Do you offer opportunities for international or other off-campus study?
Wesleyan has put a lot of resources into intercultural literacy, which is one of the essential capabilities we teach.
About one half of our students study abroad before they graduate. The majority of them do so for a term, but some of them can be away for a full year. The most popular time for study abroad is during the junior year.
About two years ago, there was a study conducted of Wesleyan and other liberal arts colleges on study abroad and the students taking advantage of those opportunities. We were really pleased with it because we were tied at the top of the list in terms of the highest percentages of students who study abroad. We were particularly pleased that more Wesleyan students studied abroad in the third world – in non-Western countries, in Africa, Nepal, and places like that – than students from any other institution. And there were about 25 other institutions that were a part of the study.
We have worked hard to develop opportunities that go beyond some of the basics. We actually help run a few consortia-based programs, one in Bologna, one in Paris, and one in Madrid. There are over one hundred different places where Wesleyan students typically go abroad. We have an office that supports that whole effort.
One of the things I am particularly proud of is that, a long time ago, Wesleyan made the decision that if we were going to develop these programs and encourage students to study abroad, it had to be something that was available to everyone, and not just those who could afford it. Our system is such that, if a student is on financial aid at Wesleyan, it would cost them the same to study abroad as it would to spend a term on campus.
We also have an urban semester in New York – as well as an option for students to study at the Bank Street School of Education in New York City – and a Washington-based term for students who do not wish to go abroad.
In what ways does the college’s commitment to diversity influence campus life?
For us, diversity is so ingrained in our value system that it is hard for me to think about its influence on campus, but let me try.
Wesleyan really was on the cutting edge of the movement to provide greater access to students who had not typically gone to the elite, prestigious schools in New England. For us, the concept of diversity dates very deeply into our history.
What’s important in understanding Wesleyan’s commitment to diversity today is that it is much more broadly defined than race or ethnicity. For example, 34% of this year’s freshman class are what we now call students of color, but another 13% of the students are the first in their families to go to a four-year institution, and about 45% of the students at Wesleyan are on financial aid. There are many different types of people on campus.
Our faculty is also diverse. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, in their most recent issue, noted that Wesleyan has the highest number of black faculty members of any liberal arts college in the country.