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Overseas Studies cuts may allow new growth in other areas
STANFORD -- Stanford's popular Overseas Studies program has been through a difficult pruning process, but one that should allow the program to bear new fruit in other parts of the globe.
Overseas Studies was asked to cut about $400,000 next year, or about 12 percent of its $3.3 million budget, in an attempt to help the university close a $43-million budget deficit over the next two years. The program also had to come up with $88,000 previously promised by the university to complete the budget base for the university's new program in Kyoto, Japan.
The recommended cuts, put forth in January by faculty and students on the Overseas Studies Planning Committee, include closure of the university's longstanding program in Salamanca, Spain, and the downsizing and redesign of its program in Florence, Italy, to focus it more intensely on the humanities.
At the same time, the university will continue its efforts to establish permanent overseas bases in Santiago, Chile, and in Russia. The cost of opening the new centers would be offset by the increased number of undergraduates (about 60) admitted to fill the spaces created on the home campus by students going overseas.
"Although the budget revision process was difficult and painful, its outcome will permit Overseas Studies to continue to develop more diverse programs that are academically challenging," said Overseas Studies Director Thomas Heller.
"As the redesigned Florence program enhances the possibilities to explore in greater depth the origins of Western humanism, new programs, built on an innovative financial basis, will bring Stanford students to the social and intellectual frontiers of the changing world in which they will live."
In Stanford's previous round of budget-cutting, in 1990-91, the university closed its popular overseas study center in Tours, France, and expanded its program in Paris to accommodate about 30 students each fall and winter quarter.
The targeted Salamanca program involves an average of 15 students a year, fluent in Spanish, who spend two quarters living with Spanish students in university dormitories and taking courses at the University of Salamanca.
The program is one of the smallest in Overseas Studies, with a base budget of $73,800 per year.
Planners chose to redirect their efforts toward Chile primarily because of the university's depth and variety of research and teaching on Latin American history, economics and political science. In contrast, Stanford has only two professors devoted to the study of Spain.
The enlarged program in Santiago would allow students who had taken at least two quarters of Spanish to study Latin American culture, politics, economics, ecology and development. Students would live with Chilean families and take classes at Chile's Catholic University and possibly at the University of Chile.
A two-year Santiago pilot program in spring quarters 1990 and 1991 was well received by students and the Stanford faculty. However, not all welcomed the idea of leaving Salamanca behind.
"It will be argued that the experimental program in Santiago, Chile, can function as a substitute for Salamanca. But even those of us who support the Santiago project, which I enthusiastically do, do not see it that way," said Mary Pratt, professor of Spanish and Portuguese, in a statement prepared for the Jan. 23 Faculty Senate meeting.
"Would you consider a program in Quebec or Senegal a substitute for a program in France? Surely they are simply different things. And, indeed, the Santiago program is organized around an entirely different academic agenda, centered on Latin American issues of development, and taught mainly in English. There is simply no justification for playing these two excellent projects off against each other."
Prof. Michael Predmore, chairman of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, agreed.
"It distresses me to think they want to shut (Salamanca) down," he said. "There's no question that it's a high-quality, low-cost, academically rigorous program, probably the best in the country."
Predmore is particularly concerned about how the Spanish government will react to the closure (they have been thinking of establishing an endowed professorship at Stanford, he said), and about the fate of Isabel Criado, the professor at the University of Salamanca who has directed the program for the past 18 years.
Predmore said that both Criado and students planning their academic programs had been led to believe that the center would still exist in 1992-93.
"We have contractual and moral obligations here," he said. "I'll still be working to keep it open, at least for another year."
The redesign of the 31-year-old Florence program into a smaller, more academically focused overseas study center will save the university considerably more money - about $300,000 per year.
Three years ago, that program left its Florentine villa, which housed up to 70 students. The program now accepts 35 to 40 students a quarter, who live in Italian homes and take classes at a Stanford center located on the Arno River.
Under the new recommendations, the center would move from the downtown area to the outlying Viali, and the program would shrink to 15 to 25 students, who would spend two quarters focusing on cultural studies of Florentine Renaissance art and history.
Participating students would have to have taken at least a year of Italian, compared to two quarters under the old system.
According to Corb Smith, assistant director of Overseas Studies, it was primarily faculty enthusiasm that kept Florence off the chopping block altogether.
"There is an enormous amount of faculty energy behind the creation of a program that will be intellectually challenging and will be attractive to students who are well prepared in Italian," he said. "There was clearly faculty interest in this program, particularly in the humanities."
However, if the new Florence program proves unworkable after two years - for reasons of functionality, academics or enrollment - the program committee recommended that it be closed. A formal review of the new Florence program will take place in 1994-95.
Among other things to be eliminated by the latest round of budget cuts are travel funds for the families of faculty who teach overseas.
However, base budgets for Stanford's other major overseas studies centers in Oxford, Paris, Berlin and Kyoto will remain largely intact, and the university's spring program for 15 to 25 students in Krakow, Poland will continue operation, pending eventual relocation somewhere in the Russian Republic.
Smith said that the two most likely locations for the center are St. Petersburg and Moscow, but that the recent turbulent events in Russia make it unlikely that the center will open soon.
"Our Central Europe advisory group has urged caution in going to Russia too quickly," he said. "We'd like to see things settle down a bit there first."
Stanford has been a national leader in providing overseas study opportunities for undergraduates since 1958.
The current program bears little resemblance to that of the 1960s, when as many as two-thirds of all undergraduates spent some time overseas - eating, sleeping and taking classes together in European villas or manor houses that tended to isolate them from the outside world.
Today, about a third of all Stanford undergraduates spend some time in Stanford overseas programs spread across the globe. Current students live with families or in dormitories connected with foreign universities, participating in activities that place them in contact with everyday life and culture.
Requirements for getting into the programs also tend to be more stringent than in the past. Language preparation is emphasized more, and students are expected to integrate their foreign study experience with their general academic program through advanced seminars and research (many students make progress on their senior honors thesis overseas).
A number of today's overseas programs - at Kyoto and Berlin, for example - also provide internship opportunities, so students can work overseas once their classes are over.
In repeated senior surveys, students cite their experience overseas as the highlight of their Stanford education.
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