University of Delaware

Celebrating 90 Years

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It was a bold, daring move that would change the course of international education. The University of Delaware launched America’s first study abroad program on July 7, 1923, when a group of eight students set sail for France aboard the ocean liner Rochambeau.

That inaugural class would spend junior year in France immersed in learning the French language and culture-in the classroom, on travels to historic sites and in the homes of the gracious French families with whom they stayed. All of the students prospered in their studies, and two would even win the Sorbonne’s coveted diploma of French civilization.

The program was the brainchild of Raymond W. Kirkbride, a young professor in the modern languages department and a World War I veteran. He presented the idea to then-UD president Walter Hullihen, who enlisted the support of private donors, including Pierre S. du Pont, to finance it.

The program was hailed nationally for its success in promoting cross-cultural education, and soon other colleges began sending students to the University of Delaware to participate in the Junior Year Abroad, including Wellesley, the University of Pennsylvania, Brown, Smith, Princeton, Harvard and many others.

As we travel back to its beginning, we invite you to join us in celebrating a UD innovation that continues to make its mark on students’ lives, and the world.

1926-1927 Foreign Study Group

Innovation sets sail. Because few colleges were willing to set up a program like UD’s, the American Council on Education asked the University to expand its Junior Year Abroad to include as many students as possible from other institutions. The 1926-1927 group, shown here, included 43 students from 19 colleges.


The beginning

First Foreign Study Group

First FOREIGN STUDY GROUP, 1923-1924 First row, from left, Thomas R. Turner, Herbert Lank, Francis J. Cummings and William K. Mendenhall; second row, from left, John C. Snyder, David M. Dougherty, Prof. Raymond Kirkbride, John W. Walker and Austin P. Cooley. Although blind, Cummings won major honors in his studies. In 1929, France presented Kirkbride with its highest award, the Legion of Honor, for advancing Franco-American friendship through his innovation.

Before joining the University of Delaware faculty in 1919, Raymond Watson Kirkbride saw the carnage of World War I firsthand as an Army ambulance driver.

At the war’s end, Kirkbride, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., was one of 400 soldiers selected to attend the Army School Detachment at the University of Grenoble. Its program on French civilization, taught by faculty from the Sorbonne, impressed Kirkbride, who realized how important such courses could be in promoting peace. “We must get to know each other in order to understand each other,” he often said.

It was from such deeply personal experiences that a bold idea for educating university students about other nations sprang forth in Kirkbride’s mind. The University of Delaware would be the pioneer.

Kirkbride envisioned a program that would enable undergraduates to spend their junior year in a foreign university with full academic credit toward their degree. While abroad, the students would immerse themselves in foreign language and culture under the University’s supervision. The experience would expand the students’ world view and better prepare them for careers in consular affairs and international business.

The concept resonated with University president Walter Hullihen, who had studied overseas as part of his own academic training. The two began discussions on campus and with government and business leaders to seek support. A critical advocate, Pierre S. du Pont, offered to help back the program.

At commencement in 1922, the University announced the Board of Trustees’ approval of Kirkbride’s idea, initially known as the “Foreign Study Plan,” and then as the “Junior Year Abroad.” The first group would spend the1923-1924 school year in France.

Referred to as “an innovation in the educational world” in the Philadelphia Record in June 1922, Delaware’s Foreign Study Plan was viewed as much needed in the U.S., which had emerged as a global leader after the war in spite of isolationist tendencies.

Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, had endorsed the idea, voicing the nation’s need “for 5,000 young men with training which would fit them for positions with firms engaged in foreign commerce.”

James Farrell, president of United States Steel Corporation and chair of the National Foreign Trade Council, said UD’s plan was of vital importance to the nation’s business.


UD goes abroad

Inaugural Study Abroad Group

UD’s First class abroad. The inaugural group and their professor, Raymond Kirkbride, are shown in Nancy, France, at the historic Fountain of Amphitrite, the gateway to Place Stanislas, a large public square.

