[Fresh] Interview with Mr. Lance Kenney

Kelly Eastland (kelly.eastland@villanova.edu)
Wed, 06 Feb 2002 09:03:49 -0500

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Interview with Mr. Lance Kenney, Director of the Office of International
Studies

Fresh@News: More and more students seem to study abroad at some point.
What are some of the benefits of studying abroad?
Mr. Kenney: There are two types of benefits, the immediate and the
long-term. Immediate benefits can be academic, such as studying a new
field or enhancing your learning in a new way. The most important and
obvious 'immediate benefit' is language acquisition. Though many
Villanova students go to English-speaking countries, we can send
students all over the world to perfect their abilities in a language
they've already studied or to learn a new one. The best way to learn a
language is to go to a country where it is spoken, and as we use words
like 'globalization' and 'multinational' on a daily basis, the ability
to speak another language becomes more important.

The field of international education has devoted a lot of time in the
past ten years to researching long-term benefits. Studies have shown
that study abroad makes students more empathetic to other cultures,
confident, and aware of world events. They are more aware of career
options and career goals, more willing to take challenges, and, for
these reasons, more attractive to employers.

Fresh@News: What kind of programs does Villanova offer?
Mr. Kenney: Villanova University basically has three types of
programs. 'Traditional' programs are universities, groups of
universities, or overseas universities that place students directly in
classes with other students from the host country. Villanova is
affiliated with many programs of this type, and this semester alone VU
students are at 52 universities in fourteen countries. 'Nontraditional'
programs, though, allow students to not only take classes overseas but
also to do something outside of the classroom. For instance, many
students are doing international internships, volunteer work, service
learning, or field research. We've had students working at businesses
in Sydney, researching animals in Kenyan game reserves, studying the
rain forests in Costa Rica, and interviewing politicians in Dublin (just
to name a few). As more and more US students study overseas, these
'nontraditional' programs become more popular.

Finally, Villanova University has its own study abroad program at the
National University of Ireland, Galway. Villanova students get to live
and study with Irish students while participating in a program designed
just for them. Villanova's Resident Director organizes study tours,
oversees orientation and registration, and directs them in special
research projects. Given the long historical connections between Galway
and Villanova, this program is especially popular.

Fresh@News: How many students participate in these programs per
semester?
Mr. Kenney: This year we had over 80 students studying overseas in the
Fall and approximately 150 in the Spring. Our spring numbers are 40%
higher than this time last year, and our total numbers have more than
doubled in five years. In fact, these figures don't include the
Villanova summer programs: last summer, we had roughly 250 students on
international summer programs sponsored by the University.

Fresh@News : When should a student begin the study abroad process and
what does it entail?
Mr. Kenney: Normally, students should begin to plan their overseas
study by going to the Office of International Studies six to nine months
prior to departure to the overseas university or program. However, the
programs that Villanova utilizes are on rolling admissions, meaning that
in some cases programs are 'filled' before stated deadlines but in other
cases applications are accepted after stated deadlines. In general, the
Office of International Studies cannot guarantee a placement after the
middle of March (for first semester and year-long exchanges in the
subsequent academic year) or after the middle of October (for spring
semester exchanges of the same academic year). As with most things,
completion of applications should be done 'sooner' rather than 'later.'

There is a three step process for students. First, student should
complete the initial application form in the Office of International
Studies and attend the informational counseling session in Geraghty
Hall. The session will review the necessary academic components and
will teach students how to research programs. After researching the
options, students can schedule an individual appointment with the Office
of International Studies. The Director, Assistant Director, or Overseas
Study Coordinator will discuss in greater detail the options and
individual needs. Students may also need to meet with the department
chair, academic adviser, or language instructor to review the academic
audit or curriculum sheet. Ultimately, in conjunction with the Office
of International Studies, students will complete the Prior Approval
Form, choosing the courses (4-5 plus two alternates) to be taken
overseas and determining how credit will be awarded. The last step is
to return the VU Prior Approval form (with signatures from the chair and
dean) to the Office of International Studies. At that time, the
Director, Assistant Director, or Overseas Study Coordinator will review
the overseas application and answer any remaining questions.

Fresh@News: How much does it cost to study abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Students will pay Villanova University tuition for the
semester they are overseas. They pay housing on their own, either to
the sending institution or the university where they are studying. All
financial aid, grants, and scholarships 'go' with the student. For the
most part, it is no more expensive to study overseas for a semester or a
year than to stay at Villanova University. Information on the
international tuition policy-and the reasons for it-is available from
the Office of International Studies.

In addition, a variety of scholarships are available for students
studying overseas. Some of these scholarships are offered by Villanova
University for honors students or students studying in 'nontraditional'
areas; alternately, scholarships are available from some US sending
institutions or other endowments. This information also is available in
the Office of International Studies.

