Pack Your Passport

International study experiences are rising at Nazareth, thanks in part to the new SPARK Grant.

by Erich Van Dussen

Leo Wu

Leo Wu '19G in Yellow Mountain, eastern China.

If you ever need directions to the Rochester airport, you won’t go wrong asking Nevan Fisher, Ph.D. As executive director of Nazareth’s Center for International Education, he’s adept at helping students get out of town—on planned global-study activities that broaden their minds and cultural awareness.

“In any course of study, international academic experiences bring incalculable benefits,” Fisher says. “They can enrich a student’s skills in their chosen field and facilitate a greater understanding of the world and its cultures. This is the message we try to share with students.”

The message is sinking in. The 2017–18 academic year saw a doubling of participation among Nazareth students in international-study programs, compared to the prior year. The College’s consistent emphasis on study-abroad activities has long helped Nazareth students exceed national averages for international study, but that twofold increase is still extraordinary. “We may not be able to match this rate of growth every year, but I hope it’s a trend that continues,” Fisher says.

The fuse that drove this engagement explosion was likely lit by the Students Pursuing Academic and Real-world Knowledge (SPARK) Grant, launched at Nazareth in January 2018 to provide increased financial support for research, internship, and international-study opportunities. “The grant has already made an undeniable impact here,” Fisher says. “Some students who might have been interested in a study-abroad experience, but simply could not afford it, are now able to make it work more easily.

“But a groundswell in encouragement from faculty is also making a difference,” he adds. “Professors are working to develop short-term experiences that help students appreciate the growing opportunities that are available to them.”

With more overseas academic partnerships and greater financial and logistical support, it’s no wonder that Nazareth speech pathology students would travel to Ethiopia for a recurring program designed to provide educational services to that country’s hearing-impaired population. Or that an array of major programs—including environmental science, legal studies, and business—would be represented in a three-week immersion program in China, during which Fisher helped students become exposed to the polarities of that culture.

“We don’t want students making photocopies in Paris—what’s the value in that?” he says. (Never fear, Francophiles: France is on Nazareth’s growing list of international-study partners.) “We want to get them engaged in meaningful work that has direct application to their lives and careers.”

The SPARK Grant is intended in part to improve retention and graduation rates, and high-impact study-abroad programs are proven to play a substantial role in that effort. But the benefits of increased international study are also far broader, Fisher says. “By 2035 or 2040, our country will be much more ethnically diverse: The face and first language of the average American could look very different. That is the concrete benefit of internationalization—directly preparing students today for the world in which they will live tomorrow.

“That’s why we want more students to take advantage of these opportunities, and why their options for doing so should be ever-evolving.” Just like the world.

Erich Van Dussen is a writer in Rochester, New York.


study abroad trips by the Class of 2018 (undergrads and grad students)

Study Abroad

Nazareth now offers:

  • 58 study-abroad programs
  • in 31 countries
  • on 6 continents

Learn more about study abroad and other international experiences through Nazareth »


1 in 4 undergrads in the Class of 2018 studied abroad


Nearly 1 in 10 graduate students in the Class of 2018 studied abroad