Eight young men-seven Delawareans and one Pennsylvanian-constituted the University of Delaware’s first foreign study group.

The Delaware contingent included Francis J. Cummings, David M. Dougherty, Thomas R. Turner and John W. Walker-all from Wilmington; Herbert Lank from Seaford; John C. Snyder from Georgetown; and William K. Mendenhall from Hockessin. The sole Pennsylvanian, Austin P. Cooley, from Sandy Lake, had been a former student of Kirkbride’s at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., and transferred to UD.

The group set sail July 7, 1923, from New York aboard the French Line’s Rochambeau for the 3,500-mile voyage to France, which the New York Times cited as “the beginning of a collegiate movement which its sponsors believe may result eventually in better international understanding.”

Before starting courses at the Sorbonne in Paris, the group traveled to the University of Nancy in northern France for six weeks of intensive language training. They were drilled three hours a day, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Each student also received an hour-long private lesson daily and was asked to converse only in French with the families with whom they boarded, as well as among themselves (a future group would institute a $4 fine for each infraction when English was spoken).

Along the way, the group toured museums, battlefields and other historic landmarks, played sports (Turner became a basketball star), and soaked up cultural and social events, from dinners and dances to theatre, concerts and opera.

Foreign Study Group at the Triumphal Arch

Nancy, France. The Foreign Study Group poses at the city’s magnificent Triumphal Arch in fall 1930.


Hometown heroes

One student in UD’s first group abroad, Francis “Frankie” Cummings, depended on an “excellent and well-trained memory,” according to the Paris Times.

Cummings, from Wilmington, Del., had lost his sight in a bout with spinal meningitis at the age of 12. After attending Overbrook School for the Blind and West Philadelphia High School, he excelled on the 15 entrance exams required to gain admission to UD, writing them with a portable typewriter.

At the awarding of the Sorbonne’s coveted diploma in French civilization (which both Cummings and Turner received), Cummings won honorable mention, ranking fourth out of 71 students on the final exams-a feat reported internationally

After finishing his bachelor’s degree at UD, Cummings won a scholarship in French at the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed master’s and doctoral degrees. When the University of Pennsylvania hired him as a foreign language professor in 1927, the Philadelphia Public Ledger noted that he was the first person who was blind to be appointed to the university faculty.

In 1942, Cummings was named executive director of the Delaware Commission for the Blind and traveled locally, as well as overseas, to help others.

And what of Cummings’ classmates? UD’s foreign study trip brought the dual rewards of marriage and an international career to Herbert Lank. He met his future wife in Paris, and his fluency in French landed him a job at DuPont, where he climbed the corporate ladder to become president of DuPont Canada.

David Dougherty won a scholarship to pursue graduate study at Harvard and later became a professor at the University of Oregon, where, inspired by Raymond Kirkbride, he established a foundation to promote world peace. It exists today as the Friendship Foundation for International Students.

By Tracey Bryant
Office of Communications & Marketing

A Delaware legacy

The success of the first Foreign Study Group catapulted UD to the forefront of international education. More than 900 students would participate in UD programs between 1923 and 1948, in France, then Germany and Switzerland. In 1934, the Germany program was curtailed in the face of rising Nazism.

In 1948, UD’s Foreign Study Plan was discontinued due to post-War conditions in Europe and a new University president who felt it was not a priority.

However, study abroad resumed in a big way in 1972, with “Winterim,” between fall and spring semesters, offering destinations from London to Rome. So many students signed up that Pan American Airlines painted “Delaware Clipper” on two of its airplanes.

Today, UD offers about 70 study abroad programs in 30 countries and ranks among the top doctoral universities in participation. In 2010-2011, 273,996 U.S. students studied abroad for academic credit. And to think it all began at UD.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to University of Delaware Archives for assistance with the article and photos.

