Global Engagement at Penn main page

Photograph of Penn President Gaylord P. Harnwell and three students at a 1964 Foreign Student Tea

A Brief History of Global Engagement at the
University of Pennsylvania

Dealing with Global Engagements:
The History of the Office of International Programs


Study Abroad and Student and Faculty Exchanges/Visits

A history of study abroad and student and faculty exchanges and visits is difficult to compile, as the topic is broad and the information sprinkled throughout many other various topics. For example, in the published volumes of Old Penn, while sifting through issues covering material from the Great War years, articles appear on faculty leaves to foreign countries in South America and East Asia. In the international students' folders at the University Archives, there is a brochure in a Brazil file about the opportunity for students to study abroad there dated 1939. Study abroad records for the entire twentieth century are not complete, and because of this, one cannot easily piece together and see comprehensive trends and patterns about study abroad for this whole period. Due to good record-keeping at the Office of International Programs, though, patterns and trends on this subject do appear for the late 1980s and early 1990s, and it is to that information that this report turns. However, "Penn around the World: A History of Penn's Engagement with Specific Regions and Countries" will attempt to sift through areas of the world with which Penn has had global engagements, and make an historical overview pertaining to those specific regions for the years before the ones covered here, not limiting information exclusively to the topic at the present moment.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is evident in the annual reports that priority was given in maintaining links with those areas of the world, such as East Asia and Africa, in order to make Penn graduates more competitive in the job market which would be predicted to grow in those fields, and also to create an international awareness at Penn for matters happening in far-away locations that would impact the near future. These links would also allow foreign scholars to do research or lecture at Penn for a certain amount of time, and this faculty exchange was prioritized in almost every aspect of global engagement. The annual reports from 1987 to 1992 specifically show priority given to three areas: one regarding programs related to African studies, one regarding Chinese language programs in the People's Republic of China (PRC) and a growing interest in programs for Japanese studies. More evident beginning in 1991 was a growing desire of programs related to Central and Eastern Europe, as the Soviet Union gradually lost power and disintegrated. Links were made in Berlin, Hungary and Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and also searched out between Moscow and the University of St. Petersburg, then headed by Rector Stanislav Merkuriev (although he would suddenly pass away in May 1993). Programs in Latin America grew steadily from the mid- to late- 1990s, aided by the creation of a Latin American Studies Program at Penn. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the programs mentioned in this section are but the tip of the iceberg, and this report does not seek to cover them all; its purpose is to examine patterns and trends during the 1980s and 1990s.

African Studies

Regarding programs offered related to African studies, there were two main opportunities throughout the years, as focused on in the annual reports of the Office of International Programs and to which this office was involved. Those two opportunities were the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and the Penn South African Fellows Program.

Penn's affiliation with the University of Ibadan began in the 1970s. Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, much attention was focused on this program as it was one of the only programs at an American University located in West Africa, and many things occurred including student study abroad (beginning in 1986) during the academic year and summer, faculty exchanges and visiting lecturers and delegations that went to Ibadan. For example, in November 1988, the University of Pennsylvania sent the primary non-African delegation to the University of Ibadan for its 40th anniversary celebration, which OIP Director Joyce M. Randolph attended and read the former Provost Aiken's lecture on Social Transformations: The Organizational Factor. In the fall of 1992, though, turmoil in Nigeria threw off academic calendars and prevented Penn students to study abroad there, and they did not go the next year either. Some University of Ibadan scholars visited Penn at various points for conferences, etc. and to teach for a semester in the mid-1990s. A renew agreement was signed in May 2002 for cooperation and exchange to resume activities.

The Penn South African Fellows Program, which was initiated in 1987, began to be phased out by 1993 due to budget constraints. The program had provided educational support to study at Penn for seven black South Africans in different types of degree or non-degree activities.

In the 1993-1994 academic year, during which the University of Pennsylvania was looking for more sites in West Africa/Sub-Saharan Africa, especially due to problems with studying abroad at the University of Ibadan, the possibility of a link being created with Senegal was explored. While this was being considered, a Title VI grant was awarded for undergraduate African Studies to a four-college consortium consisting of Penn, Haverford, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr. The University of Pennsylvania would act as the leading institution in the consortium. The consortium itself supported Penn's project towards Senegal, and a visit was planned for the 1994-1995 academic year. Penn also allowed its students to study abroad in various locations in Africa through other universities' programs, and became a member of the CIEE consortium for study in Ghana. The Sub-Saharan African locations grew through the mid- to late-1990s by working with three other consortium schools and continues to have steady enrollment.

