AU Abroad announces first director, moves to new location in 'dramatic' reorganization

Abroad programs get boost

AU Abroad's first director was hired a month ago, but only started working on Monday, and one of her first duties has been to move into a new building. Still, these hassles won't deter her from her goals.

Dr. Sara E. Dumont, once settled, will focus on expanding and modifying the study abroad program - formally the World Capitals Program - as well as increasing student participation.

"What brought me here is this vision to expand the study abroad opportunity to students who want to take advantage of it," Dumont said.

Dumont could not start until Dec. 1 because of conflicting schedules, said Robert Pastor, vice president of International Affairs. Currently, she is undergoing the move to the program's new home in the Capital Building on Tenley campus.

In her new position, she will assist Pastor and Assistant Vice President of International Affairs Robert Ayres with the development and implementation of a strategic plan for the Project Team's initiatives. Those initiatives include expanding and modifying study abroad programs and increasing the percentage of international students who study at AU.

"American University is very fortunate to have recruited a person of Dr. Dumont's experiences, intelligence and capability," Pastor said. "There's no better person for lifting AU's study abroad programs to higher levels than Dr. Dumont."

Dumont will be managing and reorienting present programs and seeking new ones, she said. She hopes to establish closer relationships with leading universities overseas and develop inter-institution relationships with them. Also, she will be helping to add new sites in places such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia as well as countries in Asia and Africa.

Roughly 30 percent of students decide to study abroad by the time they graduate, according to Dumont. While this is a good number, she hopes to double it within the next four years.

At the beginning of the semester, some students were concerned about the University's decision to not recognize Semester at Sea. The program, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, puts student on a ship for a semester, stopping at sites around the world.

Dumont feels that this is a wonderful experience, but she would not classify it as a cross-cultural experience of studying abroad.

"It doesn't [allow you to have] any significant deep long term interaction with any particular culture," she said.

Dumont comes to AU from Towson University near Baltimore, where she worked as the director of the Study Abroad Office. During her six years there, she quadrupled the number of students going abroad and increased faculty participation.

"I see my position here interfacing study abroad of the AU abroad with the various schools and departments ... and getting more faculty participation," Dumont said.

Before Towson, she worked for the foreign academic programs at Duke University as well as for the undergraduate and international admissions office at Yale University.

At Yale, she realized she wanted to work with students and international education programs. During her professional international education career, she has also lectured and taught in music history. She earned her Ph.D. in musicology from Oxford University.

She encourages students who are unsure about their future to have a good education that enables flexibility and allows one to work hard and take advantage of opportunities that come up, since she discovered what she wanted to do at a later age.

AU Abroad is undergoing a dramatic reorganization with expansion to new sites, scholarships to study abroad to areas like Canada and Mexico, ultimately expanding rapidly as to give new opportunities of higher quality than they had before, according to Pastor.

While the program is moving to a new building, Pastor said, they hope to bring the AU Abroad program on next fall in order to underscore the study abroad as a central component in a student's education.

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