UD program attracts students nationwide

Students participating in the 1927 - 1928 Junior Year Abroad display the pennants of their home institutions. UD President Walter Hullihen (fourth from left) was vital to the program’s development. He is flanked by business manager A. C. “Buzz” Wilkinson and Dorothy Dennis, assistant director at Wellesley

1931 Germany Foreign Study Group

STUDYING GERMAN. Shown is the 1931 Foreign Study Group that went to Germany, with their German instructors. The program in Germany would be discontinued in 1934 due to “unsettled conditions in Germany and Central Europe,” according to Walter Hullihen, then UD president.
Newspaper Clipping Faculty coordinators and students in UD’s Foreign Study Group had grown increasingly uncomfortable in a Germany under rising Nazism. Official correspondence from Germany’s university officials during this period included the closing line: “Heil Hitler!”

Intensive language training STUDY ABROAD. Students began their year abroad with several weeks of intensive language training before tackling courses in literature, geography and other fields.

PARIS BROADCAST. During their radio talk, students in UD’s Foreign Study Group jokingly said one of the most obvious gains from their trip to France was “an increase in weight” due to the French cooking. Then, more seriously, “Perhaps the best thing we have gained from our contact with French civilization is a better perspective on our own. After this year, we shall never believe that America is the only place in the world to live; and more important, we will go back prepared to evaluate properly the advantages our country has given us and which hiterhto we have taken too much for granted.”

Radio Clipping

article_img_placeholder “This foreign study plan which Professor Kirkbride originated not only enables students to learn the French language and literature but also enables them to understand the French soul. If a proper estimate is to be placed on any nation, we must above all know its soul.”

— Rene Weiller, French Consul
Feb. 18, 1929

Impacts of a lifetime

True love (sigh). The perfect career in international education. The fascination and satisfaction of exploring a totally new environment and culture. “Finding one’s self” while helping others. It’s no wonder that students and alumni of UD’s study abroad program describe the experience as “life changing.”

Study abroad sparks a career

She missed her plane because of a snowstorm. It could have been all downhill from there.

Little did Kathryn Plessing-Brunetto know that the study abroad program she was about to embark on would forever change her life and influence her career choices.

Brunetto caught a flight the next day, and along with it, the “international bug.” She went to London in 2001 for spring semester of her junior year. The experience taught her the importance of balancing time and freedom and exposed her to opportunities like attending the South African Freedom Festival to hear Nelson Mandela speak.

With a major in political science and a father who worked for the United Nations, Brunetto always thought big, and internationally. After coming back from her study abroad program, she signed up to become an office assistant in UD’s Study Abroad office, helping students to discover where they wanted to go and the rich cultural opportunities available to them. She also helped students with pre-departure orientation, sharing her own experiences.

“I loved working in the office helping students and sharing my experiences with interested students,” Brunetto says.

With her undergraduate degree from UD in hand, Brunetto enrolled in a master’s degree program in communications at Fairleigh Dickinson University and also became the institution’s assistant director for international student studies. Part of her job was welcoming international students, which reminded her of the woman in London who welcomed her as she began her study abroad program.

After earning her master’s degree, she became the associate director of international education at Ramapo College and traveled to Trinidad and Tobago, along with the Bahamas, to recruit students. She was able to immerse herself in the process from recruitment, to welcoming students to campus, to orientation.

Currently, as the director of the International Student Center at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J., Brunetto says she never has a dull day. Her efforts to expand the program have enhanced the diversity of the campus, where students representing over 100 countries are now furthering their education.

It all started with one study abroad experience to London and an internship at UD to help this Blue Hen discover her passion.

“My exposure to international education at UD really shaped my career,” says Brunetto. “Eleven years later, I’m still in the field, and I love it as much as I did when I started.”

— Elizabeth Adams


Like mother, like daughter

The longest continually running study abroad program at the University of Delaware has been going to Geneva, Switzerland, every year but one since 1972. Sponsored by the Lerner College of Business and Economics, the program has had hundreds of participants, but two, in particular, have more in common than most.

With her appetite for travel, a fervor for experiencing different cultures and an enthusiasm for UD, it’s no wonder that Kimberlee Orth passed that same passion down to her eldest daughter Katherine, a junior finance and marketing major.

