New Scholarship Encourages Language Immersion

Metcalf gift to support international studies majors studying abroad

Michael Metcalf, former director of the Croft Institute for International Studies, has made a $200,000 gift to support study abroad experiences for Ole Miss students majoring in international studies. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Michael Metcalf devoted much of his three-decade career to promoting foreign language and culture studies. Now, he is ensuring that University of Mississippi students have opportunities to achieve high levels of language proficiency by studying abroad. 

The former executive director of the university’s Croft Institute for International Studies has contributed $200,000 to establish the Professor Emeritus Michael F. Metcalf Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment. It will provide scholarships to rising junior and senior international studies majors, enabling those with financial need to immerse themselves for a semester or academic year in the language they are studying. 

“I was motivated to designate this gift for study abroad because extended time in another country is so important for the acquisition of advanced proficiency in a foreign language, which is an important goal for all international studies majors,” he said. 

Metcalf knows the benefits of studying abroad firsthand. His first international experience was a two-month stint working in a dairy cooperative in the Norwegian city of Stavanger the summer after his collegiate freshman year. This work experience and living with a Norwegian family involved no formal language instruction, but it lay the groundwork for his future interest in language and culture study.

“That experience piqued my interest and provided me with a broader cultural understanding not easily found in a classroom setting,” Metcalf said.

“When I returned to Harvard for my sophomore year, I took an advanced course in Norwegian that strengthened and deepened my knowledge and instilled in me a love of languages. I took an intensive course in Russian the following summer, and I attribute my success in both languages to having gained confidence in learning Norwegian the previous summer.” 

Metcalf graduated from Harvard University with a degree in history before pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Stockholm University in Sweden. Besides earning his degrees at Stockholm, he taught history courses in Swedish while serving as an acting university lecturer.

Fluent in Swedish, German, Danish and Norwegian, Metcalf also has a working knowledge of French, Russian and Spanish. He has written several books and articles on Swedish history and translated five scholarly books from Swedish into English.

The Croft Institute for International Studies, founded in 1998 with a $60 million gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund, focuses on teaching students to thrive in an interconnected global community. Nearly 700 Croft alumni have studied one or more of 16 different languages and studied abroad in 51 countries.

Metcalf’s gift will provide needed support for many students, said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute and associate professor of history. 

“Sending Croft students abroad – to experience a different culture and advance their language proficiency – was integral to the original curriculum that Dr. Metcalf designed as the institute’s first executive director from 1998 to 2007,” Dinius said. “Croft alumni regularly tell us that studying abroad was a transformative experience, and Dr. Metcalf’s generous gift will strengthen that core element of the program.” 

Metcalf said he hopes his scholarship gift will encourage other donors to assist motivated international studies majors to become proficient at an advanced level in their target languages. 

“Traditional foreign language teaching in the United States emphasized mastering the grammar of the language and reading literary texts,” he said. “The proficiency method of language instruction used at the Croft Institute also exposes students to foreign language texts from the social sciences, natural sciences, business and other fields, preparing them for using their target language in professional settings.”

Metcalf was serving as assistant vice president for international education and director of the Institute of International Studies and Programs at the University of Minnesota when he was tapped as the Croft Institute’s first executive director.

“Building the brand-new international studies program at the University of Mississippi was exciting, and I could not have done it without the input and support of both the Croft faculty and the international studies majors whose suggestions were invaluable,” he said.

After his leadership role with the Croft Institute, Metcalf became the university’s associate provost for international affairs in 2007 and interim chair of the Department of Public Policy Leadership in 2011.

Since retiring from Ole Miss in 2013, Metcalf has followed the institute’s growth and development closely from his home in Minneapolis. He has also kept up with the professional lives of Croft graduates whom he taught as freshmen in government service, academe, the military and many other fields.

To make a gift to the Professor Emeritus Michael F. Metcalf Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment, click here. For information on supporting the scholarship endowment or the Croft Institute for International Studies, contact Brady Bramlett, associate director of development, at or 662-915-3081.