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Overseas study difficult because of tight schedules
STANFORD -- Stanford's distribution requirements are an impediment to overseas study, Russell Berman, director of the program, told the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Jan. 6.
Caught with very tight program schedules, students trying to fulfill distribution and major requirements often are unable to take advantage of the university's seven overseas programs, Berman said.
In his first report to the senate on overseas programs, Berman, professor of German studies and comparative literature, suggested that courses taught at overseas centers should be more effectively integrated into the home campus curriculum.
"Going overseas fulfills no distribution requirements," he said. Participating in the Kyoto program does not even fulfill the non-Western culture distribution requirement, he said as faculty members laughed at the paradox.
Berman suggested that faculty encourage students to use overseas opportunities to perform research and fieldwork in local archives and museums for senior honors projects. Faculty themselves also should take advantage of research possibilities in areas around the overseas centers, he said.
Reviewing the program's last decade, Berman said that it had shifted from an enclave model in "villages" to a home-based model in major political and intellectual centers. It no longer is centered around the Atlantic, but is more truly global, he said.
Stanford now operates its own centers in Berlin, Florence, Kyoto, Moscow, Oxford, Paris and Santiago. It also manages consortia programs in Rome and Kyoto.
Changes in the last 10 years, most of them resulting from budget cuts, have included closing programs in Salamanca, Krakow, Tours and Vienna. The program in Florence was reduced last year from three quarters and 50 students to two quarters and 25 students.
Budget constraints make it difficult to start new programs, but Berman, his staff and the program advisory panels keep looking ahead. Consideration of new sites has to be discussed in terms of faculty teaching and research interests, Berman said. His office would try to accommodate groups of faculty that come forward with proposals, he said.
In the year and a half since he took office, Berman said, faculty have talked about a program in Africa, a second site in Latin America and additional programs in Eastern Europe.
However, the greatest need is to start a program in China. Some exploration has taken place, but "we are still very far from a concrete proposal." Berman said he is "convinced that the case could be very strong."
Oxford is the most popular program and always is oversubscribed, Berman said. Unlike the home-based programs, the Oxford program houses 51 students per quarter in a dormitory.
The Florence program also is popular and has a waiting list. Attendance at Berlin shot up during political upheaval there several years ago, but now has dropped, perhaps because of publicized hostility toward foreigners, he said. Also popular are Santiago and the spring quarter program at Kyoto for the Stanford Center for Technology and Innovation, which also involves a summer quarter internship in industry.
Total attendance overseas in 1984-85 was about 700 student quarters (one student attending for one quarter). Because of budget cuts, that now has dropped to 450 to 500 student quarters. The centers are operating at about 87 percent capacity.
Some students sign up for two quarters, then change their minds. Berman said there was not much his office could do about it. "We are not an airline and we cannot overbook."
For many years, about half of undergraduates studied overseas. That figure now ranges from 25 percent to 30 percent.
The original enclave program started in 1958, when the university sent 63 students to Beutelsbach, outside Stuttgart. Other campuses soon opened in villas, hotels or dormitories in Italy, Austria, England and France. Students generally stayed two quarters, taking courses that fulfilled Stanford's general requirements. Each quarter, they would take a major field trip, and between quarters they had three weeks off to travel.
Over the years, the program has moved from general courses to a more specialized and rigorous curriculum that takes advantage of special opportunities at each site, which sometimes includes the opportunity to enroll in courses at local universities, Berman said. Students now typically stay just one quarter. The Oxford and Kyoto programs offer opportunities for scientific and technical study.
Except for the Oxford program, students live with local families. Finding families willing to take students is very difficult, Berman said, and sometimes the students have to commute an hour to get to class.
Responding to a question, Berman said some Stanford students attend foreign universities on their own. However, the quality and rigor of these institutions does not always meet Stanford's standards, and this raises policy questions about what credits should be transferred toward a Stanford degree.
The program operates with $3 million in general funds support.
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