Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

2017-18 marks lowest year for student participation in OCS programs

<nnual Off-Campus Studies (OCS) Report was presented at the Education and Curriculum Committee meeting on October 3. The report contains two separate sets of statistics: Class of 2018 overall OCS participation and OCS participation of the entire student body in the academic year 2017-2018. The report shows that 76 percent of the Class of 2018 studied abroad, which is similar to past years. However, 2017-2018 marked the lowest OCS participation in over a decade at 19 percent, among which 63 percent is in Europe, an all-time high.

19 percent of Carleton students participated in OCS programs between June 2017 and July 2018, lower than previous years, which averaged 22-23 percent. OCS Project and Data Coordinator Leslie Vanderwood speculated that this decline could be partially attributed to the two cancelled programs, which “would have increased the rate to at least 21 percent.”

Though the two cancelled programs were in non-European countries, Helena Kaufman, director of OCS, said this has no relation to the unprecedentedly high rate of participation in European programs in 2017-2018, which is 63 percent, as on average 40 percent of students take part in non-Carleton programs. “If we had those two programs, would we still have more students go on non-Carleton programs that were non-European? By the time we cancelled those programs, there was enough time for students to choose destinations for non-Carleton programs, so you can’t really say it’s because our two programs got cancelled.”

Kaufman describes the multi-layered consideration of the OCS Committee in reviewing program proposals and developing the OCS calendar every year. “Ideally we would want to have a pretty diverse portfolio in terms of where the programs go,” said Kaufman, “but that can be difficult” as proposals are put forth by faculty based on departmental curriculum and individual faculty interest. For example, the program “Architectural Studies in Europe,” led by Professor Baird Jarman, was developed after a professor in the Art History department who led a program to the Netherlands retired.

The OCS 2025 Strategic Plan will target underrepresented majors in its upcoming programs. Kaufman used the new program “History of Computing in England” as an example. The program was developed with a historical component to be distinct from the existing Computer Science program in Budapest. “Here you have a STEM program, which is severely underrepresented, at Carleton and nationwide… If we want to offer a course like that, then we need to go to where the history began, and that would be England,” she said. “So you [are], in one way, addressing one underrepresented group, but not the other, but both are in our strategic plan.”

While the OCS Committee “definitely balances and prioritizes [Carleton] programs based on that strategic plan,” Kaufman explained that the calendar is also arranged to “encourage” students to take part in non-Carleton programs, where “the vast majority… go to non-European destinations, and a lot of them to developing countries.” For instance, there are usually only two Carleton programs in the fall, since most students choose to go on non-Carleton programs during this time. “If students just look at Carleton offerings, they can say you’re just imbalanced, because you are offering all these programs in Europe,” she said, “but that’s not entirely true; we can’t forget that 40 percent [of students] are choosing from a portfolio that has a lot of non-European destinations.”

“We have to think about our entire portfolio, our programs and non-Carleton programs, how they can complement and supplement each other,” said Vanderwood.

Responding to complaints about the oversaturation of European programs, Kaufman said that Europe is not a “homogenous bloc” as commonly perceived. “Professor Czobor-Lupp’s program which went to Romania and Serbia… the knowledge of that part of Europe is very limited in the U.S., so I think that was a great choice for a program to have, especially given the current moment and European politics.” Kaufman also said that some European countries are more popular than others; countries like former Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, or Scandinavia are rarely OCS destinations. “There are just parts of the world in general that are just underrepresented, I think. Within Europe, even,” she said.

Kaufman said that the 2017-2018 yearly data constitutes only a small piece of the puzzle, while the data on the Class of 2018, spanning across four years, provides a fuller picture. Based on the lower participation rate from 2017-2018, Kaufman said, “you can start thinking: do we want to look at this closer? Is this just a one-time thing—which most likely it is—but if it repeats itself in 2018-2019, that’s where we would say, ‘okay, is there something that we are missing here? Is there something that’s wrong?’”

“We have to look at more than just one year,” said Vanderwood. “We have to look at the class years, go back several years to sort of see how those trends are going.”

As of now, no clear trend can be deduced from the lower rate of participation for 2017-2018. However, Vanderwood is optimistic about OCS being “a big part of the four-year experience at Carleton.”

“Even though the European numbers may be high, we are grateful that students are willing to go regardless,” said Vanderwood. “Because it in itself is just a great learning opportunity, and it brings back so much back to the college too, and to their lives—this is really what this is about.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *