The Agent of Education Abroad
Published in The Magazine of Radford University, Spring 2016
By Mary Hardbarger
Overseeing Radford University's international initiatives is London-native Paul Currant.
Currant was hired in 2014 as director of the International Education Center (IEC). Having spent the past 21 years working and living overseas, he brings a wealth of global knowledge to the department that is taking strategic steps to increase the number of students studying abroad, attract more international students, offer faculty rich international experiences and internationalize the university.
Currant estimates about 150 students will study abroad this year. Radford University has signed a pledge with the Institution of International Education to double that number over the next five years. To do that, Currant said, "We have to keep reminding parents and their students how important studying abroad really is."
"Academically, students who study abroad have a higher grade point average," said Currant, referencing a study by the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative. "Students come back more motivated and often go on to graduate school. Personally, you're going to find that you will become better at handling life. You'll be better at handling risks, more confident and more passionate and understanding. Professionally, it's proven that students who study abroad get jobs earlier. They get higher-paying jobs, and over their whole career, they will earn half a million dollars more than someone who has not studied abroad."
Radford University offers several faculty-led study abroad programs that last two to four weeks. Currant is partnering with overseas universities to increase the number of semester-long programs.
This spring, Currant will travel throughout Europe to market Radford University. He says that attracting international students to the university - who represent less than one percent of enrollment - is key to a rich educational experience for Radford University's students.
"To enroll students from different cultures will help students here on our campus think in different ways," he explained. "It will help the faculty think about the way that they're teaching, and it will help the community. You have to do things in different ways, because that is what the world is like."
Exposing the university to the world beyond the confines of campus - an effort Currant calls internationalization - is at the core of the IEC's mission.
"If you're going to teach anything from business to the arts to biochemistry, you have to look at these things globally," he said.