Four years ago, Muriel Pless ’41 donated her personal collection of Madonna statues to St. Joseph’s College. Pless collected these mementos over the past seven decades while traveling the world: Europe, South America, Asia — China, Spain, Germany and Japan. Each country held a story, and each statue held its own history.
Then 92 years old, Pless offered these words as the single most important advice to SJC students: “Travel. Travel before the mountains get too high, the foods get too spicy and the beds get too hard.”
In addition to being a positive inspiration for our students, Pless’ advice has strong roots in academic and career success.
The American Association of College and Universities (AAC&U) reports that potential employers state that college graduates typically enter the workplace without sufficient “global knowledge,” and that students are more likely to stay in college and earn a degree if they study abroad. AAC&U defines study abroad as an “educationally purposeful activity.”
St. Joseph’s College emphasizes global learning for all its students, offering a robust study abroad program with excursion opportunities in such destinations as Oxford, Taiwan, Cuba, Iceland, Italy and Costa Rica.
Students from last year’s study abroad trips to Romania, England, Greece, Paris and Italy.
The global studies office also provides a generous Study Abroad Scholarship to qualifying students interested in travel. This scholarship disperses funds and expenses relating to study abroad for a semester or longer for students. Full-time students at SJC who hold a grade point average of at least 3.0 and demonstrate financial need are eligible to apply.
“Since 2009, faculty have contributed generously (to study abroad). It’s a tribute to their dedication to study abroad that this scholarship has become endowed. Based on my experience as coordinator, I would not have expected anything less.” —SJC History Professor Steve Fuchs ’93, Ph.D.
The successful funding of the new study abroad scholarship best illustrates SJC’s commitment to its students and their interpretation of the world. That success would not have been possible without SJC’s faculty.
Navigating a new scholarship
When it came time to build the new global studies scholarship from the ground up, it was no surprise that the main source of donations came from SJC professors.
The scholarship was started by SJC Long Island history professor Steve Fuchs ’93, Ph.D., more than five years ago. Since then, a great number of faculty, staff, alumni and community organizations have contributed.
“The goal during my first couple of years as coordinator of global studies was to work with faculty to foster a culture of study abroad on campus,” Dr. Fuchs said.
“Once we accomplished this, we then began to explore ways to promote long-term study abroad. A scholarship designed specifically for this purpose seemed ideal,” Dr. Fuchs continued.
“Since 2009, faculty have contributed generously. It’s a tribute to their dedication to study abroad that this scholarship has become endowed. Based on my experience as coordinator, I would not have expected anything less.”
After Dr. Fuchs introduced the concept of a study abroad scholarship, faculty donations quickly followed. With many professors serving as faculty leaders on various study abroad excursions, the importance of global study was already evident.
“I joined a group of St. Joseph’s faculty and students for 10 days in Nicaragua, helping with a building project in an economically distressed barrio there,” said general studies professor Tom Travis, Ph.D. “It was a profound learning experience for me, and I could see that the students were likewise affected. Recognizing the value of this global learning experience was what prompted me to support the Study Abroad Scholarship Fund.
“I didn’t want the expense of such travel to be a barrier to students who might otherwise benefit from such an opportunity,” he added.
Opening the door to international travel
When it came time to choose the Study Abroad Scholarship’s first recipient in 2016, the scholarship committee chose an ambitious senior studying business administration.
“The scholarship allowed me to push beyond my comfort zone … It opened a door for me. It made me realize (seeing) the world will be one of my next goals — traveling as far and wide as I can.” — Sarah Prescott ’17
Sarah Prescott isn’t your typical student. Before arriving at SJC, she had already obtained her real estate license during high school. Between her college classes and exams, Prescott managed listings and sold houses. Prescott’s impressive work ethic, and high GPA convinced Linda Lubranski, global studies coordinator, that she’d be an ideal candidate for the scholarship.
Prescott used the scholarship to study business in Australia, while researching Australian real estate markets. She left for Australia in July 2016 for five months, returning Dec. 1.
Sarah Prescott’s Australian experience in photos.
“The scholarship allowed me to push beyond my comfort zone,” Prescott said. “But it was a blessing. I’ve fallen in love with the culture, people and environment. It opened a door for me. It made me realize (seeing) the world will be one of my next goals — traveling as far and wide as I can.”
SJC believes that every student should have an opportunity to study abroad because the schools in which we study, the society in which we live, and the environment in which we work are becoming increasingly global and diverse.
“I chose Australia because the culture and way of life are similar to America — which made me wonder where the differences lie,” Prescott said. “I also was curious being from a real estate background what the difference in the markets were like, along with the economic and political systems in contrast with what I have learned back home.”
Study abroad provides opportunities for students to question their assumptions, interact with other peoples and cultures, reflect on the world in which they live, and develop the skills needed for success in our global community.
“I am moved by the way that faculty and administrators care about the students at SJC, as if the students were their own children,” Lubranski said. “Many of the faculty members have not only invested funds, but time in developing programs. The return is in our students. And we know the ways that study abroad alumni are contributing on a global level.”