Next fall, first-year students at the University of Virginia will have a unique opportunity: to spend their first semester studying abroad in one of the world’s most celebrated international cities.
Dubbed “UVA London First: Global Cultures in a World City,” the new pilot program is based at Regent’s University London in the heart of the British capital’s Royal Regent’s Park and Marylebone within central London. Open to select students accepted in early action into the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, the pilot program was approved Thursday by the College’s faculty.
UVA London First will take full advantage of the highly cosmopolitan community of central London and the educational offerings of Regent’s University London to give first-year students at UVA a wholly unique opportunity: a full semester of study abroad just as their higher education careers launch.
The program will combine classroom instruction with an exploration of London’s history, cultures, politics and architecture. Students also will engage in several organized events that will take them into the city to experience the European capital’s multifaceted cultural offerings.
Program Director Brings 20 Years of Experience to UVA London First
Michael Levenson, William B. Christian Professor of English, will direct the inaugural session of UVA London First. Founding director of the University’s Center for the Humanities and Global Cultures, Levenson has led UVA study-abroad programs in London for two decades.
“The students selected for the program will not only live and study in one of the world’s great cities; they will immediately begin a process of global learning relevant to whatever academic path they may ultimately follow,” Levenson said. “And working closely with highly regarded faculty from UVA and Regent’s University London, the program’s students will establish themselves as a valuable community of internationally focused young scholars.”
There are 20 spaces available in next fall’s program. Incoming students admitted to the College of Arts & Sciences from the pool of regular-decision applicants also may be invited to apply if spots remain available. In addition, the program includes spots for an advanced graduate student to teach a course, and for as many as four upper-class UVA undergraduate students who will study and serve as student advisers for the first-years.
UVA London First students will each live with a Regent’s University London student on campus and have full access to the school’s facilities.
‘A Life-Changing Experience’
Dudley J. Doane, UVA’s Director of International, Summer and Special Academic Programs, said the new program reflects the priority the University has placed on making studying abroad a reality for as many students as possible.
“The benefits of education abroad are significant, diverse and lifelong,” Doane said. “Upon their return, students commonly tell us that their time away was the most important in their UVA careers.
“These students bring a broadened perspective and knowledge base to key issues and questions in their fields of study. They also demonstrate greater understanding of cultural differences, are more adaptable and have greater coping skills and self-knowledge than their peers who didn’t study abroad,” he said.
The new program puts the University in esteemed company. Other schools, including New York University and the University of California, Berkeley, have international programs for students who want to begin their undergraduate educations studying abroad.
Upon their return to UVA, the first cohort of UVA London First students will participate in a January orientation for new students and live in the International Residential College for the spring 2018 semester.
A Model for Expansion
College Dean Ian Baucom said eventually, the school hopes to use UVA London First as a model to expand to other international cities.
“UVA London First epitomizes the global ambitions this University has embraced,” Baucom said. “We are working to make this program accessible to all students, and we are excited about the opportunities this experience will present to our students while laying the foundation for their future contributions to the broader UVA community.”
In addition to selecting from a range of elective courses taught by Regent’s University London faculty, first-year students in the UVA London First program will take courses being introduced in the College’s new curriculum, which is being piloted in the 2017-18 academic year. The proposed new general education requirements represent the first significant changes to the College’s undergraduate student curriculum in more than 40 years.
Among the courses to be offered through UVA London First will be seminars fulfilling requirements for “Engaging Difference” and “Aesthetic Engagement,” two of the four proposed core “Engagements” featured in the new Arts & Sciences curriculum model. Students also will be able to fulfill a proposed new writing requirement falling under the title “Rhetoric for the 21st Century.”