East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian Studies

The annual reports going back to 1987 also mention, as stated above, small, but continuous interest for international programs related to East Asian, South Asian and Southeast Asian studies. Areas explored included the PRC, Taiwan, Japan and Korea. Activities would continue throughout the 1990s with programs in Beijing and Nanjing (PRC), Tokyo and Kanazawa (Japan) and Taichung (Taiwan). Beginning in summer 1993, there was anew Penn Study Abroad program in Poona, India, which was extraordinarily popular and continued to be so, as well as an opportunity in Kandy, Sri Lanka and programs accepted by petition in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, and more programs over time were to be approved by petition for similar cases, such as students studying in Malang, East Java, Indonesia and the University of the Philippines. Some students traveled by approval through other schools, such as Cornell University and the School for International Training to locations such as Nepal.

There was student exchange going on in 1987 from an affiliation between the University of Pennsylvania and Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in the People's Republic of China, in which students from SJTU working on their doctorates studied at Penn and some recent Penn graduates would teach English for a year at SJTU. In 1987, though, there was a hiatus in faculty exchange. In 1989, faculty exchange continued, but two out of three teachers decided to leave China after Tiananmen Square in June 1989. There were two teachers in both academic years from 1989-1990 and again in 1990-1991. In 1987, there was also an agreement of cooperation between the University of Pennsylvania and Fudan University, China, with the main goal being faculty exchange, and activity was initiated in 1990 when Fudan's first visiting scholar came to Penn. A formal affiliation began between Penn's School of medicine with Shanghai Second Medical University, mostly for the exchange of medical scholars and it continued normally in 1991. Activities proceeded modestly through 1993, though interest in study abroad programs in China began to decline. No students went to Beijing or Nanjing that year. In 1995-1996 academic year, one student per semester studied in both Nanjing and Peking Universities in China. Two students also studied at the University of Hong Kong. This affirmed that there was a small student population at the University of Pennsylvania interested in continuing Chinese studies in China, but it was absolutely necessary to promote the programs and to maintain them. Programs became mildly complicated in the 1998-1999 academic year, when NATO bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Serbia and there was a rise of anti-American sentiment in China, but the programs continued nonetheless. By the 2001-2002 academic year, due to Chinese language courses enrolling more students, study abroad in China expanded with twenty-five student on the mainland. The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business (IS&B), an undergraduate four-year program that awards two degrees (a B.A. in International Studies from the School of Arts and Sciences and a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School) also sent students to Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Taiwan was another place in interest in the early 1990s, and a pilot program began to send recent Penn graduates in summer 1990 to teach English conversation (a similar reason as SJTU) in Taipei at the Jeng Teah English Language Institute. As with China, though, in 1993, interest in studying in Taiwan began to decline, with only one student participating. From the 1995-1996 academic school year, one student per semester attended the National Chengchi University in Taipei. The University of Pennsylvania signed an agreement that same academic year with the National Taiwan University in Taipei for IS&B with an advanced Chinese language skills for students at Penn. The first student attended NTU in the fall semester 1996. In the late-1990s, programs in China, especially in Hong Kong, began to rise once more, and in the 2001-2002 academic year, thirty five students studied in Hong Kong.

Photograph of President Martin MeyersonAt the same time, possibilities existed for study in Japan. The International Christian University in Japan renewed its agreement with Penn and there were discussions for Penn to co-sponsor a research institute for regional development in Kitakyushu, which was established in 1988 as "The International Center for the Study of East Asian Development, Kitakyushu: An Undertaking in Cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania." Former Penn President Martin Meyerson (pictured at right) and Chief Planning Officer Robert Zemsky were the signatories on behalf of Penn, with a Keynote Address by Professor Lawrence Klein. A senior delegation from Kitakyushu City arrived in May 1990 to the University of Pennsylvania and engaged in Peak Week activities for Penn's 250th Anniversary celebration and discussed goals for the center. Study abroad in Japan remained strong until 1993, when the cost of living in Japan rose, and so student interest in going there began to decline. This was also affected by the commitments imposed on student exchange with Japan.

