History of International Programs at UST

In 1975, Dr. Paul Schons, Chair of the Foreign Languages Department, established the Foreign Studies Office as part the University of St. Thomas. Internationalization has been an important part of the academic life of the University of St. Thomas for nearly half a century, with about 100 students from Osaka, Japan coming to St. Thomas every summer from the late 1960s through the 1980s.

After a National Association of Foreign Student Advisors (NAFSA) consultation, Dr. Schons convinced the university that it needed to give priority to international experiences and make student study abroad and exchanges full-time endeavors. Dr. Schons’ vision came into being in 1983 with the establishment of the International Education Center (IEC) and the hiring of Dr. Sarah Stevenson as its full-time director. Dr. Stevenson would continue on as the Director of International Programs and the International Education Center for 28 years.

Dr. Stevenson and early members of the IEC ca. 1985

‌The International Education Center began life with a staff of two people, a director and a secretary, and was located in a small house at 2180 Grand Avenue. From its inception, the IEC encouraged students to include study abroad in their academic program by promoting opportunities and advising students. To meet a growing need for specialized programs to fulfill St. Thomas degree requirements, the International Education Center began developing and administering semester-long study abroad programs in 1995 as well as short-term programs. Joined by the International Admissions office, the IEC had many years of stability as they continued to increase the number of students enrolling at St. Thomas as international students and studying abroad. In 2014, after the center moved to the Murray Herrick building, International Admissions was transferred to Enrollment Services and a new Associate Vice Provost of Global and Local Engagement position was created. The Office of Study Abroad remains in the International Education Center.

As the number of international students on our campus increased, the University of St. Thomas established the Office of International Student Services in 1986, splitting it off of from the then Minority and Foreign Student Services Office, which itself had been in existence since 1968. Research and interviews were conducted and it was determined that the University of St. Thomas needed an office dedicated to serving its growing international student population. Kathleen Penney was appointed as the inaugural Director of the Office of International Student Services. In 2012, the office moved to the Anderson Student Center and changed its name to International Student Services. Today, International Student Services provides a range of services to international students as they live and study at the University of St. Thomas.

Photo by Lauren Buchholz, Wadi Rum, Jordan. “Camel Games." Published in St. Thomas Newsroom: Tommie Traditions: Studying Abroad

By 1997, the number of international students at UST had grown substantially and the University brought in ELS Language Centers to accommodate the increased demand for English language training. ELS Language of St. Paul has continued a partnership of recruitment and language and academic preparation for international students wishing to pursue their studies at the University of St. Thomas.  The program consistently serves 100 to 200 students per year, with new sessions beginning every four weeks. Building on many years of experience, ELS has developed their own unique curriculum, textbooks and branded language-learning software to help students master English. With proven teaching methods, highly qualified teachers, and their own carefully designed curriculum offering 12 levels of instruction.

Together, these programs work with numerous partners across the University of St. Thomas to provide a wide range of academic, cultural, and administrative services that advance globalization on our campus.