and visas, to tuition and everything in between. They make it really easy for students to go abroad." Lori Johnson will be taking over as the new assistant provost for student enrichment, the direct superior to the CIE, according to Chadwick. Additionally, Irene Hodgson has assumed the position of interim executive director
for academic service learning semesters at CIE. "We have a lot of voids in our Center right now with Ismael and Laura both gone," Abney said.  


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