Due to more interest in Japan in 1992, affiliations for student exchange had been established with Sophia University and Hitotsubashi University, both in Tokyo. They were implemented in 1993 when there was a one-for-one exchange between Penn and Hitotsubashi University and three students studied abroad at Sophia University. That same year, Penn officially joined the Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies consortium. Though, again, interest began to decline due to the high cost of living in Japan. In 1995, informal exchange continued with Hitotsubashi University with two student exchanges in the 1995-1996 academic year. As a whole, though, studies in Japan continued modestly throughout the late-1990s and the early twenty-first century, with some fluctuations.

In 1992, OIP Director Joyce M. Randolph visited Seoul, Korea and discussed possibilities for students to be able to study at Yonsei University as early as January 1993, which were confirmed by a visit to Korea by President Hackney in which a general agreement was signed with that university, with a memorandum of understanding concerning undergraduate student exchange. A Penn-in-Seoul summer program began in 1993 with its first resident director being Frank Platan, the associate director of international relations, and the first students from Yonsei University attended Penn for the 1993-1994 academic year. Although only one Penn student enrolled for the undergraduate exchange program for the 1993-1994 academic year, the Penn-in-Seoul summer program was a success. This trend continued into the mid-1990s, as there was only modest interest in the semester and year options in Seoul, and the summer program provided internship opportunities. The Penn Summer Abroad program in Korea was cancelled in 1997 and in 1998, though. In the early twenty-first century, enrollments at Yonsei University, at least in the 2001-2002 academic year became more stabilized.

Eastern Europe and the Russian Federation

Relations with the Soviet Union improved after its gradual collapse. The engagement between Penn and that nation had soured upon the plight of the Soviet Jewry, found later in this report, but began to be repaired several years later. Primarily, affiliations with Central and Eastern Europe focused on three countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and they were Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Russian Federation.

Through the American Council of Teachers of Russian (ACTR), and aided by political realities there, notably Glasnost, one of Gorbachev's policies of reform, a new exchange program developed to send Penn undergraduates to study in the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s. In spring 1990, with advisory assistance from Ann Kuhlman, then the Assistant Director of the Office of International Programs, four economics student and one faculty sponsor from the Plekhanov Institute in Moscow came to the Penn campus. That same academic year, the associate director of OIP coordinated the stay of two ACTR students to the Penn campus from the Soviet Union. In 1991, Penn began a pilot program with Moscow State University for the short-term exchange of undergraduates. The Center for Soviet and East European Studies signed and initiated a two year program to exchange faculty members and writers of the Writers' Union of the USSR. Penn also began informal discussions with Professor Stanislav Merkuriev, the Rector of Leningrad State University. During this time, though, travel was discouraged within the USSR due to rumors of violent incidents and general economic, social and political turmoil there. Fourteen Penn students made a short-term exchange in 1992 to Moscow, but it was unsure if the Russian students would be able to make a reciprocal visit to the United States due to a lack of funding. Provost Aiken led a delegation to St. Petersburg University in April 1992 to meet with Rector Merkuriev, and they signed a general agreement. The biology department was interested in the idea of hosting post-doctoral fellows and to participate in short-term faculty exchange. There was a follow-up faculty discussion about this issue on the Penn campus. In the 1991-1992 academic year, seven students attended the ACTR program in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In May 1993, a delegation of Penn biologists visited the Faculty of Biology in St. Petersburg. They discussed specific exchanges with faculty in ecology and environmental biology, and two exchanges for the fall 1993 semester were arranged. Under the auspices of the ACTR, four students studied in Moscow and Leningrad during spring 1993. At a conference in 1993, Dr. Randolph met with the Rector of St. Petersburg University, Liudmila A. Verbitskaya, and a medical school delegation also met with her. Verbitskaya was elected Rector for five years, after the sudden death of Merkuriev. In fall 1993, only one student attended the ACTR program in Moscow. Penn began to look for a second location in Russia to cooperate with. Regardless of political turmoil in Russia in the winter of 1993, relations between Penn and the Russian Federation would progress.

In the 1990-1991 academic year, Dr. Randolph and Provost Aiken visited the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a formal agreement between the two institutions went into draft form. Plans were made for American undergraduates to study in Budapest in the summer, and the first semester program was to begin in January 1992. Programs in Hungary were put on hold, though.

