Date of this Version
Honors in Practice 12 (2016), pp 9-32
Study abroad is a critical component of a comprehensive higher education experience in today’s global society. The Institute of International Education (IIE) reported that, in 2013–2014, 304,467 U.S. students participated in study abroad. This number has more than tripled over the last two decades, and while short-term study abroad is still the most popular, the number of American students spending a semester or a year abroad is also increasing (IIE). According to Kuh, O’Donnell, and Reed, study abroad has been deemed a high-impact practice, and, as an experiential approach to global learning, study abroad has the power to transform the lives of college students who are given the opportunity to participate and broaden their education. A search through the 2015 annual conference program of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) turned up a dozen sessions focusing on the topic of study abroad, demonstrating that a growing number of honors programs and colleges are encouraging or requiring study abroad. Many programs now offer and support honors semesters abroad or organized, faculty- led summer trips. According to Scott, 66% of honors colleges and 44% of honors programs at four-year institutions support study abroad that includes academic coursework, and many provide financial support to students studying abroad. Given this high level of support, in conjunction with an era of fiscal exigency, examination of the impact and benefits of study abroad is especially important. Although program outcomes vary, diversity, intercultural competence, and global citizenship are goals shared in some form by many honors programs and colleges. Study abroad is often the most direct way to foster these outcomes because it gives students opportunities to experience unfamiliar settings that promote inclusivity and reduce ethnocentrism, yet global citizenship is not the only area in which a student might experience growth through this type of experience. The purpose of our study is to examine the perceived and documented enrichments to the academic experiences of study abroad students in the Schedler Honors College Travel Abroad Grant (TAG) program. In the article “Building an Honors Education for the Twenty-First Century: Making Connections In and Outside the Classroom,” Alger points out that “at a time when many people have called for greater accountability in higher education, we must be prepared to articulate and assess student learning outcomes much more clearly than we have in the past” (63). Heeding this assertion, honors administrators must be prepared to defend their support of study abroad if they are going to be able to fund these types of experiences in the future.