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Overseas Seminars return to campus

Stanford Overseas Seminars are returning to the University for the 2011-12 academic year.

The program, which is run by the Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP), will accommodate between 60 and 75 students in five three-week long seminars during summer 2012. The program should then expand to its peak size of 10 seminars for 150 students in 2013. Specific details on the programs offered have not yet been announced.

The Bing Overseas Seminars Program will be partially reinstated during the summer of 2012, and fully the summer of 2013. (ERIC KOFMAN/The Stanford Daily)

“We are spending the summer identifying the locations for the seminars and the faculty associated with them,” said BOSP director Bob Sinclair. “We’ll be making an announcement about them once everything has been finalized.”

Sinclair confirmed that some changes to trip planning will be implemented.

“We are putting much more investment of our funds into hiring local companies to set up the logistical aspects of the program — like the housing and local transportation,” Sinclair said. “In the past, it was largely a burden for the faculty members. We want the faculty . . . to focus more on the academic aspects and the interactions with students.”

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam commented on the benefits Overseas Seminars will bring to undergraduate students.

“The Overseas Seminars offer the potential for students who cannot go abroad during the regular academic year to have this important experience,” wrote Elam in an email to The Daily. “It offers students the chance to explore sites and learn in locations where Stanford does not have existent overseas campuses.”

Sinclair described BOSP’s emphasis on program sites.

“There’s an increasing need to look at more globalized locations,” Sinclair said. “The majority will be outside of Europe.”

Sinclair also reiterated the effect the seminars might have on students studying abroad.

“I particularly know the difficulties engineering students have in fitting study abroad into their schedules, though many engineers and athletes do,” he said. “[Overseas Seminars] are a way to help their situation.”

Overseas Seminars began after the 2002 school year and ran until a hiatus after the 2008-09 year, when BOSP cut the programs due to budgetary constraints. There were seminars in 25 countries over that time, with some courses repeated over the program’s eight years.

Overseas Seminars is the only program cut at the time to be reinstated so far.

“We were very unhappy to have to cut the overseas seminars, and so as soon as the financial situation improved, they were one of the highest priorities to reinstate,” Provost Etchemendy wrote in an email to The Daily.

“We received incremental funding to re-launch the program,” said Irene Kennedy, BOSP executive director. “We cover all the in-country costs, the faculty salary, for housing and food, in-country transportation and any entry fees.”

Students will pay for their own airfare and a $600 fee to participate in the seminars. Financial aid will be available toward the seminar fee.

Kennedy said that the locations of the seminars have been used for purposes beyond providing a trip for students.

“We’ve used [locations] for a lot of our own research purposes — to explore locations where we might consider a center; to go to locations where we knew we would never have a center; and occasionally we intentionally located them at places where we had a center and infrastructure in place to support them,” she said. “I think that will be true again.”

The program has manifested in follow-up visits to seminar countries for some current students and recent alumni.

Manny Fassihi ’11 went to Bhutan with history professor Mark Mancall on a seminar called “Tibetan Buddhism in Bhutan and Gross National Happiness” in June 2008. Fassihi described what he witnessed on the trip.

“Bhutan had just made the transition from monarchy to democracy, with their inaugural elections in April of that year,” Fassihi wrote in an email to The Daily. “As a result, there were tons of big events commemorating the shift, not least of which was the signing of the constitution.”

Fassihi stayed in Bhutan during a gap year before the 2010-11 school year, moved there after graduation is and is working at the Centre for Media and Democracy.

“I don’t think it’s an overstatement to call the program ‘life-changing’ — it opened up a whole new world for me that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.”

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