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Kirby Picks New Study Abroad Director

By Yingzhen Zhang, Crimson Staff Writer

More than a year after creating the Office of International Programs (OIP) to expand study abroad opportunities, Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby named an experienced leader in international education to head the office last week.

Jane Edwards, who has served as the director of international studies at Wesleyan University since 1994, will take helm as the first Director of OIP this summer.

“I am delighted that Jane Edwards has agreed to work with us on furthering the international opportunities for our students,” Kirby said in a press release. “She understands how study and research outside of the United States can open students’ eyes to new ways of thinking about their world, their education, and themselves.”

Edwards is credited with building up Wesleyan’s study abroad program into a central part of students’ educational experience there.

When she arrived at Wesleyan in 1994, study abroad opportunities amounted to “a chaotic situation that students found discouraging and even punitive,” Edwards wrote in an e-mail. But as a result of her efforts, she said, the situation “changed radically and very fast.”

Now, between 40 and 50 percent of Wesleyan students study for academic credit abroad before graduation, she said.

Edwards said that the curricular review provides the perfect opportunity to revamp Harvard’s study abroad system.

“As I understand it, this is an extraordinary moment for undergraduate education at Harvard...as the structure of the curriculum is revisited, to develop many ways of ensuring that all students have opportunities for significant first-hand experience and engagement with the world beyond the borders of the United States,” she said.

Currently, she said, “there are significant structural and cultural impediments to study abroad” at Harvard, citing the difficulty of incorporating classes overseas with concentration requirements.

Though she is still awaiting her official contract from the University, Edwards said she already has a few ideas in mind.

“My goals are, broadly, to listen hard to what students and faculty tell me about what is already in place, about priorities for the future, and about the specific strategies that will work best at Harvard,” Edwards said, “and then to find ways to implement the best ideas with good sense and a minimum of bureaucracy.”

Edwards has long promoted the value of an international education in a global society, according to the press release.

And her decision to come to Cambridge stems from this interest in bringing an international dimension “from the periphery to the center” of a liberal arts education, Edwards said.

A speaker of several languages and a seasoned traveler, Edwards lauded the chance provided by study abroad to “explore systems and cultures I may not yet know well, and to learn, and deliberate, and match things up,” though she joked that “the bit when I get to visit exotic destinations and drink mojitos by the pool” could be a reason, too.

Promoting study abroad opportunities has topped the Faculty’s agenda in the ongoing undergraduate curricular review. Kirby created the OIP last year to streamline what a report on College’s study abroad programs called “onerous obstacles.”

—Staff writer Yingzhen Zhang at zhang9@fas.harvard.edu.

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