Kent State partners Geneva program with consortium

Carrie Blazina


Sugdeck: Changes also to come for Office of Global Education board

Several recent changes in the Office of Global Education reflect a new direction: a shift toward more short-term study abroad programs and increased collaboration between the office, professors, academic departments and other universities to make both short- and long-term study abroad programs attractive and realistic options for students.

Marcello Fantoni, associate provost for the Office of Global Education, said Kent State’s Geneva study abroad semester program has been added to Webster International Network of Schools, a consortium of about 30 universities headed by Webster University.

The Geneva program, he said, had not been doing well financially.

“I would not say we saved Geneva or we rescued Geneva from dying … but we have really found a great opportunity to make Geneva into more of a cultural and academic experience,” Fantoni said.

The program will now be at the Geneva campus of Webster University, the leading member of the consortium, where students will choose from nearly 100 courses.

“It’s really an improvement for us, because we went from our small program — with five or six courses that were being taught — to becoming members of this consortium and being allowed to have our students be on this campus, where many more courses are being taught,” Fantoni said.

Kent State has ended its contract with their former Geneva facility, he said, and will be moved out in time for Spring 2013 students to be on the Webster campus.

Fantoni said the cost of the program will remain the same for Kent State students. The selling point for Geneva, he said, is the potential to do internships while abroad.

The program’s past financial trouble highlights a key issue the office is trying to solve, Fantoni said. Of Kent State’s 796 students studying abroad in 2012, just more than half chose a short-term program.

“We need to pay attention to this trend, because, probably, a semester-long program is too expensive for our students,” Fantoni said. “Maybe not all of the students are prepared [or] ready to go abroad for an entire semester. Maybe they have a job that they cannot leave. Maybe their curriculum is too tight and that doesn’t allow them to go abroad. So we really need to work at making short-term programs available for our students.”

The Global Faculty Initiative, a recently formed group of faculty members at Kent State who are lead study-abroad trips, hopes to pursue these new avenues. The group has about 30 people and will meet regularly, Fantoni said.

“We will have, therefore, an opportunity to share experiences, advise each other, create interdisciplinary new options, encourage new faculty to start new programs, promote short-term programs [et cetera],” he said.

Fantoni is also restructuring the office’s advisory board to become a tool establishing a “stronger collaboration between this office and the academic units of the university,” he said.

Students in the Florence Program

2009: 132 students (year long program)

2010: 165 students

2011: 194 students

2012: 239 students

2013: 300+ students

“I think international education belongs to the entire university,” Fantoni said. “The entire university needs to develop an international profile. It’s not an internal affair of this office.”

On the other hand, he said the Florence program is doing very well financially and will be adding a second building available this spring. The new building is being inaugurated Monday.

The new building is at the Piazza Santa Croce and was necessary because the program has reached a cap on the number of students that can fit in its first building at the Palazzo dei Cerchi. The number of students has jumped from 132 three years ago to 239 this year.

“The Florence program is in very good health — excellent health,” he said.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].