Faced with the task of increasing University study abroad participation by 33 percent in six years, the new Interim Director of the Global Education Office, Paul Edmunds, has his work cut out for him.

GEO aims to triple the number of students leaving for study abroad programs and increase the number of international students coming to the University, Edmunds said. He said the department will focus on undergraduates.

President Robert Frank has required each University department to produce a strategic plan that highlights where it will be by 2020, he said.

Danielle Gillian, the administrative officer of GEO, said her job was created in part to handle this new growth. She said the GEO has assumed new responsibilities, which include hiring people who focus on finance, recruiting its own IT staff and acquiring individuals who focus on marketing, Gillian said.

GEO intends to meet and exceed Frank’s UNM 2020 goal of increasing international programming by 20 percent by 2015, she said. The GEO is on track and moving in the right direction, she said.

According to the GEO’s website, the international population at UNM has grown 5.73 percent since last year, and had grown by 3.63 percent the year before that. Eighty-nine countries are represented at the University.

Greater recognition and participation in study abroad programs are also 2020 goals for the University at large, Frank said in a statement. International student presence promotes growth at UNM, he said.

“We all benefit from either studying abroad or having international students studying here with us. It enhances our already rich diversity of people, ideas and programs,” he said.

Edmunds said a challenge he experienced as interim director is increasing awareness of the Global Education Office. He said the University has a rich story to tell and once this message gets out an influx of foreign students is bound to follow.

“We need to find a way to tell our story. We need to really find a way to put New Mexico on the map, just to begin with, and particularly the University of New Mexico,” said Edmunds.

During his undergraduate time at the University of Minnesota, Edmunds studied abroad in Venezuela for a semester, he said. The experience partly inspired him to better the University’s study abroad programs.

“It was an absolutely fantastic experience and it really just changed my entire perspective on life and the world,” said Edmunds. “It’s a transformative experience that really affects almost everyone who goes on study abroad. So I really do endorse those programs.”

One of the great aspects of study abroad is it brings an international presence to all students, even those who are not planning on participating in the program, Edmunds said.

“When we’re bringing in students from around the world to be on our campus, it internationalizes the campus,” Edmunds said, “And, even for the student who might not have the possibility, for whatever reason, to do a study abroad, they can be in contact with international people on campus without leaving home.”