What is a Faculty-led Program?
A Faculty-led program is type of study abroad experience that consists of one or more credit-bearing, study-travel courses along with a sequence of group activities, organized excursions, and cultural encounters. Faculty-led programs are led by college professors and usually last between one to eight weeks.
Benefits of Faculty-led Programs
This study abroad model exposes students to a variety of environments and fosters strong mentoring relationships between faculty and students. Faculty-led programs are used as tools for internationalization, and to greatly increase the number of students who study abroad.
Is it right for me? (time, risk, etc.)
Are you adventurous, flexible, adaptable, and willing to devote time and effort to the program’s making? Do you enjoy spending time with and helping students beyond their classes? Do you have a sense of humor, as well as organization and time management skills? If so, then you’re probably the right person to lead a study abroad program.
Location-Location-Location You should limit your choices to locations where you have lived and/or traveled and would feel comfortable leading a group of students. Many colleges and universities have funding for faculty who wish to go abroad and develop a program. A quality program will make use of local people and resources.
Target Population Will your course topics and chosen locations be attractive to a sizeable audience? If so, do you think you can draw from that audience the minimum number of students the program will need to run? If not, consider a recruitment plan that extends beyond your campus, and consider listing your program nationally for free.
Financial Feasibility Will the cost of the program be reasonable? Is it competitive with other, similar programs? The bottom line is how much students are willing to pay. A competitive program fee and a realistic budget will make your program more attractive and feasible for students, especially if you’re recuiting across the nation.
Best Practices & Guidelines
A quality study abroad program makes use of people and resources in the host country. The Forum on Education Abroad recently developed Standards of Good Practice for Short-Term Education Abroad Programs*, in the following areas:
Mission, Objectives, and Purpose
Student Learning and Development
Preparation for the Learning Environment Abroad
Student Selection and Code of Conduct
Organizational and Program Resources
Health, Safety, and Security
Ethics and Integrity
*Note: This resource is available under the Members section of The Forum on Education Abroad website’s resources archives.
Cultivating your Program Idea
So you have an idea. Is it unique? Does it have appeal? If so, to whom and under what conditions? While no program is ever a guarenteed success, below are the guidelines for a winning combination.
(1) Know your Students: Knowing your student recruitment pool is the most important step in this process.
- Who can participate? Before you cultivate your idea, you should know who can participate. Are you permitted to enroll students from only your institution or from other institutions also? Are you permitted to enroll non-students (other faculty, staff, or members of the community)? Once you know and understand the scope of your reach, you can determine where you must draw the majority of your participants, and focus your marketing and recruitment efforts on this pool.
- What are the obstacles? You should make an attempt to understand the obstacles of your target audience. Maybe your target audience consists of school teachers, and the obstacles are time away from home/work and other family commitments. Maybe your recruitment pool is low income students, and the obstacles are financial. After you identify the obstacles, you should do your best to minimize them or remove them entirely, and then let your audience know.
If you can keep this guideline, Know your Students, at the forefront of your program development efforts, then you will greatly increase your chances for a competitive and successful faculty-led program.
(2) Location: Think about where students might be interested in going, in view of the competition (or lack thereof) among other faculty-led study abroad programs in your discipline. Does this location make sense with the subject matter or topic of the course? Would another location make better sense, knowing the obstacles that your recruitment pool faces? The more you can distinguish your location, the less competition you have from other programs.
(3) Subject: What is your rationale for developing and proposing this faculty-led program? Is there purpose and need for the course topic? What kind of requirements and prerequisites are necessary? Is the chosen location the best fit for your course topic, or is there another location that might be better suited? Is there anything you can add to your course syllabus that might make it more attractive? (ex. “Green” is an important and “hot” topic)
(4) Structure: How will your program be structured? Will it be stationary or in several different places? What institutions, organizations, and companies will you be working with? What (if any) services or assistance will be provided? Is your study abroad program relevant to particular majors, minors, general education, non-traditional students, graduate students, research interests, professionals in the field, etc.? Can students get valuable credit?
(5) Timing: Think about how long and when students might want to study in the locations you are considering for your faculty-led study abroad program. Think about what works with your academic calendar. If in the summer, try to schedule your study abroad program so that students aren’t missing all the on-campus sessions. How will financial aid interplay with your study abroad program, considering the timing, credit hours offered, etc.?
(6) Professor: What is your relevant training and expertise? Do your students like you as a professor and would they be willing to follow you to the destination you are proposing? Do you like to be with students and would you enjoy leading them abroad? Happy, popular professors tend to foster successful study abroad programs. Professors MUST be involved in recruitment, since he/she seals the deal for students. Would you go abroad with someone you didn’t know or didn’t like for any length of time? No way!
(7) Total Cost: While it may not make a difference at private institutions, cost is usually a critical factor for public universities. Can you keep the cost competitive and reasonable with what you want to do, and with other, similar programs? Find out the average cost of a successful faculty-led program on your campus, or within your recruitment pool, and aim lower without sacrificing the quality of your program.
(8) Package: Think of a catchy title…something marketable, and something original and new, to brand your faculty-led study abroad program. What else can you include in your program (excursions, service-learning, activities) to make it more attractive? What makes sense from a cultural standpoint and academic perspective? What gives you the most bang for your buck (consider distance, time, and expense)?