Published: Nov. 15, 2010

MSU: Tops in study abroad, international students

Contact(s): Kristen Parker Media Communications office: (517) 353-8942 cell: (517) 980-0709, Peter Briggs Office for International Students and Scholars office: (517) 353-1720, Brett Berquist Office of Study Abroad office: (517) 432-4346

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State University ranks in the top 10 for both study abroad participation and international student enrollment, according to Open Doors 2010, the annual report on international education released Nov. 15 by the Institute of International Education.

For the sixth year in a row, MSU ranked No. 1 for study abroad participation among public universities. During the 2008-09 academic year, the most recent year for which data are available, 2,610 MSU students studied abroad. Nearly one in three MSU undergraduates has studied abroad.

The survey ranked New York University, a private school, No. 1 with 3,524 students studying abroad.

In addition, for the 2009-10 academic year, international students represented 11 percent of MSU’s population. With 5,358 international students, MSU ranks eighth overall in international student enrollment.

“Whether on campus or abroad, MSU is committed to offering our students opportunities to learn from other cultures,” said MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon. “It allows us to bring the best of the world to Michigan – and the best of Michigan to the world – at a time when looking outward is more important than ever.”

According to Open Doors 2010, international students invest more than $600 million in the Michigan economy.

For the first time at MSU, in 2009-10 the number of international undergraduate students, 2,636, topped the number of international graduate students, 2,520 – a direct result of the increase in Chinese students at MSU. More than 1,200 undergraduate students were from China.

To assist with the surge of Chinese students, MSU’s Office of International Students and Scholars hired six Chinese undergraduate students to serve as advisers to assist MSU’s ability to meet their social and academic needs. Named Project Explore, the advisory committee launched this fall and meets with MSU officials weekly to give Chinese students a voice.

To further MSU’s goal of fostering global citizens, community engagement and service learning are increasingly areas of focus for OISS and Office of Study Abroad. In 2009-10, MSU study abroad offerings included more than 20 programs with a community engagement module and several with a research focus.

And MSU’s international students are involved in numerous community activities and projects, such as a speaker’s bureau and 35 nationality clubs.

 “As we seek to understand some of the world’s most pressing issues it is important for us to develop strategies and operations that engage with communities where we work and study,” said Jeffrey Riedinger, dean of MSU International Studies and Programs. “Collaboration is the hallmark of how we operate in the state of Michigan, across the United States and around the world. 

“Embedding these principles into our study abroad practice is consistent with our mission and continues the university’s effort to create high quality and transformative experiences for our students.”

He added that with more than 260 programs in 60 countries on all continents, MSU provides a broad portfolio of programs, supported by academic departments, to meet students’ needs.

In addition, MSU increased financial aid allocated to study abroad. In 2009-10, more than one-third of students who studied abroad had high financial need, qualifying for federal low-income based, no-pay-back-necessary Pell grants. These students received funding covering almost half their costs for study abroad. Altogether, MSU gave more than $2.5 million in such aid to study abroad participants.
“Open Doors reports a significant increase in students who are seeking hands-on learning experiences with structured interaction beyond the classroom,” said Brett Berquist, executive director of the Office of Study Abroad. “Our growing catalog of community engagement and internship programs abroad offers firsthand insight into the challenges of communities in different regions of the world.”

Africa is one such location. With 30 programs in Africa, MSU provides more study abroad opportunities there than any other university. In 2008-09, 243 MSU students studied in Africa.

Furthermore, 52 percent of study abroad students studied in nontraditional locations, including Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. 

In fact, MSU is one of eight U.S. universities in the nation to host programs in Israel. The university has sent 101 students to Israel since 2005, 30 of them during the most recent 2010 summer semester.

The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the country.


Michigan State University has been advancing knowledge and transforming lives through innovative teaching, research and outreach for more than 150 years. MSU is known internationally as a major public university with global reach and extraordinary impact. Its 17 degree-granting colleges attract scholars worldwide who are interested in combining education with practical problem solving.

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An interdisciplinary team of MSU study abroad students is engaged in community-based research and development projects in Peru to help meet the needs of underserved communities in the Peruvian Highlands.

An interdisciplinary team of MSU study abroad students is engaged in community-based research and development projects in Peru to help meet the needs of underserved communities in the Peruvian Highlands.

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