History and Mission
SIT Graduate Institute equips students with theoretical knowledge, field experience, and professional skills. Programs are based on an experiential learning model and a commitment to social justice and intercultural communication.
SIT prepares students to be interculturally effective leaders, professionals, and citizens. In so doing, SIT fosters a worldwide network of individuals and organizations committed to responsible global citizenship. SIT fulfills this mission with field-based academic study abroad programs for undergraduates and accredited master’s degrees and certificate programs for graduates and professionals.
The organization that would lead to the founding of SIT, and to the establishment of World Learning, was originally founded in 1932, as The Experiment in International Living. The organization was inspired by Dr. Donald Watt, a former personnel director at Syracuse University who had a simple idea — to improve understanding across cultures and nations by sending US students abroad to expand their worldviews.
Watt believed that instead of seeing themselves and their foreign peers as belonging to separate “categories,” these young Americans could “walk across differences,” build friendships, and lead the way to mutual understanding and respect between cultures and countries.
The first Experiment in International Living group departed New York City in June 1932 on a ship bound for Germany. The 23 students on board became trailblazers for the thousands who have followed in their footsteps. These students returned home with a transformed outlook on the world and new lifelong leadership and communication skills to empathize and collaborate with others.
The Experiment in International Living became the first program to offer homestays, in which American students were paired with host families, allowing them unique and authentic insight into the real lives of the people and communities that they would call home for the duration of their "Experiments".
Founding of SIT
In the early 1960s, Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and an alumnus of The Experiment in International Living, called on The Experiment to conduct orientation and training for the earliest Peace Corps Volunteers. These orientation and training activities gradually led to the establishment of an academic institution, the School for International Training (SIT), in 1964. SIT was founded by The Experiment's first president, Gordon Boyce, and executive vice president, John Wallace.
In 1971, the School for International Training awarded its first master’s degree for the Program in Intercultural Management (PIM), which still comprises a large part of SIT Graduate Institute today. Meanwhile, other language training programs for students from Africa and Latin America led to the founding of a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program.
Today John Wallace’s vision lives on at SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, VT, and Washington, DC, and in more than 30 countries worldwide with SIT Study Abroad. SIT Graduate Institute continues to offer MA and certificate programs in TESOL, as well as sustainable development, international education, and peacebuilding and conflict transformation, while SIT Study Abroad offers undergraduates field-based, experiential education programs that focus on critical global issues related to peace and conflict, human rights, development, global health, multiculturalism, the environment, and the arts.
SIT and World Learning
SIT Graduate Institute is a program of World Learning, a private, nonprofit international organization that empowers people and strengthens institutions through education, exchange, and sustainable development programs.
In addition to SIT Graduate Institute, World Learning operates the following programs:
- SIT Study Abroad provides field-based semester and summer programs for undergraduate students in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as comparative programs in multiple locations. Employing an educational approach developed over 80 years, SIT encourages students to step beyond the boundaries of a traditional classroom to analyze the critical issues shaping local communities around the globe.
- The Experiment in International Living offers three- to five-week summer programs for high school students who want to connect deeply and engage meaningfully with the richness and complexities of another country. Students are challenged to explore the host country through hands-on experiences in local communities and through the lens of a specific theme.
- World Learning International Development Programs
World Learning’s International Development Programs prepare communities to address critical issues, such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, marginalization, the global education crisis, and the need for government accountability.
- World Learning International Exchange Programs
World Learning’s International Exchanges bring emerging leaders from 140 countries annually to the US for academic, professional, and cultural exchanges.