A history of Stanford abroad

Oct. 8, 2012, 12:27 a.m.

The first round of applications to Stanford’s Bing Overseas Studies Program (BOSP) Spring 2013 programs will close next Sunday, Oct. 14. BOSP currently has 11 locations – Australia, Beijing, Berlin, Cape Town, Florence, Kyoto, Madrid, Moscow, Oxford, Paris and Santiago. The Daily took a look at the long-term study abroad program’s evolution.

On Sept. 25, 1957, The Daily reported that University President Wallace Sterling announced the University was nearing plans for completing the Stanford Study Center in Beutelbasch, Germany. The center would be located 12 miles from Stuttgart. President Sterling hoped that the program would be “self-sustaining” and would provide grants to students so that it would not be limited to wealthy students. The program was in part funded by a $15,000 grant from the Fund for the Advancement of Education (“Stanford to Establish Branch in Germany,” Sept. 25, 1957).

A year later, 63 Stanford students participated in the Stanford in Germany program. A total of 33 men and 30 women left San Francisco International Airport on June 16, 1958 to spend six months abroad. The program ended around Christmas time. The University held an opening ceremony, one of the highlights of which was “the planting of a sequoia tree, a further link between the Farm and its German counterpart.” During the ceremony, Sterling stated that he believed the Beutelbasch Center would be “extending the educational opportunities of American youth in accord with the intent of Mr. and Mrs. Stanford” (“Sterling Praises Center,” Sept. 26, 1958).

In 1960, Stanford’s Overseas Program was extended to Italy and France. The Daily reported that “student bodies of 80 each [would spend] six months in intensive language training with emphasis on cultural studies such as history, economics, literature, political science, music and art.” While the school’s original Stanford in Italy program was located in Florence, the Stanford in France program was initially established in Tours. The article stated that the University added two new branches to the Stanford in Germany program and was considering a campus in Hong Kong (“Students Begin Classes at Overseas Centers,” Oct. 4, 1960).

In 1965, Stanford established a program in Vienna. A year later, a campus in Great Britain near Grantham in Lincolnshire was added.

In 1972, however, the Stanford Overseas program made changes. Talks of closing the Vienna campus began, due to the program’s low enrollment. After only 28 students enrolled in the program, Robert Walker, director of the Overseas Program, told The Daily, “it’s impossible to run the type of broad program we have with those numbers” (“Future of Vienna Campus in Doubt,” Sept. 27, 1972).

In Jan. 1973, Walker resigned after a report from the Presidential Commission indicated a lack of satisfaction with the Program. Law Professor John H. Merryman stated “the foreign studies programs that were designed for and were successful in an earlier period at Stanford now [seemed] unsatisfactory.” The Daily reported that “The Commission’s report…declared that the basic objective of the foreign studies programs remain[ed] valid but warned that the programs [faced] declining student interest.” The report suggested that the academic program should be more flexible and focus more on the culture of the host country. In addition, the Commission recommended that the three-day weekend at all overseas programs be abolished (“Overseas Director Quits Post; Panel urges program changes,” Jan. 24, 1973.

In 2005, the Overseas Studies program received $25 million from the Bing family and was renamed the Bing Overseas Studies Program. Talks of establishing a campus in Spain began (“Overseas studies renamed, expanded,” Oct. 14, 2005).

The latest additions to BOSP have been programs in Madrid in 2008 and Cape Town in 2010. The most recent changes to the program include expanding the Kyoto program to winter quarter and moving the Stanford in Florence program to the Palazzo Capponi.


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