WASHINGTON, PA (March 7, 2012)—Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) is one of just three institutions nationwide selected to receive the Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award from NAFSA: the Association of International Educators, for an initiative that contributes to comprehensive campus internationalization. Named for the late Senator Paul Simon (D-Ill.), the award recognizes outstanding and innovative achievements in campus internationalization.
Honored for its renowned Magellan Project, the award recognizes the emphasis placed on internationalism at W&J.
“From their first day on campus, students at Washington & Jefferson College experience W&J’s commitment to internationalization. I tell students, ‘Whatever you do as your life’s work, you will find that our society is no longer local but global. As you design your education, keep your eye on the globe,’” said W&J President Tori Haring-Smith, Ph.D.
The Magellan Project is an internally funded initiative that fosters global citizenship through internships, research grants, and study/travel opportunities, providing students encouragement and financial support to pursue international projects. Projects must involve individual study and travel, not enrollment at a foreign university or participation in any kind of formal study abroad program. Students arrange their own itineraries, find their own housing, and solve their own problems.
“Magellan Scholars author their own lives. They are self-directed; their passion motivates them to keep going even when their contacts fall through, or they get lost, or they miss the last bus up the mountain. More than 100 Magellan projects have been funded since the program’s inception in 2008,” Haring-Smith said.
The Magellan Project arose from the observation that, while affluent students could afford to take a summer to travel and study abroad, less affluent students could not do so. In this way, they were being shut out of important learning opportunities that would enrich their lives and benefit them in the job market and in seeking graduate and professional school admission. Though 95 percent of W&J students rely on financial aid, a financial commitment on the part of the entire College community, including Board members, faculty and alumni, ensures that all students have access to the program, Haring-Smith added.
“Through the Magellan Project, students discover how to enter the world mindfully and how to combine classroom and experiential learning to solve real world problems. One scholar who traveled to The Gambia now plans to return upon graduation to build a much-needed food processing plant,” Haring-Smith said.
Prospective students who have traveled internationally through high school programs regularly seek out W&J because of the possibility of completing a Magellan project. W&J students hear so much about internationalization that they are more likely to study abroad, and
since those programs involve exchange agreements, the College now hosts more than 60 international students a year, thereby internationalizing the campus while, at the same time, sending its own students abroad to see the world for themselves, Haring-Smith added.
W&J will be featured with other award winners in NAFSA's report Internationalizing the Campus: Profiles of Success at Colleges and Universities, to be published this fall, and honored at an event in Washington, D.C., in November during International Education Week.