The Geneva program that Kimberlee attended during the 1985 Winter Session was a combined economics, business and political science program. She remembers the cold trip sprinkled with adventures of European weekend getaways, visiting different companies such as Nestle and DuPont and various banks, and President Reagan visiting the United Nations while she was in Geneva.

Katherine grew up listening to the stories of her mother’s travels and of the German exchange student she continues to stay in touch with 30 years later. This past winter, Katherine walked down the same streets her mother told her about. Although the students on the program stayed in a newer hotel, owned by the same tenant, Katherine was still able to take a snapshot of the hotel of memories for her mother.

“My whole life she has been telling me about her different study abroad programs,” says Katherine.

Catching the travel bug

The Orths have passports packed with stamps from all the places they have visited individually and as a family. While at UD, Kimberlee participated in three study abroad programs-two were semester-long trips to Vienna because she loved it so much.

Daughter Katherine worked with her adviser to create a schedule to ensure that she could study abroad as much as possible. During her freshman year, she participated in the Granada program over Winter Session. Sophomore year, she was off to Hawaii for another Winter session program. As a current junior, she traveled to London for the fall semester, was home for two weeks and then flew off to Geneva.

These experiences have not only helped Katherine to expand her education, but grow as an independent, responsible individual strongly supported by her equally adventurous mother.

Kimberlee, a 1985 graduate in business administration with a concentration in marketing, currently works at Ameriprise Financial as a certified financial planner.

“It’s something that is part of our values,” Kimberlee says. “We enjoy traveling. We like to meet new people, have new experiences; it’s part of who we are.”

Both Orths agree that study abroad experiences enrich a person throughout their lives.

“There is not one single week, literally, of my entire life that I do not talk about this, reference it, mention it, think about it, whatever,” Kimberlee says.

This summer, she looks forward to a pilgrimage to Spain, where she will travel, without technology, for 33 days.

“I can’t imagine that I would even consider something like that if I had not been exposed to so many opportunities while I was at the University of Delaware,” Kimberlee says.

Katherine is looking into more study abroad programs for senior year. Her younger brother is hoping to come to UD in the fall, and the siblings may take a trip together.

Both Kimberlee and Katherine highly encourage any student to take advantage of study abroad opportunities

“Everybody should do this. It’s a wonderful opportunity,” Kimberlee says. “Studying abroad makes you a citizen of the world. It makes you very comfortable with travel and introduces you to new people, new foods, new languages.”

— Elizabeth Adams


World experience helps
Whitney find her way

Whitney Smith

Whitney Smith worked with children with AIDS at the Mohau orphanage in South Africa as part of her study abroad program.

Sometimes losing yourself in an experience can actually help you find out what you are meant to do.

The University of Delaware has so many academic, research and public service opportunities to become involved in, and just as many options for career paths. These vast resources are helpful and extremely beneficial, but if a student is not quite sure what he or she wants to do, or what major to focus on, the possibilities can become overwhelming.

Whitney Smith found herself in that predicament.

In 2006, during winter session of her sophomore year, Smith traveled to South Africa on a family studies program that helped the nutrition major realize what her passion truly was.

“Studying abroad opened my eyes to things bigger than myself on a large scale,” says Smith.

Along with her love of travel, Smith found herself drawn to the service learning aspect that the South Africa study abroad program offered. She spent time in the Mohau orphanage in Atteridgeville, South Africa, working with children infected and affected by AIDS.

“It was just one of those once in a lifetime kind of experiences. Once I got there, it was more than I could have ever imagined, and it had a huge impact on my life,” says Smith.

The public health issue Smith was exposed to altered her interests from focusing on just nutrition to considering the public health field.

“I think my nutrition major gave me a great basis, but going to South Africa and having the public health initiative around me sparked a real interest for public behavioral health and behavioral sciences,” says Smith.

For her senior year, Smith went on another study abroad program to Hawaii for nutrition and dietetics. After graduating from UD with a major in nutrition, she continued on at West Chester University to get her master’s degree in public health.

