Arcadia University has long been known for its global education program, which results in more than 80 percent of its students studying abroad at some point - one of the highest percentages of any school in the country.
Now, that distinction has been extended. The university's 34-member board of trustees voted at their meeting this month to study abroad, too, at some point over the next three years.
They will participate in one of the university's seven- to nine-day "preview" courses for freshmen and entering transfer students.
The first group leaves this weekend for one of three destinations: Cuba, Mexico, and Ireland. The seven trustees have taken preparation classes with students at the Glenside campus since the semester started and studied the course materials.
Abroad, they will continue to study with and stay where the students stay, and that's not in four-star hotels, said Arcadia president Carl "Tobey" Oxholm III. They will be living among the locals and absorbing the culture, not following the tour-book recommendations.
"There's going to be dirt and wind. It's not going to be the prettiest thing," he said.
Trustees chair Margaret Wright Steele, a 1980 graduate, said trustees would critique the programs.
"This is not a frivolous thing," said Steele, 63, the retired president of Perez-Steele Galleries Inc. "We're really quite serious about it. This is our reputation, and we want to make clear that we take pride in it all the way around."
Steele, of Ambler, will go to Havana for the course "Myths and Realities," exploring U.S.-Cuban relations.
Trustees will pay for their own travel and expenses. Steele estimates that the trip will cost her about $3,000.
For years, trustees who are on the university's international programs committee have gone abroad to see Arcadia programs. They thought their colleagues should have the same experience.
"They said, if we really are going to be known as a global university and mean it, everyone ought to do it," Oxholm said. "I was really proud that they decided to make it an expectation for all of them."
All trustees elected to a four-year term will have to complete the abroad experience within their first three years.
"We want to be able to report back to our fellow trustees about what's going on," said John E. Riggan, executive chairman of Innovare Advisors, an investment fund.
Riggan, 71, of Mount Airy, will be going to Puebla, Mexico, for a service learning course on the Toltec and Aztec ruins and culture. He's an old hand at international travel, having spent time in the Peace Corps and having worked in internationally focused businesses.
More than 360 freshmen and third-year transfer students will be traveling to 17 locations for this year's preview courses. Among them are 18 students whom trustees agreed to fund with scholarships so that they could afford to participate.
The university requires students to immerse themselves in another culture at some point during their undergraduate experience. Most do so by going abroad.
Trustee Clair M. Raubenstine, a retired accountant who formerly served as executive vice president of PHH Corp., joined the board of trustees because of its global commitment.
"It's really important for students in today's global environment to experience travel outside of the United States," said Raubenstine, 70, of Huntingdon Valley.
He and his wife will go to Ireland for the course "Two Irelands, One Island," which looks at the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. To prepare, they've gone to Friday classes with students since the semester started.
Other trustees who will be traveling next week include:
Joycellen Young Auritt, '71, a psychologist, to Mexico.
Patricia DeBow, '02, a strategy consultant at Accenture, to Cuba.
Hugh G. Moulton, retired executive vice president of Unisource Worldwide Inc., to Cuba.
Babette Senker Krug, '68, a retired teacher, to Cuba.