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Study abroad programs among top priorities for McRobbie

  • Nov. 17, 2014

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By MJ Slaby

Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said he’s happy to see IU students choose his native Australia as a study abroad location.

Yet he’s quick to add to that.

“(I’m) mindful of the fact that’s not that different than being here,” he said with a smile. “I want to see more of our students go to India -- where I was just a few weeks ago -- go to China, go to places like Turkey and the Middle East and so on, where English isn’t a first language.”

McRobbie said that’s because he wants students to see and learn about the global environment that will be part of their careers. But it’s also a reflection of his top international priority: study abroad opportunities for IU students.

“I’ve always made the point that my No. 1 priority when it comes to the internationalization of the university is to continue to increase the number of our students who study abroad,” he said. “I think that is one of the singular most important components of an IU education.”

All the institutional relationships and establishment of alumni chapters in IU’s 32 priority countries as well as the creation of the IU gateway offices in international locations -- currently India and China, with plans for more -- flow from that goal, he said.

If he could, McRobbie said, he’d have every IU student study abroad, but he knows that isn’t feasible.

So, he said, he’ll focus on growing from the current statistic of about a third of students studying abroad to 40 percent of students by IU’s bicentennial in 2020.

That’s why the bicentennial goal to raise $2.5 billion on top of the $2.5 billion already raised is so important. The money will help fund international initiatives and student success.

McRobbie said it’s his goal to raise funds for 400 new study abroad scholarships.

“A lot of it is about funding,” he said. “We don’t have a huge number of programs that fund study abroad, so the majority are self-funded.”

That leaves out minority and low-income students, so the scholarships will be for them, he said.

And on campus, McRobbie said, he believes the new School of Global and International Studies will be a central point for continued internationalization of the university.

Several schools already have established study abroad programs and international opportunities, but McRobbie wants to see more.

“I want to see internationalization happening comprehensively across all the schools in the university, not just here, up in Indianapolis as well,” he said.

He also wants to expand opportunities through connections with IU alumni overseas.

Engagement with Hoosiers overseas needs to grow, he said. These are leaders who are among the most progressive and forward-looking in their countries.

“Our challenge now is to fully engage those people,” he said.

McRobbie said he’s visited about 25 countries since becoming IU president in 2007, and said he’s found that IU is held in high esteem, meaning international opportunities can continue and grow.

He’s met billionaires, government heads and other leaders with IU memorabilia in their office because of how important IU was to their careers.

“I find that enormously heartening,” McRobbie said.