Currently, she is working at a corporate wellness company called Live Healthier. Its mission is to promote health and wellness in companies across the country, along with the United Kingdom and Australia.

Ultimately, Smith’s experience in South Africa not only shaped her educational future and career, but also as a person. She hopes to work for a government agency impacting Americans’ health on a large scale.

“If I could help drive some positive changes in the overall U.S. population that would be tremendous,” Smith says.

— Elizabeth Adams


Science adventure beckons

Student holding sea star

Students gain firsthand knowledge of sea stars, blue penguins and other ocean life on the New Zealand marine program.

Until the 13th century, when humans began inhabiting it, New Zealand was populated only by diverse plants and wildlife. The country’s remote islands, situated 900 miles east of Australia, are home to a wide range of marine habitats-making the locale an ideal outdoor classroom.

“It is a place of more variety of habitats than you could find on the whole U.S. East Coast,” says Douglas Miller, associate professor of oceanography in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

Miller and his colleagues began offering Winter Session courses in New Zealand in 2005, teaching biology and environmental classes that emphasize fieldwork in one of the premier UD study abroad programs with a scientific focus. This past January, Patrick Gaffney, professor of marine biosciences, co-directed the month-long program.

Once students arrive in New Zealand, they spend a whirlwind month exploring beaches, marshes, kelp beds, mangrove forests, rocky intertidal communities and the open ocean. They travel together by bus and boat, rarely stopping in one spot for more than a few days.

The group spends hours trekking through ocean environments during hands-on courses about field biology and marine invertebrate biodiversity, and for most students, it’s their first field experience.

On many days, they do quantitative sampling, counting the organisms found within specific areas and collecting data on surrounding conditions, like water salinity and sediment characteristics. The students come away with firsthand knowledge of sea stars, purple shore crabs, sea grapes, hammerhead sharks and blue penguins.

An ‘amazing’ classroom

“These were hands-down the best classes I’ve taken at the University so far,” says sophomore John Lodise, who participated this past January. “They were absolutely amazing.”

The habitats studied are found elsewhere in the world, but many species are unique to New Zealand. Senior Emily Liebert recalls a nighttime kayak trip when she paddled past countless luminescent glowworms casting dots of light.

“They looked like a constellation of stars all over this rock wall,” she says about the endemic species. “It’s such a one-of-a-kind experience.”

Other excursions include a hike around the center of an offshore active volcano and a separate 10-mile walk up 2,500 feet to gain a better view and understanding of how geologic forces have shaped the islands. During a whale-watching trip aboard catamarans, students spotted sperm whales resting on the ocean surface and a pod of 100 dolphins jumping through the water.

While New Zealand has seemingly pristine settings, Miller is quick to point out that it is not untouched. Part of the coursework involves discussing interactions between people and the environment.

Students spend a night at a Māori village to learn more about Polynesian people’s culture and historical impact on New Zealand’s ecosystem. Until the Māori arrived, there were no mammals except for bats in the country, for example, and large flightless birds called moas nested on the ground with no predators-then rats were introduced and decimated their eggs. Europeans introduced another whole group of non-native species, like cows, sheep, deer, opossums and rabbits.

During a field trip exploring rocks on the intertidal shoreline, the instructors talked about the effects of marine debris and plastic on wildlife, illustrated with trash collected from that very site. Afterwards, the class participated in an impromptu beach cleanup.

“We do the science instruction, but there’s a cultural aspect,” Miller says. “We do actually think about our impact.”

— Teresa Messmore


Opening a new
window to the world

Professor Richard Zipser

Professor Richard Zipser established numerous study abroad programs at UD.

He had taken courses in Western philosophy. German literature. Art history and music appreciation. But it was only after sailing to Europe on the Holland-America line’s Statendam and setting foot on German soil that Richard Zipser formed what he calls “the cohesive whole.”

