The cruise line Royal Caribbean plans to join with a former university educator based in Baltimore and a school in Australia to offer a semester aboard a ship that aims to prepare students for an increasingly global work environment.
Joseph Olander is president of the educational collaboration that will operate a vessel to be called The Scholar Ship. He has opened an office in Tide Point and signed a deal with the cruise line that will dedicate one of its vessels and about $10 million to launch the program next year.
The Scholar Ship program will capitalize on the growing popularity of studying abroad. It will compete with other university programs that send students around the world and with other ship-based programs, most notably Semester at Sea.
For more than four decades, Semester at Sea has taken American college students for classes on the ocean. The University of Virginia recently agreed to be the home school for that program after the University of Pittsburgh questioned its safety because of a couple of rough trips at sea, although no one was reported hurt.
Olander, who has headed small U.S. colleges, including Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and some Chinese institutions, said a big difference in Scholar Ship would be the students.
The plan is to pull the students, and staff and faculty, from around the world. The ship is likely to sail from Greece and won't call at Baltimore.
"For students interested in going one place and learning one culture, this is not the program for them," Olander said. "Our vision is a genuinely multicultural learning community."
The cost for a semester will be $19,950 for tuition, living expenses and voyage costs.
Course work will focus on several subject areas, such as international business, and the program will accept undergraduate and graduate students. Over 16 weeks, Olander said the ship will call at seven or eight ports where students will meet with government and industry leaders.
Scholar Ship has not lined up faculty or begun accepting applications. And Royal Caribbean said it has not yet identified a crew or a ship to be retrofitted as a floating classroom and dormitory.
But Scholar Ship officials said they have lined up several universities - none in the United States - to contribute faculty. Students will enroll in Macquarie University near Sydney, Australia, which has a large study-abroad program. The students' home schools will receive a transcript and can award credits based on their own criteria.
Royal Caribbean put Ronald Zighelboim in charge of the business side of Scholar Ship. He said he believes the cruise line's international reach and reputation will help promote the program.
"It's not a stretch for [Royal Caribbean] to recognize the value in becoming involved with this," he said. "We took this on because there was a need for this type of initiative."
Study abroad has become a growing focus of higher education. Goucher College recently became one of the few U.S. schools to make studying abroad a requirement for graduation. Until now, it had more than 30 voluntary programs.
Historically, it has largely been a requirement of certain departments at universities, said Mary Lynn Allen, associate director of international studies. She said the programs have gained momentum in the past several years.
"You really can't function in today's society without strong intercultural skills," she said. "We think this is important."