Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

University closing study abroad program near Florence, Italy

Responding to the changing needs in study abroad programs, the Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS) has decided to close its program near Florence, Italy, at the end of the 2011 fall semester.

New and more specialized programs will be offered in Italy beginning with the 2012 winter semester, says A.T. Miller, director of the center.

Currently housed in the Villa Corsi-Salviati in Sesto Fiorentino, about 30 minutes from the center of Florence, the program has a 40-year history, and has operated in a consortium partnership with the University of Wisconsin for the last three decades. Duke University joined the group in 1997. The consortum with Duke and Wisconsin also is ending.

Steeped in European history and tradition, the Florence program offered classes in language, opera and architecture to hundreds of students over the years. Although the program has room for 60 students and teaching faculty each semester, the number of U-M students in the fall and winter semesters has often fallen below the university's allotment. Shorter spring and summer programs have proved more popular but they are insufficient to sustain the program.

Rising costs and falling enrollment — only four U-M students are enrolled for fall 2011 — led to the decision to reconfigure international education programs in Italy. Neither the School of Music, Theatre & Dance nor the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning were able to run their programs this year due to low enrollments, said Phil Deloria, associate dean for undergraduate education in LSA.

"The program's decreasing enrollment is not a recent problem, but has been an ongoing challenge for the last several years," Deloria says.

Efforts to increase enrollment also have been unsuccessful, Miller says.

"We have spent two years strongly promoting the villa and adjusting the curriculum and operations to reflect current student interests, including internships and language partners and programs, but enrollments have continued to fall," Miller says. "The trends in education abroad programs have been towards more specialized and academically-specific programs that are focused and shorter-term with tailored curricula."

Classes at the villa for fall 2011 will not be disrupted by the closure, Miller says. A final celebration is planned for December, and business operations will be concluded during the winter of 2012. New programs will be offered for students and faculty in the near future.

Since it was created in July 2009 as a hub for U-M's international programs, CGIS has been assessing its entire portfolio of programs, Miller says. "The program in Florence has been an excellent program for 40 years. The closure does not reflect poorly on the academic integrity of the program or the quality of the villa faculty and staff."