By Josee Smith
The Bing Overseas Studies Program’s (BOSP) Overseas Seminars component received fewer applications this year than last year despite offering three more programs.
According to BOSP Director Ramon Saldivar, 344 students applied to the eight programs in Vienna, Rio de Janeiro, India, Israel, Madagascar, Palau and Cardiff, Wales. Around 15 students were accepted to each of the eight programs, for a total of approximately 120 students.
Last year, by contrast, there were five overseas seminars, with a total of 460 applicants.
Saldivar downplayed the significance of the decline, emphasizing the limited value of only two years of data.
“Fluctuations always happen,” Saldivar said. “If that trend continues for the next four or five years, then we’ll start thinking about what it means. But the most important thing about the seminars is that we are only offering a very small number and we continue to be hugely oversubscribed. The total number of applications greatly exceeds the number of spots we have available.”
Saldivar refused to give a breakdown of application numbers for each specific seminar.
The waitlist for each seminar also includes 15 students, so that BOSP can make sure that they fill each of the programs to capacity.
“We have no specific goal about the number of students we want to apply,” Saldivar said. “We want to make sure that we meet student interest. It also provides information for me to give to my superiors when making budget requests and whatnot that the demand of these programs exceeds what we can offer. It can strengthen my case for wanting to offer more of these seminars.”
Saldivar expressed optimism about the support the seminars have received from students and faculty.
“Every indication — from student evaluations, faculty responses, any review body like the SUES (Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford) [report] — continues to point to the overseas seminars as being really successful,” Saldivar said. “That is a given. The next question is, how many more can we do? At this point, it is based on funding, in a broad sense. It is also based on how many we can afford to do given the size of this office, given faculty interest.”
Biology professor Susan McConnell, who will teach a summer seminar in Costa Rica on conservation photography, said she was happy about the increase in the number of seminars offered this year and was pleased with the number of applicants she received.
Even while the summer seminars continue to enjoy generally strong interest, other BOSP programs have struggled to attract applicants. Five BOSP spring quarter programs — Beijing, Florence, Kyoto, Madrid and Santiago — are still accepting applications, with interested students being asked to contact the program as soon as possible.
Saldivar said that the low interest level of interest in those programs is not that unusual and that BOSP regularly accepts students after the application deadline.
On Monday, BOSP also announced the return of the Community Health in Oaxaca Program for Spring/Summer 2013. According to the BOSP website, this service-learning program will provide students with the opportunity of working in southern Mexico, shadowing health care providers in clinics and hospitals and working with other agencies to meet community-identified needs.
“It gives us an opportunity to try out a different pedagogical method and a different duration, linking it with a course on campus and following up with an overseas experience,” Saldivar said. “We are targeting groups of students on campus who wouldn’t be thinking that they would be able to go abroad and spend time in an overseas experience.”
Saldivar added that, although the topic is community health in southern Mexico, the subject is being interpreted broadly.
“It’s not just medical issues, but broad social and community issues that constitute well-being. We are looking for students interested in health care and medical science, but also in all aspects of social sciences and humanities,” Saldivar said. “There is room for thinking about culture, language and the arts as part of the construction of a community in good health. We hope to look at it that way over the next two years.”
Students can apply to the program on the BOSP website by Feb. 17.
“As long as we continue having students interested in the programs, we will work hard to make the space for students to be a part of them,” Saldivar said. “The summer seminars are a signpost of the way we should be moving in the future.”