UMW Halts Plans to Purchase Villa
BY SARAH SMITH
Two weeks ago, UMW terminated negotiations to purchase Cicolina, an Italian villa, to facilitate a study abroad program.
According to Vice President for Administration and Finance Rick Hurley, the school would not have subsidized the program and the costs would have passed to participating students.
“We typically only attract one to five students per year to our most expensive study abroad program now,” Hurley said.
“We just felt that it was too risky for us to move forward because if we did not attract this many students, we would have to subsidize the program and that was something we were not willing to do.”
The price per semester would have been $17,000 per student. This figure goes over the current most expensive study abroad program at UMW, which charges $15,500 to study in London, England.
To meet the annual operating cost of the villa 75 students per year would have to take part in the program, a number that the school would not be guaranteed to meet.
John Eskeland, a senior who participated in an exchange program to Prague described his own experience overseas.
“I would say it was a positive experience, a great experience, but I might have been better off going through the host university. I got similar treatment and housing, but it was more money,” he said.
Eskeland hypothesized, “[The villa] would have been a good asset for the school.”
Whether students participate in study abroad through host universities or through other programs, one of the top concerns is whether their academic credits will transfer back to UMW. Since the villa would have been owned and operated by the University, it would have enabled students to easily transfer their course credits between Italy and Mary Washington.
English, Linguistics and Communication Department Chair Teresa Kennedy initiated the project in 2006 and administrators investigated options during the following semesters. The administration explored 47 different locations in Italy, settling last January on the villa two hours outside Rome in Tuscany.
The villa would have been purchased in December 2008, renovated during the spring semester and opened for use in fall 2009.
The administration currently has no further plans to purchase overseas property. “There are probably other facilities in Italy and other countries but we are not going to pursue that option right now,” Hurley said.
Rather than expand overseas, UMW is working to develop local facilities. “One major reason is because the attention and time the Park N Shop project is taking,” Hurley said.
In addition to focusing more on the Park N Shop, Hurley stated that President Judy Hample intends to initiate a strategic planning process to identify how the university can best allocate its resources. Whether the results of this process will lead to reinitiating a search for the purchase of overseas facilities has yet to be determined.