International Programs offers the students of the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point the chance to take their education outside of Wisconsin, and gain global experience in the classroom and workplace.
“I think it would be good for every American to get out of America. On a broad ranging scope as to what is good I think if every American had an experience outside of this country for a while we would understand our own country better,” said Mark Koepke, Associate Director of International Programs. “We would have a healthier more globally literate and more understanding of America’s position in the world.”
One of the most popular destinations is London, which offers the most options in terms of short- or long-term stays and choices of study. There are also trips to Ireland, Iceland, Germany, Greece, Spain and even Cuba.
“I wanted to go because I always wanted to go to England, and since my trip was with an internship I figured it would be valuable work experience,” Said Margaret Rohr, who participated in an externship in London. “I decided to go because I knew we would be given many opportunities to explore both the city and the country. We were in our own time, instead of following over planned touristy trips with the whole group.”
When International Programs first started at UWSP in 1969, it was one of very few programs like it in the nation. A small group of 41 students was taken to London. Over the years the program at UWSP has grown, and study abroad programs are now available at almost every university in the country. Roughly 15 percent of all UWSP students will study abroad, a huge number in comparison the 2 percent national average.
Pauline Isaacson helped establish International Programs at UWSP. Her plan for this program was rejected the first time she presented it to the Board of Regents. The board was convinced that if any school in system should start an international program it should have been UW-Madison. It was not until Lee Sherman Dreyfus became chancellor of UWSP that the idea was adopted.
“He (the student) gains a yardstick for beauty. As he assimilates the legendary scenic wonder of the Alps or the tranquility of the gardens of Kent, he has a new awareness of a distant view of the Baraboo hills or of the snow laden birches of Wisconsin’s north,” Isaacson said years ago when explaining what she hoped students would gain from studying abroad.
International Programs works hard to match students with opportunities that they will benefit from the most. Different programs offer different types of classes, Koepke said, and he wants students to be able to gain as much as they can from the time and money they spend.
According to the International Programs mission statement: “Our mission is to advance international education and global awareness through study abroad programming.”
“Truly the thing to keep in mind is that this is a shrinking world,” Koepke said. “You are not competing with the guy down the block anymore. That is not the way the world works no matter what we want or what nostalgia we have for an old world. It is international. Markets are international, education is international, everything is international.”