The First Word

Opening Up New Worlds

L. Jay Lemons

I write this as spring break draws to a close. We will soon begin the home stretch to Commencement.

This year’s graduation ceremony will be a significant one for Susquehanna because it is the first to celebrate graduates, all of whom have been through a study-away experience. The Class of 2013 is a pioneering group, the first to have entered the university under our new curriculum, which guarantees off-campus study for all students through our Global Opportunities (GO) program.

In our global economy, cross-cultural experiences have never been more important. Yet, according to the most recent “Open Doors” report from the Institute of International Education, growth in study abroad is approaching a standstill. Although our 100-plus travel possibilities include domestic options, an overwhelming majority of our students choose to go abroad. Susquehanna undergraduates have traveled to six continents.

In 2009, when we became one of only a handful of universities in the country to guarantee study away for all students, we had to think about what it means to provide universal access to these experiences. It became our responsibility to ensure that every student can and does experience the off-campus study curriculum. And we have taken that responsibility seriously. The students who will cross the stage on May 12 are evidence of that lived GO experience.

These students were here for the launch of GO and have lived through its initial growing pains. They left our campus in central Pennsylvania, traveled sometimes long distances, and then came back to reflect on how the travel changed them. Time to reflect on study away is an essential and unique part of the GO learning experience. Members of this class and those who have followed in their footsteps not only have a broader view because of their travel and immersion experiences, they also have expanded Susquehanna’s global footprint from Selinsgrove to South Africa, Australia, Central America, Asia and Europe.

This year, Susquehanna is the proud recipient of the Andrew Heiskell Award for Internationalizing the Campus, one of the most significant awards in international education. The recognition is reflective of how far we have come with the GO program in just a few short years. Prior to GO’s launch, only 30 percent of our students had an off-campus study experience before graduation; now all of them do.

One hallmark of our program is its accessibility: GO removes the obstacles that prevent many students from having an experience so critical in today’s world. Wherever possible, we have removed such barriers to study away as financial circumstances, grade point average, academic major and disability.

Our faculty members have collaborated to develop programs as diverse as examining the biology and culture of Australia and chamber music residencies in Japan to Hurricane Katrina cleanup in New Orleans and exploration of the Navajo Nation in the American West. We have ensured that the travel fits into students’ academic tracks, allowing them to graduate in four years. We also have worked to keep the cost affordable and have offered financial aid to qualifying students.

Students have the option to GO Long for a semester, GO Short for at least two weeks or GO Their Own Way with a self-designed adventure. Regardless of their choice, GO is about experiencing something new and different, which may be in an exotic location or on U.S. soil, often in service to our fellow citizens.

Reflecting on her experience, one member of the Class of 2013 said, “In Singapore, my group met up with two different backpackers: Boris from Boston and Bruno from Mexico. It was incredible how a group of strangers can truly feel like family after only a couple of days.”

I am confident that GO is doing what it is intended to do—broadening students’ horizons on the one hand, while making the world a bit smaller on the other. This program is destined to ensure that our students will be citizen-leaders wherever their lives take them, and that they will live out the university’s mission by leading lives of achievement, leadership and service in our diverse and interconnected world.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013, the first to tread into new territory. Their first steps opened up new worlds to them and have made Susquehanna all the better for their experiences.

With very best wishes,

L. Jay Lemons, President

ON THE COVER: A new tradition has begun at Susquehanna University with graduates adding sashes to their robes and cords for Commencement. The sashes represent the countries to which they traveled for their GO experiences.

Number of SU Students Who Have Completed GO:
and counting

Number of GO Short Programs Currently Offered at SU:

Number of GO Long Programs Currently Offered at SU:

Number of Countries Students Can Travel To:
on six of the seven continents

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