Fresh@News: Can you tell me a little about the summer programs?
Mr. Kenney: Villanova has sixteen summer programs. These programs are
intensive language and literature programs (Spanish, French, Arabic,
Italian, German); area studies programs (Latin America, Ireland);
international business programs (based in Chile, Germany, England,
Italy, or Poland); or discipline specific (rhetoric and performance in
Greece, theater in Scotland, art history in Italy). Each of the
programs has a Villanova University faculty member as an on-site
coordinator and provides excellent opportunities for students that
wouldn't normally study overseas or cannot fit it in to their
schedules. Information on the programs is available from our website or
from our annual brochure which is distributed on campus.

Fresh@News: When do most students study abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Most students study abroad during their junior year.
However, more and more students are finding this difficult, usually
because of degree requirements. Both the Colleges of Commerce and
Finance and Nursing have special programs allowing sophomores to study
overseas, and some first semester seniors have been known to study
abroad (with the approval of their deans). In general, the 'when' isn't
as important as the 'why.'

Fresh@News: Can students in all four colleges participate?
Mr. Kenney: Yes. Though we usually associate study abroad with the
College of Arts and Sciences, the number of students from Commerce and
Finance has increased dramatically in the past three years. In
addition, the College of Nursing has a special program, which allows
second-year nursing students to study in the United Kingdom. And though
Engineering students have very strict schedules, with enough advanced
planning and preparation it is possible for them to study overseas for a
semester as well.

Fresh@News: What kind of support does the University provide to students
who are abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Since most students study overseas through select sending
institutions, the on-site support and counseling is provided by those
institutions. The most important support that the Office of
International Studies provides is regular communication, particularly in
regards to course selection and approval. We also provide advice on
health, housing, passports, etc. In short, through this communication
we become expert international trouble-shooters. Of course, this
communication took a different turn in the days and weeks after
September 11, when we were assuring students that we had the ability not
only to bring them home (in case of an emergency) but also to get them
in to housing and classes/independent studies to keep them graduating on
time. Thankfully, we didn't have to enact these emergency plans.

Fresh@News: Given the current situation in the US, are there any
concerns about the safety of our students when they go abroad?
Mr. Kenney: Both the Office of International Studies and the field of
international education as a whole have been very conscious of safety
issues given recent events. We have no reason to believe that students
are in greater danger because they are overseas. The University is very
select about which programs it approves students to go on, and these few
programs must have demonstrated a commitment to health and safety
issues. Students aren't allowed to participate in 'island' programs
which would make them stand out, and in non-English speaking countries,
all students must study the host country language. In other words, our
requirements for student immersion are an extension of safety concerns.

Most importantly, though, students are fully briefed on health and
safety issues both in individual meetings and at the mandatory
pre-departure orientation. The Office of International Studies stays in
regular contact with the State Department, the sending institutions, and
professionals in the host countries. Both as a university and a
representative of international education, we are united in saying that
safety issues should NOT inhibit students from studying overseas at this
time.

Fresh@News: How are the students when they return?
Mr. Kenney: Self-confident, independent, energized. Most are anxious
to go back, and ready to tell friends and family how much they have
changed for the better. Some have difficulties readjusting to the
United States, but we have the opportunity to talk to them about these
issues at our 'welcome back' orientation.

Fresh@News: Do you have any advice for parents?
Mr. Kenney: Parents are the most powerful advocates for international
education. The first piece of advice I would have for parents is to
encourage your student to study abroad. We've already mentioned some of
the benefits of studying overseas. The benefits to the
student-professionally, academically, personally-are staggering.

Second, encourage your student to be in contact with the Office of
International Studies and Overseas Programs. 'Word of mouth' and 'a
friend told me...' are often detrimental when beginning the process of
finding an overseas program. This Office should be the starting point,
with an initial counseling/session that will answer major questions
(credits, courses, costs) and review the major sources for researching
program options.

Finally, encourage your son/daughter to think of their study abroad
opportunities within the parameters of their needs: what program will
help me to develop a skill relevant to my major/minor/career
plans/interests? In which program will I learn the most and become more
fully immersed in another culture? Which programs allow me learning
opportunities both in and out of the classroom? Remember, the study
abroad experience is an extension, not a break from, your student's
Villanova education. An excellent resource for these subjects and
others is Study Abroad: A Parent's Guide, written by William W. Hoffa
and published by NAFSA-Association of International Educators (available
on request from the Office of International Studies).

For these issues and the host of others that will arise before, during,
and after the study abroad experience, communication is the key. With
all administrative questions (credit transfer, program details, course
scheduling, etc.) it is imperative that the student stays in contact
with the Office of International Studies. For all academic questions
(course approval, graduation requirements, credit weighting, etc.) the
student should stay in contact with either the chair of the department,
or his/her academic adviser. This advice is the most important for
parents. Keeping the OIS 'in the loop' helps us to help you.

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