Even with the University’s emphasis on global and interdisciplinary studies, males at Duke are underrepresented in international academic and civic programs as compared to their female counterparts.
Males accounted for 33.5 percent of Duke students studying abroad in the 2010-2011 academic year. Of the 773 students studying abroad, 259 were men—a number that has consistently decreased since the 2006-2007 academic year, according to data form the Global Education Office for Undergraduates. Duke’s statistics reflect a notable national pattern. During the 2009-2010 academic year, women made up two-thirds of the 270,600 American students studying abroad.
“This discrepancy between men and women studying abroad has been a long-standing tradition,” Margaret Riley, director of the Global Education Office for Undergraduates, wrote in an email Monday. “It dates back to the days when the junior year abroad was considered a rite of passage for young women. Also, it often involves foreign language study, and women traditionally have been more strongly represented in foreign language study.”
At Duke, however, male students outnumber females in the Australia study abroad program, which does not have a foreign language component. This supports Riley’s theory that the fewer men abroad in certain areas reflects the lack of men in foreign language studies.
Junior Ethan Rosenblum studied abroad in Sydney in the Fall. His internship and three classes counted towards his public policy studies major and markets and management certificate, he said. Although Riley noted that more Duke men than women study abroad in Australia, Rosenblum still noticed gender disparities.
“There were more girls than guys [overall], and the difference was definitely noticeable in students from Duke and from other schools,” he said.
Junior Teddy Okechukwu, a public policy studies major and economics minor, participated in the Duke in Madrid program in the Fall. He said male students in his program were outnumbered by about 40 to 20.
“We didn’t really know how to explain it,” Okechukwu said. “In talking to a lot of my [male] friends who didn’t go abroad, their main reason was that they would not be able to fulfill their requirements for graduation, and a larger percentage of girls do more research on their classes and plan for studying abroad.”
Junior Josh Rosenblat also participated in Duke in Madrid this Fall. It was his second time studying abroad in Spain after previously participating in the Duke in Spain program Summer 2010. He chose Madrid because the Duke program allows him to receive credits towards his double major in psychology and Spanish studies.
“I noticed the discrepancy in guys and girls both times I was there,” Rosenblat said. “At Duke, I think this discrepancy exists because of the number of engineers at this school and because there are more [male] engineers while more women are in Trinity [College of Arts and Sciences] than men.”
Lee Baker, dean of academic affairs for Trinity College and associate vice provost for undergraduate education, declined to provide the gender breakdown within Trinity College. Of the full-time student body at the Pratt School of Engineering, 71.4 percent of students are male and 28.6 percent are female, according to the U.S. News and World Report 2012 list of top engineering schools.
The under representation of men in study abroad also corresponds to DukeEngage programs. In 2011, 59 percent of student participants were female and 31 percent were male. Peer institutions with civic engagement programs resembling DukeEngage reported similar numbers, with women comprising two-thirds of participants, DukeEngage Executive Director Eric Mlyn said. He attributes the discrepancy in DukeEngage specifically to male attitudes towards charity work.
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“There is a sense out there that civic engagement work may not be the kind of career preparation that men think they need to undertake to get the kind of careers that they want,” Mlyn said. “But I think that the keen, cross-cultural experience we’re giving to students is in fact just what potential employers want—whether that’s Peace Corps or J.P. Morgan—and we need to do a better job of getting that message out there.”
The numbers for male participation in DukeEngage decrease further when examining male Duke students who are involved in Greek life. They account for 14 percent of the student body but only 8 percent of DukeEngage students, Mlyn said.
“The philanthropic aspect of Duke fraternities is severely minimal,” said Rosenblat, who is also a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. “They don’t care that much about helping the world. They care more about looking good on paper, so they spend their summers getting internships—charity is not a priority for men at Duke.”
Universities nationwide are trying to attract men to their study abroad programs by offering more options for a variety of majors. The field of international education consistently works on trying to encourage under-represented groups to study abroad, both males and those involved with specific disciplines like the sciences and engineering, Riley said.
“My goal is for our participation to track the demographic on campus,” Mlyn said.