London Centre partners with FIE

Caitie Williamson

The London Centre is a unique Lawrence program that allows students access to one of the most culturally influential cities in the world. The program, which is essentially a transplant of Lawrence in England, offers a chance for both faculty and students to live in London for a term. The London Centre was established in 1970, and since its foundation, it has been one of the most popular study abroad experiences for Lawrence students.
However, there are some large changes that will be coming to the London Centre beginning next year. After undergoing re-evaluation, a committee composed of Associate Dean of the Faculty Nancy Wall, Off-Campus Programs Director Laura Zuege, London Centre Director Christine Harris and several faculty who have taught at the London Centre, has decided that it would be beneficial for the London Centre to have a partnership with the Foundation for International Education, or FIE, an off-campus educational services provider.
Since it was created, the London Centre has been run directly through Lawrence University, rather than through any educational service providers. Though the self-run program has worked well in the past, the committee believes that the London Centre would benefit from a partnership for multiple reasons.
“We were really hesitant about selling out, but everyone [at FIE] is so cooperative and happy to be working there,” Zuege said. “FIE is not a liberal arts program provider, but they have a liberal arts mindset, and with their flexibility it is a good match for Lawrence.” Wall, Harris and Zuege have met with individuals from FIE and toured the FIE facilities to ensure that this partnership will be a right fit for the London Centre program.
“[We were trying to] find different ways to develop the program academically, socially and financially and to find ways to enhance student experiences,” Zuege said. “It’s a very different study abroad landscape [than when the program was created].”
The London Centre, with its affiliation with FIE, will remain a closed program – therefore, Lawrence students attending the London Centre will have classes with each other and not with other students. Additionally, the courses will be taught only by Lawrence faculty. Michael Orr, professor of art history, has taught at the London Centre twice, in addition to being a director of the center. He emphasized the uniqueness of the program in that it allows students to experience first-hand the cultural works of London.
“Each class [I taught in London] might have had one class in a classroom setting, but everything else was done on site, which was wonderful and challenging,” Orr said.
One aspect that will change with the partnership is the housing. FIE is housed in a group of buildings only 10 minutes from the London Centre’s current location at 7 Brechin Place, where it has been for 13 years. The housing is in the same neighborhood as the current location. Students will live in the same residence hall, which offers mostly double rooms. Rather than having little kitchenettes in each room like the current London Centre offers, there will be full kitchens to be shared among students.
Currently the London Centre’s maximum capacity of students is limited by the number of beds, but with FIE, there will not be a limit to how many or how few students can come. One of the goals of the committee was for the London Centre to remain a unique, small program.
One of the other benefits of partnering with FIE is that Lawrence students will be able to meet other American students. Although classes will remain with only Lawrence students, the London Centre will allow students to have interactions with other Americans.
One large benefit of the partnership with FIE is that students will be provided monthly travel cards, and will no longer have to pay for the underground and buses within the city – the cost of the London Centre will be approximately $100 less than the cost now as a result.
“I think one major benefit to the partnership next year is the free transportation, and [another is] that Lawrence kids will get to interact with other students,” said sophomore Jami Lin, who is currently studying at the London Centre. “But I think it will lose some of the family-like qualities the Centre has now.”
In addition, FIE has a large network of internships, which will allow more students to choose from a larger selection of internships. Currently, the London Centre offers eight internships per year. FIE has an entire department that does placements for internships, which will be very beneficial to the internship aspect of the London Centre, since there will be potential to offer around 20 internships per year.
The committee hopes that the reorganization of the London Centre and new partnership with FIE will harbor new benefits, without losing the charm of the small program held currently.
“For students, [the partnership] will be good because they will still get the small class sizes, but also have the advantage of safeness, a nurturing environment in conjunction with the independence of having our own program,” Zuege said.