Exploring the Process and Outcomes of Leading a Study Abroad Program Using Real-Time Perspectives


  • Kirsten Davis Purdue University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9929-5587
  • Jessica Deters University of Nebraska
  • Desen Ozkan Tufts University
  • James Davis Purdue University
  • Homero Murzi Virginia Tech




program leaders, experiential learning, program leader preparation


A study abroad program can be a transformative experience for students, but these programs rely on the support of program leaders who play a crucial mentoring role. Program leaders can also learn from their experiences abroad, but their experiences are less studied than those of students. To better prepare future program leaders, this paper describes the experiences of program leaders during a two-week study abroad program. We introduce a novel data collection approach, autonomous focus groups, to capture real-time perspectives. Through the lens of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory, we characterize the process of leading a study abroad program and the conceptualizations that program leaders form about students during their time abroad. Our findings provide a more nuanced view of the day-to-day experience of leading a study abroad program than previous studies, which can inform the preparation and training provided to program leaders.

Abstract in Spanish

Los programas de estudio en el extranjero pueden ser una experienca transformadora para los estudiantes, sin embargo, estos programas dependen de los líderes quienes tienen un rol fundamental en la tutoría de los estudiantes. Los líderes de estos programas pueden también aprender de estas experiencias en el extranjero, aunque estas experiencias no han sido estudiadas al mismo nivel de detalle como han sido estudiadas las experiencias de los estudiantes. Para preparar mejor a los futuros líderes de estos programas, este artículo describe las experiencias de líderes en un programa de estudio en el extranjero que duró dos semanas. En este trabajo presentamos una innovadora forma de recolectar data, como son los grupos focales autónomos, donde capturamos las perspectivas de los participantes en tiempo real. Usando el lente de la Teoría de Aprendizaje Experiencial de Kolb, caracterizamos los procesos involucrados en dirigir un programa de estudio en el extranjero, así como las conceptualizaciones que los líderes del programa formaron sobre los estudiantes durante el tiempo que estuvieron de viaje. Nuestros resultados ofrecen una manera más adecuada de entender las experiencias en el día a día cuando se supervisa un programa de estudio en el extranjero, estos resultados pueden ayudar a preparar y entrenar futuros lideres de programas de estudio en el extranjero.


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Author Biographies

Kirsten Davis, Purdue University

Kirsten A. Davis is an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research explores the intentional design and assessment of global engineering programs, student development through experiential learning, and approaches for teaching and assessing systems thinking skills. Kirsten holds a B.S. in Engineering & Management from Clarkson University and an M.A.Ed. in Higher Education, M.S. in Systems Engineering, and Ph.D. in Engineering Education, all from Virginia Tech.

Jessica Deters, University of Nebraska

Jessica R. Deters holds her PhD in Engineering Education and a M.S. in Systems Engineering from Virginia Tech as well as her B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Statistics from the Colorado School of Mines. Deters’ research examines systems and structures within engineering that include, exclude, and educate both undergraduate and graduate students. Her areas of research include engineering culture, workplace preparedness, international experiential learning programs, interdisciplinary programs, and comparative engineering education.

Desen Ozkan, Tufts University

Desen Ozkan is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Tufts University. She works as a joint researcher in the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach (CEEO) and the Institute for Research on Learning and Education (IRLI). Her primary research is on interdisciplinarity and engineering decisions as they relate to broader social, political, and economic contexts. She holds a Ph.D. in engineering education from Virginia Tech and a B.S. in chemical and biological engineering from Tufts University. 

James Davis, Purdue University

James C. Davis is an assistant professor in the Elmore Family School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. His research interests are in the engineering of high-quality software systems, especially with respect to correctness and security. His work explores technical and human factors that affect software quality, as well as computing education.

Homero Murzi, Virginia Tech

Homero G. Murzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and leader of the Engineering Competencies, Learning, and Inclusive Practices for Success (ECLIPS) Lab. He holds degrees in Industrial Engineering (BS, MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA), and Engineering Education (PhD). His research focuses on contemporary and inclusive culturally relevant pedagogical practices, competency development in engineering, international engineering education, and understanding the experiences of Latinx and Native Americans in engineering.


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How to Cite

Davis, K., Deters, J., Ozkan, D., Davis, J., & Murzi, H. (2022). Exploring the Process and Outcomes of Leading a Study Abroad Program Using Real-Time Perspectives. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 34(2), 351–381. https://doi.org/10.36366/frontiers.v34i2.654



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