Michigan State University’s international footprint continues to rank among the biggest in the country. That fact is borne out again in a new report.
Data from the Institute for International Education shows MSU is one of the top ten colleges in the United States for international student exchanges. WKAR’s Mark Bashore spoke with Brett Berquist, executive director of the MSU Office for Study Abroad about the report.
BRETT BERQUIST: We’re one of four institutions that is in the top ten both for sending students overseas as well as receiving students studying here for their full degree and we’re the only school among the Big Ten to be in that category.
MARK BASHORE: How has that unfolded?
BERQUIST: Well in terms of study abroad, Michigan State has been a real leader nationally since the 1980’s. And in 1995, we set an ambitious goal to have 40% of all the undergraduate students having an international experience before they graduate. And so we’ve been working toward that goal for quite some time.
There’s been a more recent significant increase in the number of undergraduate international students here.
So I think what we’re seeing right now is a real opportunity to combine both of those agendas and to do more to help the international students who are studying here be a resource to our students that we’re sending overseas, and vice-versa.
BASHORE: And China is at the center of this landscape. Many more Chinese students are coming here and more American students are going there. Talk to us about that.
BERQUIST: Well we have seen a significant rise in the number of undergraduate students coming here from China. Michigan State has been one of the more popular universities for them. And we’ve been doing a lot things to connect those students with our students that we’re sending to China.
So for example, we’ve been pulling in Chinese students to work on pre-departure sessions for our students. Our colleagues in the Office of International Students and scholars have been working with a group of Chinese students in a project called ‘Project Explore’ to help develop programming and represent the Chinese students here on campus.
BASHORE: And what subjects do the Chinese students tend to study here at MSU? What are the patterns?
BERQUIST: Well in general, we see a strong demand from this part of the world for business and engineering. So we have some very significant enrollments in both of those colleges. We also find a growing number of international students in the natural sciences, social sciences and ag and natural resources.
BASHORE: MSU has been at this long enough, I’m wondering what the long-range impacts are. What are the discernable dividends of this internationalism?
BERQUIST: Well you’re right. It has been a part of the university for a long time. MSU appointed the first dean of international studies and programs in the country in 1956.
In terms of research of long-range impacts, what we have in the field are essentially surveys of alumni, asking them the impact on their lives. And many students do report that it had a positive impact on their development, often times had a positive impact on their career choices.
Here at MSU, within the experience here within the university, what we’re able to measure is that students who participate in study abroad benefit from higher retention rates, meaning they finish their degree. They graduate with a higher GPA and they finish faster, so the ‘time-to-degree’ is shorter for students who study abroad. And that’s because we make sure that these programs are well integrated into the curriculum and often times a summer program will help a student get a leg up on their studies and to finish in a shorter time.