Recognition was overdue of the many benefits that young scientists gain from participation in study abroad (C&EN, Sept. 4, page 96). As a biochemist whose undergraduate experience included a semester in France and on-time graduation, I appreciate the challenges that study abroad may present science majors. One reason I chose to teach at Kalamazoo College was that I know the tremendous personal and professional benefits such an experience provides. For almost 50 years, nearly 85% of Kalamazoo students (humanities majors and science majors) have participated in long-term (six- or nine-month) programs the world over-in Europe, South and Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, and Asia.
Kalamazoo College has developed special science-focused programs in Ecuador (environment and ecology) and Hungary (cognitive science and mathematics). An essential and fairly unique component of our program is a capstone research project in the host country. For science majors, this often involves laboratory or field research that broadens their perspectives on their experience abroad and helps clarify their future plans once they return to the U.S. The Kalamazoo College foreign-study program fosters recognition of global interdependence and respect among cultures.
Study abroad has not hindered our science students from completing their degrees in four years or the college from being a national leader in the number of undergraduates who go on to earn a Ph.D. Among baccalaureate colleges, Kalamazoo College ranks third in the number of graduates who earn doctoral or professional degrees in the physical sciences, fifth in the life sciences, and 14th in the mathematical sciences ("Franklin & Marshall Weighted Baccalaureate Origins Report, 1998"). The same report noted that Kalamazoo College ranked 10th among all educational institutions, regardless of size or type, in Ph.D. production in the sciences. Most of these future scientists participated in a study-abroad experience of meaningful duration and immersion and thereby gained valuable perspective on global issues, collaboration, and interconnections.
Laura Lowe Furge