Ithaca College’s Walkabout Down Under program in Australia will be discontinued after the Spring 2008 semester, according to Rachel Cullenen, associate director of study abroad programs.
Tanya Saunders, assistant provost and dean of the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies, said the program is being canceled for financial reasons.
“Part of the cost depends on the exchange rate, and when we initiated the program the exchange rate was much more favorable to us,” Saunders said.
Representatives from the University of Tasmania at Hobart and Murdoch University, two of the college’s partner universities, said they were unaware the program had been canceled. La Trobe University, the third partner, was unavailable for comment. Cullenen said official letters informing the partner universities of the program’s discontinuation have been sent but must not have reached Australia yet.
Walkabout Down Under began in Spring 2004. Students travel around the country for 20 weeks, study at Murdoch University, University of Tasmania and La Trobe University and earn 16 credits.
Junior Samantha McGrath is studying on the Walkabout program this semester. The group is currently at the University of Tasmania.
“You get to see so much of the country and travel to so many diverse places,” McGrath said in an e-mail. “I’m having the time of my life here.”
The program underwent analysis during the budget review in October 2006, Saunders said. She said the budget committee asked her to put together a presentation about the program’s costs in November.
“[The Walkabout] just wasn’t breaking even,” Saunders said. “If we could have broken even then we would have continued.”
The Walkabout program is directly financed by the students’ tuition, unlike older programs such as the Ithaca College London Center established 35 years ago, which is allocated as part of the college’s overall budget, Cullenen said.
Walkabout trips average 24 students, Cullenen said. When the college designed the program, it hoped to draw students from other universities, she said, but the plan was unsuccessful.
Junior Melissa Chinigo said she went on the Walkabout program in Spring 2006 instead of a traditional exchange program because she wanted to experience all of Australia. She said she is sad to see the program go.
“The reason I did the Walkabout is because you get to go to different areas and get to see several different places instead of just one,” Chinigo said.
Saunders said Walkabout’s isolation and lack of immersion may have been a turn-off to outside students.
“When [outside students] could choose a program for the same amount of money that allowed them to take classes at Australian universities with Australian students, it was hard to compete on those terms,” Saunders said.
Chinigo said she understands how students may be turned off by only taking classes with other American students, but said she is still sad to see the program discontinued.
“It’s too bad,” she said. “It’s a really good program that more students are going to miss out on.”
Cullenen said the college still has exchange programs in Australia at Griffith University, the University of Tasmania, La Trobe University and Murdoch University.
“[Cancellation] happens with programs,” Cullenen said. “You have a good idea and you try it and, while I would say [Walkabout] certainly worked, it just didn’t do what we hoped it would do.”