Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Dean Provides Financial Support to Encourage Study Abroad

Dean Provides Financial Support to Encourage Study Abroad

Participation in the European study abroad program has increased by 60% over the last 5 years due in part to scholarship availability.

In an effort to support students’ study abroad pursuits, Joyce Gattas, Dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts (PSFA), has created the Joyce M. Gattas Scholarship for Internships and International Experiences. Despite the scores of scholarship opportunities available for PSFA students who wish to study abroad, Gattas felt compelled to personally aid students in studying abroad.

“If I care about this [study abroad] so much, I should do everything I can to support something that is so important to me,” said Gattas. “It is imperative that if you believe in something you lead by example.”

As a fervent advocate of study abroad experiences for students, Gattas hopes to strike a chord with the public in order to facilitate the growth of international programs within her College. Striving to one day make an international experience a requirement for all PSFA students, Gattas has demonstrated her foresight and wisdom by creating a sustainable way in which obstacles to study abroad experience are minimized.

Her goal is to have donors create endowments, which will contribute to the long-term commitment and continuity of study abroad scholarships for students; a handful of donors have already supported scholarships. Gattas is focusing on making international experiences affordable to all students before implementing more study abroad requirements.

Empowering Confidence

Although preference for Gattas’ scholarship is awarded to students enrolled in the International Studies Minor, any student is eligible, regardless of GPA or writing proficiency requirements. Additionally, the scholarship award can go toward any cost of the international experience; Gattas wants to make her scholarship as flexible and supportive as possible.

Affirming her desire for all students to have the means to study abroad, she said, “I want the scholarship committee to make sure that the right student is going into the right country. These are valuable opportunities whereby students are empowered to develop confidence and competence.”

Gattas’ gift enables approximately six to eight students to receive a scholarship for an international experience each year and supports the university-wide strategic plan, commonly known as “Building on Excellence.” The plan is integrated into each college in a customized manner, and PSFA has been incorporating the plan’s emphasis on international experiences.

Strategic Vision

In addition to increase the number of PSFA students who study abroad (334 participated in an international experience last year alone), the College has also has an International Studies Minor that is centered on students engaging in comparative experience related to their major or area of study. The minor, and gifts supporting study abroad have undoubtedly played a key role in SDSU’s classification as a top 10 university for students studying abroad.

Creating Global Citizens

SDSU offers more than 500 different study abroad programs in 50 countries. These experiences truly are transformational. International experiences can serve as a reminder of the ever-changing nature of world affairs and even invoke the nostalgia of a fleeting time in the history of a country that can no longer be experienced. A few years ago, Gattas traveled with students to Turkey where they conducted a joint research project with Turkish students. In light of the region’s current state of instability, students can no longer travel to this region of the world.

“It’s sad to think that those students had a full and rich experience in Turkey, and cannot go back because it is not safe. They can think about the friends they met there and what their way of life must be like now.”

Most recently, Gattas was able to participate in was a faculty-led program in the south of France, and some of the students were recipients of her scholarship.

“I loved hearing what they thought of the experience. Some of the students had never been abroad, and they were leery of a three-week program. By the end of it, they didn’t want to come back [to the U.S.]!”

Gattas hopes that those who receive her scholarship will return with zeal and serve as ambassadors who promote the opportunity for others to participate in a similar experience. According to her, the most effective way to convey the benefits of study abroad are through the personal testaments of students.

“Hopefully students will learn about this [scholarship] opportunity and take advantage of any support that they have at their disposal,” said Gattas. “It is my hope that they do not bypass such a chance, because they will come back from these experiences fundamentally changed. It makes their perception of the world not quite as myopic.”

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