Our History

International and intercultural study has been a part of St. Lawrence University’s institutional DNA for over 100 years. From our campus’s home in the North Country of New York, St. Lawrence University students look outwards to study and understand the world within and beyond the borders of the United States.

Celebrating St. Lawrence's 50 Year Connection with Austria

Beginning with the International Relations Club established in the 1920s and hosting the nation’s first Model UN in 1949, St. Lawrence University has continuously integrated international components into curricular and co-curricular programs. In the 1960s, St. Lawrence University established semester-length study abroad programs in France, Austria, and Spain. Since then, St. Lawrence has expanded these opportunities through the Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies, including signature programs in Kenya, London, New York City, and Bordeaux.

SLU Students in Kenya, circa 1972

Established in 1974, the Kenya Semester Program is one of the longest-running U.S. study abroad programs on the African continent. Over 2,200 students have participated in this program from more than 40 colleges and universities. St. Lawrence University owns a five-acre campus and employs 15 full-time Kenyan employees in Nairobi. Since the early 1980s, St. Lawrence has offered annual scholarships to Kenyan students, including four alumni who were later elected to the Kenyan National Assembly. Beginning in 1992, St. Lawrence has offered a two-year visiting Swahili language instructor position for Kenyan scholars currently working toward their Ph.D.

St. Lawrence Students in China

Bolstered by the support of generous alumni, the Center for International and Intercultural Studies has been able to offer robust financial support to St. Lawrence students and faculty through research grants, travel enrichment grants, and additional financial aid for off-campus study. Alumni support has also directly contributed to the expansion of opportunities for St. Lawrence University students to study, conduct research, and intern in China as well as fund travel to China with faculty members. With the generous support from the Freeman Foundation, eight St. Lawrence students participate in eight-week internships in China every year.

St. Lawrence University currently operates or partners with semester-length programs in over 20 countries, and more than 60% of St. Lawrence University students study off-campus for one semester or more.

St. Lawrence Students and Faculty in Nepal, 2019

In addition to the opportunities to study off-campus for a semester or more, students can participate in summer courses taught by St. Lawrence faculty around the world, partner with faculty to conduct research within/outside of the United States, or enroll in coursework on-campus that includes off-campus learning components. Including these opportunities, over 75% of St. Lawrence students study off-campus in some form during their academic careers.

The Center for International and Intercultural Studies benefits from the strong support of faculty on-campus, and many St. Lawrence faculty members have served as directors on-site for St. Lawrence’s signature programs, led summer courses around the United States and the world, and/or have integrated off-campus components into their coursework.

The Center for International and Intercultural Studies also supports campus-wide initiatives for intercultural learning, including International Education Week, World Languages Week, and the CIIS World Topic Series. Students participating in off-campus study can apply to live in the Intercultural Living/Learning Community on-campus, which connects them with other students, prepares them for their experiences, and promotes reflection upon their return.

In 2018, St. Lawrence University was awarded the Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization, and continues to be consistently ranked among the top twenty institutions nationwide for semester-length off-campus study. 

Senator Paul Simon Award Logo