Study Abroad Strengths-Based Curriculum: Advancing Self-Reflection and Relationship-Building Leadership Skills

  • Liz Moldenhauer Wildflower Health
  • Melissa Osland Winona State University
  • Theresa Waterbury Winona State University
Keywords: strengths-based curriculum, graduate study abroad, self-reflection, relationship-building


Immersion in a strengths-based, study abroad program provides extensive opportunity for leadership growth. Navigating the unknown adds to the challenge students experience during their student-organized activities. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore how a strengths-based curricula design advanced the leadership competency levels of self-reflection and relationship building during a graduate, short-term study abroad program. The findings show that before and during the program, self-reflection led to thoughtful discussions, which led to valuing differences. Self-reflection contributed to deeper self-awareness of how an individual’s primary strengths and blind spots led to mutual respect. On-going mutual respect enhanced relationships through appreciation for diversity. The strengths-based knowledge aided in acknowledging and valuing differences in one another, which positively impacted relationships.


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Author Biographies

Liz Moldenhauer, Wildflower Health

Liz Moldenhauer is the Client Success Director for Wildflower Health and is a 2019 graduate of  the Masters in Leadership Education Program from Winona State University.  Her areas of expertise include relationship-building and leadership development. She leads account teams across the United States and is focused on innovative strategies for reducing health care disparities in underserved populations.  

Melissa Osland, Winona State University

Melissa Osland is the Director of Human Resources for Dakota Fence Company in Fargo, North Dakota.  She holds a Master of Science in Leadership Education with an emphasis in Organizational Leadership from Winona State University.  Melissa’s area of expertise is in leadership development with a focus on forming strong foundations in relationships.  She provides strategic direction in Human Resources to a diversified and rapidly growing organization.

Theresa Waterbury, Winona State University

Theresa Waterbury is Professor and Chair of the Leadership Education Department at Winona State University. Her areas of expertise include lean for higher education, strengths-based leadership, systems thinking, team building, and leadership. She has led study abroad programs to New Zealand since 2016 and provides consultation for faculty-led study abroad programs.  Her current research focus is active and experiential learning in online courses.


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How to Cite
Moldenhauer, L., Osland, M., & Waterbury, T. (2021). Study Abroad Strengths-Based Curriculum: Advancing Self-Reflection and Relationship-Building Leadership Skills. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 33(2), 79-92.
Research Articles