GW Launches Global Bachelor’s Program

Undergraduate program will begin this fall with first cohort to China in spring 2017.

January 20, 2016

By James Irwin

The George Washington University will launch a new academic program this fall that will take students all over the world, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary study and examining global challenges.

The purpose of GW's Global Bachelor’s Program, announced Wednesday, is to innovate toward a study abroad experience that will give students the competencies and confidence to work and learn anywhere in the world by challenging them to pursue their particular educational goals in multiple international settings.

The program includes semester-long residencies in China and a second location tied to the academic pursuits of enrolled students. Freshmen in select programs in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business and the Elliott School of International Affairs are eligible to apply this spring.

“Developing an international perspective through an in-depth understanding of other cultures is a critical component of a well-rounded education, particularly in today’s global society,” Columbian College Dean Ben Vinson III said. “The new Global Bachelor’s Program will immerse students in a reservoir of firsthand learning experiences—unique opportunities to connect and comprehend the philosophies and foundations of those living beyond our borders. I’m thrilled to be part of ushering in the first cohort of students to this program.”  

The first cohort begins this fall with a one-credit preparatory course in Foggy Bottom. The students will spend the spring 2017 semester at a partner institution, Fudan University in Shanghai.

Steve Suranovic, associate professor of economics in the Columbian College, will serve as faculty director for the program and will teach a course in China.

“Part of what this new program is designed to do is intensify the experience for students abroad,” said Dr. Suranovic, who has led a summer study abroad trip to China the past seven years.

Associate Professor of Economics Steve Suranovic, far right, with a group of students in Shanghai. (Courtesy photo)

Application deadline this spring

The application deadline is March 18. GW will cap the program at 30 students of high academic potential, equally split among the three schools. That first cohort will spend at least two of their final six undergraduate semesters overseas. Students can spend a third semester abroad or complete an international summer internship.

Fudan is the international starting point for the group. From there, paths will vary, said Donna Scarboro, associate provost for international programs. The subsequent locations will be drawn from existing GW-approved international education programs worldwide or through internship resources, she said. Students in the program will work closely with the Office for Study Abroad, faculty and advisers in their schools to make selections.

“We will have time to witness students’ development, listen to their needs and match them to experiences,” Dr. Scarboro said. “It makes it a thoughtful part of how they plan their four-year curriculum. For example, if you want to study finance, it probably makes sense to go to London, Singapore or Tokyo instead of Florence. We will tap our extensive contacts, including alumni, in the targeted locations for study or internships, to provide a knowledgeable basis for a tailored match between the time abroad, the students’ career and life interests.”

A sequence of three one-credit courses stretched over the length of the program will help students tie together their abroad experiences with the curriculum in their fields of study. Students enrolled in majors with capstone courses will be expected to weave their international experiences into their research, Dr. Suranovic said.

A global, interdisciplinary network

The program will enhance interdisciplinary study. The cohort could include participants from 10 or 15 academic majors studying in countries all over the world, Dr. Scarboro said.

“Experience tells us that when students are navigating a new place, the synapses are wide open, the learning is at an exponential level, and they look at material in a fresh way,” she said. “It’s not too idealistic to say we are contributing to the future of our own international relations as a country because we are creating an educated population that can grapple with the complexities around the world that other people are grappling with.”

That’s a direct connection to GW’s Vision 2021 strategic plan, which emphasizes efforts to strengthen the university’s international education offerings and address global challenges.

“Education has to prepare for close global interaction,” Dr. Scarboro said. “We have to get people functioning globally in ways that we’ve never had to before.”

As for Dr. Suranovic, he looks forward to the program creating a network among graduates.

“This group of GW students will build a community through their shared experience,” he said. “Building that community will enhance their educational outcome, their abilities to thrive in the workplace and their understanding of international and global issues. I’m excited to see this group 10 years from now and the community they’ve helped to create.”