“It was like turning a kaleidoscope,” he says of his study abroad trip in the early 1960s. “Steeped in the German culture, I found these courses and books were pieces of a country that were finally coming together in a meaningful, cohesive way.”

The experience changed his life. And his outlook.

When Zipser arrived at the University of Delaware as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in 1986, he wanted to give his students-indeed, students across the University-that same eye-opening, international experience.

And so he did.

Two years later, he launched four foreign language-based study abroad programs over Winter Session: Granada, Spain; San Jose, Costa Rica; Bayreuth, Germany; and Caen, France.

Professors began recruiting students in their lower-level language classes, and there was “lots of bottled-up interest,” Zipser recalls. “Students came in big numbers.”

His goal was to target students early in the foreign language learning process- “to propel them forward” in their language acquisition, but also, “to promote a truly cosmopolitan approach to exploring the world.”

The concept worked. Interest grew. More students traveled abroad on FLLT-sponsored programs, and more enrolled in language minors and majors.

“There’s something about studying in Paris, for instance-navigating the city in French, learning art history by visiting the Louvre-that adds another dimension to your education and opens up a new window on the world,” Zipser says.

Zipser, who will retire this fall after a 27-year career at the University, has overseen over 40 such “transformational” programs over the years.

Foreign Languages and Literatures remains the largest sponsor of study abroad, and at its height in the early 2000s, the department had more than 30 programs for some 600 students.

The numbers have since tapered to 23 programs for roughly 400 students, but Zipser sees no signs of slowing down, especially in Spain and Latin America, where students can practice and perfect a highly demanded language.

“Across majors, we have students saying, ‘If I want to be successful as a nurse practitioner, or a teacher, or a journalist, or in business, I’d better know how to speak Spanish’,” he says. “But even beyond Spanish, students today have a much higher awareness than ever before of the need to be global citizens.”

— Artika Casini


Love at first flight

Annie Beare and Greg DeMesquita

It was fate.

There were four spots left for the spring 2007 study abroad program in Granada, Spain, and about 10 students were in the running. Annie Beare had just transferred and was attracted to UD’s study abroad program; Greg DeMesquita wanted to study in Spain. Both had to plead their case and persuade the coordinators to allow them to make the final cut, and as luck would have it, both were accepted.

There was an attraction from the beginning. Even though they did not remember each other from the interest meetings, when they saw each other at the JFK International Airport, there was a sense of familiarity, and they clicked.

It started as a friendship within a large group of friends that hit it off and eventually became more, thanks to one night on a stoop. The stoop was outside Annie’s host mother’s house. It was where they would sit to talk after walking home at night. A few weeks into the trip after a typical walk home, there was a kiss. Little did they know what that kiss would eventually lead to, and how that stoop would come back into their lives.

The two dated during their senior year and continued the relationship despite the distance between Delaware and New Jersey after they graduated. Five years after first studying abroad, they took a trip back to Spain to visit Greg’s host mother. In Annie’s mind, the trip was just a vacation, but to Greg he had been planning a surprise for a while and knew only one place that would make it perfect-the stoop.

After a fancy dinner and a night tour of the Alhambra, Greg was ready. That sentimental stoop was intertwined with memories of sitting, talking, reminiscing, and now another life moment. Greg, who had been carrying a ring in his pocket the entire night, not even wanting to bend over to give it away, swiveled around, got on one knee and proposed.

Annie didn’t see it coming and responded, “Is that thing real?”

Their wedding in October 2012 incorporated Spanish influences including a Spanish guitar duo that played during their ceremony and cocktail hour, sangria, and tables named after the places Annie and Greg had traveled to together over the years they dated. The Granada table was reserved especially for their friends from their study abroad program, including two bridesmaids and the maid of honor.

They both laughed thinking about how professors would promote study abroad in class and even mention that some people got married after studying abroad together. Little did they know.

— Elizabeth Adams

Annie Beare and Greg DeMesquita

Annie Beare and Greg DeMesquita met on a UD study abroad program in Spain. The couple married in October 2012.