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Students and faculty in the Transatlantic Degree program celebrated and honored participants at a luncheon in Macomb during WIU's Commencement Weekend (May 14-16). L to R: Marie Marnay, student (marketing), Ecole de Commerce Européenne; John Monahan, Ecole de Commerce Européenne; Doug Druckenmiller, WIU; and Danny Mittleton, DePaul University. Photo courtesy of Jo Davis.
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WIU Students Can Discover Atlantis, Treasure of International Education Experience

May 25, 2010


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MACOMB, IL -- What if, after you complete your undergraduate coursework, you could graduate with two degrees from two different universities and you would have attended three different institutions? While this may not sound like an easily accomplished feat, for students in Western Illinois University's Transatlantic Dual Degree program, this is a reality -- and one that can be accomplished in the traditional four years it takes to earn a college degree. During WIU's commencement Weekend (May 14-16), several WIU students were celebrated and honored for their participation in this innovative "Atlantis" program. By taking part in Atlantis, students not only earn their bachelor's of business degrees from Western, but they also each earn a European bachelor's degree from the time they spend attending courses at Ecole de Commerce Européenne (Lyon, France) and Linköping University (Linköping, Sweden).

According to Doug Druckenmiller, director of Atlantis at WIU and associate professor in the College of Business and Technology's information systems and decision sciences department, on Saturday, May 15, the Atlantis students, faculty and staff attended their annual end-of-the year luncheon. The purpose of the event, said Druckenmiller, was to honor the Atlantis program students, come together to celebrate the end of the program's third year and give each student a medallion to commemorate their time in the Transatlantic Dual Degree program.

Druckenmiller noted that the program at WIU -- entering its fourth year in the 2010-2011 academic year and funded through a U.S. Department of Education grant -- is set up to prepare students for success in the "interconnected global world of the 21st century."

"We started this program at Western with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, or FIPSE," Druckenmiller said. "For the Western students, the grant funding, essentially, provides each student with a $1,200 per month stipend for living expenses for the 10 months they are in Europe," he said.

The program works like this for WIU students: Each participating student attends courses at Western for two years (his or her freshman and sophomore years). The third or junior year during the Fall semester, each student attends courses at Ecole de Commerce Européenne and then, during Spring semester, attends courses at Linköping University.

"The idea was for each school to have six students a year, for each year of the grant period (which was four years). So, initially, it was meant to comprise a cohort of 24 students from the four partner institutions, which also includes DePaul University here in the U.S. The American and European students study together one year in Europe and then one year together back in the United States. We've articulated courses offered by both institutions [Ecole de Commerce Européenne and Linköping University] with our business program here at WIU, so the courses they take in Lyon and in Linköping count toward their American bachelor's degrees in business here," Druckenmiller explained.

At Western, he added, the program is supported via the College of Business and Technology, as well as through CBT's Global Opportunities program and WIU's Center for International Studies.

"Jo Ann Davis, with CBT's Global Opportunities program, works on a number of things behind the scenes. In addition, the Center for International Studies provides international students with support, both for admissions and for ongoing academic advising help. Staff at the Center and its Office of Study Abroad have been instrumental in the success of the program," Druckenmiller said.

"I have worked with Atlantis since its inception, and it has been so exciting for me to watch the program's progress," said Davis, who oversees the CBT Global Opportunities office with Barbara Ribbens, associate professor in Western's management department and who serves as a facilitator for the program. "Part of my job for the Atlantis program is to distribute stipends to the students attending classes in France and Sweden. Michelle Terry, an adviser for Western's College of Business and Technology, and I meet with the students when we're preparing them for their spring break trip to France. This trip helps groom them for their studies in Europe the following Fall semester," she added.

Emily Gorlewski, assistant director in Western's Center for International Studies' Office of Study Abroad, said that the efforts of CBT's faculty and staff members are also to be commended for their continued work in making the Atlantis program a unique opportunity for students.

"It provides both financial and curricular support for students to pursue a two-semester experience abroad. The students gain perspectives that will help them in their careers and beyond, as well as exposure to the academic systems of other countries," Gorlewski noted.

In addition to the study abroad chance the program provides for American WIU students, the program enables French and Swedish students an opportunity to study at Western and DePaul and provides them with the opportunity to earn an American bachelor's degree after they have earned their bachelor's degrees via their home institutions in France or Sweden. Although their participation in the program is coordinated largely by WIU faculty and staff, the American and European students still must, first, qualify for it, which requires a qualified grade-point average, and second, in order to finish it successfully, each student must finish a bachelor's degree-level thesis.

"It is not quite the same as a master's level thesis, but it is a significant research project they each have to carry out," Druckenmiller explained. "And they have to defend their theses in a seminar at the end of the semester. They also have to critique other students' theses. As you can imagine, this can be a very stressful experience for them. But, by going through this, they get the kind of in-depth feedback and academic push that undergraduate students do not necessarily traditionally experience."

Druckenmiller also said that faculty from the partner institutions have been able to take part in the international educational experiences provided via the Atlantis program through mentoring and advising students both at WIU and abroad.

"We have two faculty members from the Quad Cities campus who have been tutors in that program, and because Linköping University's semester ends in mid-June and ours ended in mid-May, this year, the faculty tutors are able to travel to Sweden for four weeks and help the international students work on their thesis projects there. Linköping University provides our faculty members with housing. The result is that we've been able to establish a beneficial faculty exchange, as well," Druckenmiller said.

While the program is entering its fourth year -- the final year of the initial grant-funding period -- Druckenmiller said because there are still grant funds remaining, the program will be continued, via a no-cost extension application, through the 2011-2012 academic year. After that, Druckenmiller said, he hopes to have the program still in place.

"Our plans are to continue the program beyond the funding period. We've learned a great deal in these initial years of the program, so we're hoping to take that and apply it to the successful management of a long-term Transatlantic Dual Degree program here at WIU and with our partner institutions," he said.

For more information about the Atlantis program and its students, contact Druckenmiller at (309) 762-9481 or DA-Druckenmiller@wiu.edu. You can also learn more about WIU's Transatlantic Dual Degree program online at www.wiu.edu/globaled/atlantis/.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations