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MSUFCU champions study abroad

When Michigan State set the unprecedented goal of providing all undergraduate students with an opportunity to study abroad, the MSU Federal Credit Union was at the forefront in support, creating the MSUFCU Study Abroad Scholarship Program. Since June 2003, the MSUFCU endowment has provided $710,000 in funding to 647 students to help offset the cost of their participation in study abroad programs. The scholarships are funded in perpetuity through MSUFCU’s generous $2.5 million gift.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, 140 students received MSUFCU scholarships to study in 41 countries at locations ranging from South Korea to South Africa, Israel to Italy, Bangladesh to Belgium and Australia to Argentina. MSUFCU is the largest donor in MSU’s study abroad scholarship system and a key partner in MSU’s success in study abroad. For the sixth consecutive year, MSU led the nation in study abroad participation among public universities, according to the Institute of International Education’s most recent annual report.

A luncheon was recently held to celebrate the MSUFCU scholarships. President Lou Anna K. Simon highlighted MSU’s decades-long history of outreach and engagement and Brett Berquist, executive director of study abroad, explained how that tradition has translated into study abroad offerings that focus on community engagement. Two MSUFCU scholars spoke about their experiences with community based programs abroad which not only provided them with an international perspective but also allowed them to give back to their host communities. Their experiences included teaching French to community students in Mali and helping to research the biodiversity crisis in Madagascar.

Ashley Babinchak, a junior majoring in environmental biology and zoology, recounted interacting with lemurs in Madai Madagascar but discovered that her true passion lay in environmental policy. She hopes to one day land a position with the Environmental Protection Agency. Following her study abroad experience, she noted, “I believe that with engagement and education for both the Madagasy people and through programs like study abroad, preserving Madai’s lemurs and other wildlife is possible.”

President Lou Anna K. Simon extended remarks of appreciation for MSUFCU’s support, noting that study abroad is vital to internationalizing our campus and taking MSU from a land-grant to a world-grant institution.