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May Seminars Cancelled: 25 percent of seminars cancelled because of lack of interest

Photo by Brianne Lee, submitted by Scott Olsen. Bobby Martinez and Trudy Johnson take a break on Scott Olsen’s exploration seminar to Scotland. Olsen was one of several professors who was forced to cancel a 2013 May seminar.

Melody Peterson was eagerly awaiting a month of jet-setting this May with Scott Olsen’s program Travel Writing: Around the World in 25 Days. However, when she checked her Facebook in late November, she saw that one of her co-travelers posted a status saying that the May seminar was cancelled.

“I checked my email and wanted to cry,” she said.

A few days after she submitted the application, the trip was cancelled. This was especially devastating to Peterson, who cited this trip was one of the main reasons why she stayed at Concordia after considering transferring to University of North Dakota.

Concordia students are seeing their May plans disintegrate with a 25 percent cancellation rate of May seminar and summer school abroad programs this May due to lack of student interest.

“This is not an acceptable rate of cancellation,” said Per Anderson, associate dean and director of global education. “We want to create global citizens.”

Anderson cited the calendar structure of the academic year as a possible explanation for why students aren’t signing up for these programs. Colleges with J-terms (a schedule in which the month of January is blocked off for optional extra classes or study abroad) tend to include study abroad costs into general tuition, making tuition more expensive for students but encouraging them to take advantage of abroad opportunities. Anderson said this might be why schools with J-term schedules have lower rates of cancellation.

“The cost has always been a problem,” said Olsen, who was supposed to lead the travel writing May seminar. This $12,000 trip was the most costly one offered.

Faculty senate has met and discussed changes to the study abroad system, yet no plans have been made public.

Some hypothetical changes that were mentioned include allowing professors to teach one of their courses abroad and changing May seminars from being travel-oriented to residentially-based. Anderson stated that a shift away from “pick-up-and-go” May seminars toward real living experiences could be highly beneficial for students.

“Residential experience has the opportunity for deeper levels of engagement,” Anderson said.

Concordia’s May seminar schedule gives incentives for students to refrain from traveling abroad, both to save money and to start summer jobs or internships before students from other colleges and universities are able to.

This year’s cancellations include trips to Ghana, Spain, China, and Australia from a variety of disciplines, such as business, English, and education.

May seminar cancellations are affecting travelers from a variety of majors. Olsen urged the importance of having a well-traveled student body.

“Perspective, insight, and a little bit of distance always illuminates what you’re doing,” he said. “Travel is a great experience—it doesn’t matter if it’s a cramped airplane bathroom or the Louvre. It’s important.”

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