The Ithaca College Washington Semester Program has been suspended for the Fall 2011 semester after only two students committed to enrolling in the program.
Deborah Curry, director of the Washington Semester Program, and Rob Gearhart, associate dean of graduate and professional studies, made the recommendation to suspend the program for this upcoming fall because the low enrollment would compromise students’ experience.
“We believe that the educational quality and the interactive learning community that the program strives to provide for its students would be compromised by the unusually low enrollment for the program,” Curry said.
Curry said the Washington Semester Program will be put on pause for the fall semester only and will be open to students hoping to apply for the spring semester.
“We plan to use the fall semester to create new initiatives and opportunities for students that will complement and enhance their overall academic experience,” Curry said.
Gearhart said the college plans to promote the program by creating links between individual schools at the college and the program in Washington, D.C. Gearhart said Curry will have more time to focus on making these connections in the fall. For example, Gearhart said he hopes the program is able to build a reputation with students like the L.A. program, which has a special relationship with the Roy H. Park School of Communications.
“What we’ve been trying to do is just build linkages, not only for individual student interest, but also build linkages to academic programs on our campus,” he said.
Sophomore Shea O’Meara, who is a staff writer for The Ithacan, was one of the two students who committed to the Washington Semester Program for Fall 2011 and had already begun seeking internships when she received a call Monday informing her that the program had been suspended.
O’Meara said finding out this information last minute leaves her struggling to make plans for the fall.
“I didn’t plan anything for next semester for being in Ithaca,” she said. “I honestly don’t even know what the courses are for next semester because I wasn’t going to be here. I planned my entire senior year and this year around being gone next year.”
O’Meara said dealing with administrative headaches has turned her off of the Washington Semester Program. Even if it continues in the spring, she said she would rather study abroad in South Africa than pursue a D.C. internship.
“I don’t trust the D.C. program considering, I was just dropped from it in a day,” O’Meara said.
Junior Alana Sawyer, who is enrolled in the Washington Semester Program this semester, said the apparent disinterest of students in the program is not a reflection of its success. She said she has enjoyed studying in D.C. this spring.
“The only thing that really anybody here has complained about was some of the rules that the housing had,” Sawyer said. “My experience here has been really good. I love my internship, and the classes are pretty reasonable.”
Gearhart said he has full confidence that the program will take off next spring.
“One of the great things about the Washington location is that there are so many different majors that could find a good reason to be there for an internship,” he said. “That’s one of the beauties of it.”