Success Stories

Int'l center earns national honor

Rhea Andrews spent a semester in Thailand

Grand Valley State University’s Padnos International Center has received national recognition from the New York-based Institute of International Education. The center received an honorable mention for the Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education in the study abroad category.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the United Nations on March 13 as part of IIE's annual Best Practices Seminar. PIC executive director Mark Schaub was invited to speak at the IIE’s Best Practices conference in New York in March — the only representative from an honorable mention school to be so honored in the conference.

The center was noted for its encouragement of longer-term and independent programs. “We believe the educational experience is enhanced particularly well when students travel, study, and live independently, rather than with a group of fellow GVSU students and faculty members,” Schaub said. “The Padnos International Center, along with our faculty and staff, has encouraged students to pursue these solo study abroad experiences.

Grand Valley has maintained a policy of keeping the world of study abroad as open as possible; students may apply for some 4,000 programs around the world, including direct enrollment at institutions around the globe. This policy, along with financial incentives for independent study abroad, has been the university’s way of trying to increase participation in study abroad programs by students as individuals, not as part of a group.

Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas said a robust study abroad program is central to Grand Valley’s mission of educating students to shape their lives, their professions and their societies.

“As an institution that prides itself on a strong liberal arts foundation for all its students, we recognize that a meaningful international experience may be the best way for students to experience key elements of our general education curriculum,” Haas said. “Student participation in independent study abroad programs reinforces several knowledge and skills goals from our general education program, and most of them are completing some of these course requirements at institutions in all corners of the world. Best of all, these skills can be learned as much through living in the host culture as they can be learned in formal classroom settings.”

Provost Gayle Davis echoed those sentiments.

“We will continue to look at additional ways that we can encourage more and more Grand Valley students to experience life-changing semesters abroad,” Davis said. “We hope we can serve as a model for other universities, in terms of the successes we're seeing.”

The programs will be featured in the Spring 2008 issue of the IIENetworker magazine and be highlighted by IIE as the best practices in the field of international education throughout the year. Profiles of this year's winning programs are available on the “Best Practices” resource of the IIENetwork Web site.

by Brian J. Bowe

This story was filed with the tags: Awards, International, National Recognition