While discussions about a program in Hungary continued, an idea for a complimentary program in Prague developed. A semester program in Prague was scheduled to begin in January 1993 under the formal auspices of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences focusing on Central European cultural and area studies. The Office of International Programs attempted to recruit students from other universities to participate in this program with the University of Pennsylvania. Nine students enrolled in the program in Prague which began in January 1993. Six more students enrolled for the fall in the 1993-1994 academic year, and the program was to be revitalized in September 1995.

Latin America

In February 1989, Dr. Randolph and Professor Jose Miguel Oviedo visited Costa Rica. The annual meeting of the International Student Exchange Program (ISEP) was to be held there, and while there, Randolph and Oviedo met with representatives of the Universidad Nacional de Herdia (UNA) and the Universidad de Costa Rica. Costa Rica was considered for a possible Penn undergraduate study abroad program. That same year, Professor Nancy Farriss and Thomas Reiner made connections with El Colegio de Mexico, a graduate education and research institute, and in February 1990, Dr. Randolph gathered more information concerning the Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara while at a conference of the Association of International Administrators. During Peak Week, mentioned earlier, Costa Rica's former president, Oscar Arias Sanchez, was in attendance. A provost's committee on contact in Latin America was held in 1991 to discuss possibilities for study abroad programs and graduate and faculty exchange. It was also recommended that a pilot study abroad program begin in spring 1992 at the Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca. A committee explored a link between Penn and the Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City, and in the fall, a delegation from Penn was to take place to initiate projects and formalize agreements on graduate student and faculty exchange. Plans for formal ties were established, and the first graduate student and faculty exchange was to begin in the 1993-1994 academic year. A study abroad program began in the 1991-1992 academic year, when ten Penn students went to Oaxaca, Mexico. That program continued in spring 1993, but low enrollment made Penn explore more sites in Latin America. In the 1995-1996 academic year, the School of Arts and Sciences gave approval for a new Latin American Studies major. Naturally, this would help gain enrollment for the Latin American programs. The Oaxaca program, which had suffered low enrollment two years prior was given good reports by students and faculty committees, and progressed, and non-Penn students began to participate in that program.

Western Europe

Photograph of President F. Sheldon HackneyRelations between Penn and Western Europe have always been strong, and it is no doubt due to the fact that relations between American and Western Europe, having been strong throughout history, will continue to do so. Great study abroad numbers have always come from Great Britain, France and Spain, their ranking fluctuating throughout the mid-1990s. Of note are a few programs initiated in these countries throughout the period one is reporting - namely, in June of 1990, Dr. Randolph visited the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain, and through cooperation, faculty exchange was to begin in the fall semester of 1990. A general agreement was signed by Penn President F. Sheldon Hackney (pictured at left) in the 1991-1992 academic year. In July 1992, Dr. Randolph visited the Ecole Polytechnique in France, and proposals were made for exchanges. In January 1993, an agreement was signed between President Hackney and President Jean-Pierre Dedonder of Université Paris 7 "Denis Diderot." In the 1995-1996 academic year, Penn signed an agreement with the University College London.

In June 1990, there was a conference by the Council of International Educational Exchange (CIEE) held in both West and East Berlin, which Dr. Randolph, accompanied by Professor Werner von derOhe and Professor Ellen Kennedy, attended. Seminars were held entitled "A United Germany: Implications for the Future." The Berlin Wall had fallen only one year prior. The whole event was organized by the Freie Universität of Berlin, an institution Penn had held relations with the past, and plans were made for exchanges. That institution became partners with Penn in the 1992-1993 academic year, and relations progressed.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, links were made with possible locations in Switzerland and Italy, and affiliations continued between Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and the University of Edinburgh in Scotland; the Principal of Edinburgh, Sir David Smith would receive an honorary degree from the Penn in 1990. One year prior, Penn President Hackney had received a similar honor from that same University. Penn also had some relations in Greece, and some students studied there in the mid-1990s. Not mentioned previously in this report, though not located in Western Europe, are study abroad programs in Australia which have become extremely popular as well.

See also Office for Foreign Students (1949-1963)
Office of International Services (1963-1975)
Office of International Programs (1975-present)

This on-line exhibit was created by Alison D. Graham,
a University Archives Research Fellow during the summer of 2007



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