Although enabling students to study abroad is one thrust of the internationalization efforts at MSSU, many have financial or family obligations that prohibit them from participating in the experience. The unique concept of focusing the fall semester on a particular country or continent was devised as a way to bring the world to every student at the university.
Since 1997, MSSU has organized themed semesters focusing on China, Africa, Latin America, America, Japan, India, Cuba, Russia, Mexico, France, Germany, Canada, Brazil, and Egypt. The semesters have expanded from around a dozen scheduled events to more than 60 on occasion. This innovative approach introduces students to at least four different cultures during a typical undergraduate education.
The country selected every year must be vital to the United States and an important player on the world stage. For example, MSSU is unlikely to announce a Malta Semester, a Liechtenstein Semester, or even an Australia Semester. Indeed, the university has chosen all four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) this decade with the belief that if popular theory holds, these four nations would become the world’s most dominant economies by 2050. A faculty committee makes the selections, often three or four years in advance. One practical consideration is whether we can find enough cultural events − touring performing groups, films, and art exhibits − to build a complete repertoire of events. For that reason, an Afghanistan Semester or an Iraqi Semester is highly unlikely.
While most universities emphasize study abroad as the primary vehicle to internationalize the campus, in reality only a small percentage of students actually participate in this endeavor. The internationally themed semesters at MSSU reach virtually every student, and at the same time provide a global perspective and cultural enrichment for the university’s external communities.