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Stanford Report, September 11, 2002

Tragedies reinforce central mission of Overseas Studies Program

Instead of turning inward following last year's terrorist attacks, students continue to want to learn about the world around them, says Susan Christopher, academic program officer for the Overseas Studies Program.

"I think the most significant impact has been a reinforcement of the importance of our central mission," she says. "Now, it's even more important for Stanford students to have experience overseas -- not just traveling, but studying and living in a different environment." About a quarter of undergraduates participate in programs in nine countries, and additional students go abroad with support from the Overseas Resource Center. Last September, only four students who were signed up for Autumn Quarter programs withdrew because of concerns about safety, Christopher says. This quarter, participation rates have remained steady -- 187 students are expected to go abroad compared with 188 last fall. Although escalating violence in Israel before the September terrorist attacks halted plans to open a program in Jerusalem, Christopher says, interest in expanding Overseas Studies to countries in Asia and Africa remains.

"In our strategic planning, we need to balance student interest and faculty interest and support with practicality, safety and the quality of the program," Christopher says. A new program in Australia, where students will study the Great Barrier Reef, is tentatively expected to open in fall 2003.

--Lisa Trei

Susan Christopher

Susan Christopher