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The Carletonian

Petition for unaffiliated OCS programs assesses student, not the program

<w, most Carleton students planning to study off campus next fall know where they will be going and with what program. Applications have been submitted and reviewed, letters of acceptance sent – or maybe not.

Unfortunately, the process is not so simple, especially for students wishing to participate in some non-Carleton programs. To receive credit from non-Carleton programs, applicants must submit a variety of petitions to the Carleton Off-Campus Studies (OCS) office for the office to determine if the program will be a good fit for the student, in addition to submitting the applications for the program itself.

The petition that the student must submit depends on the chosen program. Some non-Carleton programs are “affiliated programs,” which according to Helena Kauffman, Carleton’s OCS director, have gained such status upon a basic process of approval. “To be an affiliated program,” says Kauffman, “Carleton students must participate with the program at least three times over a span of five years, the program must receive favorable reviews from faculty and students, and the OCS committee must agree that the program fills an important place in the Carleton curriculum.” The petition for an affiliated program is fairly simple, consisting of a single sheet that requires a handful of signatures in addition to basic information about the program and the student.

Yet, there are a plethora of “unaffiliated” programs that attract students, and which require a considerably more intensive petition for Carleton credit. In addition to the single sheet that applicants for affiliated programs fill out, applicants for unaffiliated programs are required to answer six essay-type questions: (1) Why do you want to study on this particular program? Describe in detail how it fits into your Carleton education, as part of your liberal arts education and/or into your major or concentration (cite specific courses and proposed areas of study. (2) What are your personal and academic expectations for this program? (3) What information has led you to believe that this program offers rigorous academic courses? Cite your sources of information or examples. (4) List specific Carleton courses by name and course number, which you have taken to prepare yourself for this off-campus program. (5) List other Carleton courses you plan to take prior to this program which will prepare you for it. (6) How will you integrate your off-campus studies into your Carleton studies when you return?

The applicant must also submit a “Faculty Evaluation” with her petition, which serves to assess to what degree a student deserves to receive Carleton credit for participating with the program, based on the students own academic standing and goals.

Addressing the length of the petition, Kauffman comments that “the petition is more about the student then the program. Two things are considered: the student’s academic progress – that is, whether the office considers the student academically ready for the program she or he selected – and whether the office deems the program a good fit for the student in his Carleton career. Usually, the denial of a petition has to do with the applicant, not the program itself, and if the student has been working with us, there’s a small chance of her being denied.”

Kauffman claims too, that often students realize upon completing the petition whether they “actually want to do the program or not.”

“I think it’s a pretty good system,” says Kauffman. “Annually there are fifty or so applications for unaffiliated programs, which is what keeps our program fresh and interesting.”

Speaking about the list of affiliated programs, Kauffman says “it is not a preferred list, rather a list of well-known and experienced programs. New programs are constantly coming onto the list, while other programs are being removed. We always want to keep options open, especially because study abroad has grown tremendously over the past ten years, and a closed list would limit our access to this growth.”

Currently there are 108 affiliated programs, though Kauffman makes it clear the list is not static. “I’m a little uncomfortable with lists set in stone for a field as dynamic as OCS.”

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