By Curt Yeomans
More and more, Clayton State University students are taking an interest in spending a few weeks of their summers going oversees to do things such as examine criminal justice issues in South Africa, or watch one of Shakespeare's plays being performed at the Globe Theater in London, England, according to University System of Georgia figures released on Monday.
Since the 2003-04 school year, Clayton State's study-abroad enrollment has grown by 336 percent, which is the highest amount of growth during that time period in the entire university system.
Clayton State had 11 students enrolled in its study-abroad program during the 2003-04 school year, but that number had jumped to 48 pupils by the 2007-08 academic year.
"We're very pleased with the growth of our study-abroad programs," said John Parkerson, the director of Clayton State's office of international programs. "[Overseas] you learn so much that [you] couldn't learn by getting the information from a third source. By looking and touching things, you get more out of the experience than you would by reading it out of a book."
In terms of leading the university system in growth, Clayton State was followed by Georgia Southern University (191 percent), and Georgia College and State University (169 percent). Overall, the system saw a 38 percent increase in study-abroad enrollment, which pleased USG officials who have been urging universities to push the programs more to their students.
"I am delighted that our students are exploring the global classroom in such record-setting numbers," said Chancellor Erroll B. Davis, Jr., in a statement. "Not simply traveling, but living and learning in other countries will give them tremendous skills and advantages in meeting the challenges of a complex world."
In August, Clayton State hired Parkerson away from Delta Air Lines' international legal group to oversee the university's international programs. At the same time, the university hired Orlando Pacheco, the associate director of international programs, away from the University of Pittsburgh, where he held a similar position.
After a study-abroad registration fair hosted on Tuesday by the university, Parkerson said more than 50 students have already signed up for international studies opportunities. He added that the university is only two-thirds of the way through the sign-up period for those programs.
The South Africa program, where students spend four weeks studying what effect the transition from apartheid to democracy had on criminal justice, is the university's most popular study-abroad course, said Parkerson. About 40 students have already signed up to participate in the program in 2009, he added.
Parkerson said the likely reasons why the South Africa program is popular include the fact that Clayton State has an active criminal justice program, and the energy the lead teachers, professors Hamin Shabazz and Augustine Ayuk, inject into the trip.
"Seeing how society is transforming over there, and what the criminal justice results of that transition are, makes it a very appealing trip," said Parkerson.
In May 2009, 13 programs will be available. Among the new programs are opportunities to study marine life in a remote, largely uninhabited island in the Bahamas, and nursing students will spend a few weeks working at a hospital in the Guatemalan jungle. The nursing students will offer medical care to people who have had limited access to medical care for most of their lives, said Parkerson.
In addition to the trips to South Africa, Guatemala and the Bahamas, Clayton State will offer study opportunities in Russia (for politics, arts, history); England (Literary London; health care); India (business); Spain (anthropology, literature); Italy (culture and history); France and Barcelona, Spain (wellness and healthy lifestyles); Germany (economics of the European Union), and Singapore (music appreciation-bands).
In return, Chinese students from the Hunan University of Technology, will study at Clayton State over the summer. It is part of an agreement reached in May.
"The first goal of our international programs is that the students get something out of the international setting that they couldn't get on Clayton State's campus," said Parkerson.