When Webster University Professor Allan MacNeil heard about Webster opening a new study abroad location in Greece, a thought came to his mind.
‘I hope they know what they are doing’, MacNeil thought.
MacNeil is worried investing in the new campus in the economically troubled Greece could put Webster under financially. MacNeil is a professor of history, politics and international relations with a special interest in political economy.
MacNeil said he thought the same thing when Webster opened its Thailand campus in 1999. He had a student from Thailand in his class at that time and asked him if any native people looking for a college education would attend the new university. The student said it was a bad idea, because students from Thailand want to leave their country for larger cities, not the small town of Hua Hin.
MacNeil said he hopes the newest campuses, Athens and Ghana, won’t be as under-planned as the Thailand campus.
MacNeil said the economy of Greece has been in decline for a while, and it will take them many years to recover.
Webster University Provost Julian Schuster said investing in the Greece campus was like investing in stock; buy low, sell high. But Schuster said the university did not buy the campus or the Odyssey program, Webster inherited both from the University of Indianapolis.
The University of Indianapolis wanted to phase out their involvement with the Odyssey program and Webster was chosen because of their reputation for being a global university, Guillermo Rodriguez, director of study abroad and international projects, said.
Schuster said the campus is a great opportunity for students to study in the birthplace of European civilization.
“We would not go into (Greece) if we did not see value in it,” Schuster said.
Dan Hellinger, a Webster professor of international relations, world politics and history, said he is not worried about the university going into Greece because economic instability is something Webster will have to deal with being in other countries. But he is worried about Webster’s expansion commitments. He said that Schuster has assured him that, with Webster’s Ghana campus and perhaps the Costa Rica campus Webster is thinking about establishing, if things go wrong Webster will be able to walk away relatively unscathed.
“Given Webster’s financial conditions, (Schuster) needs to be right,” Hellinger said.
Schuster said Webster has no long-term commitment to the new campus.
The Greece campus is for study abroad students, and Schuster said he does not expect many residents from Greece to attend. But if they do, Webster will look into making full degree programs available for students.