National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council Vol. 12, No.1 (Spring/Summer 2011). ISSN 1559-0151


Copyright © 2011 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


Study abroad programs are taking on a new role in curricula and strategic planning in our colleges and universities today. Carolyn Haynes lists a number of “key indicators” for consideration in developing study abroad programs that set the stage for students’ deep learning and personal development. This essay supports her viewpoint and looks more closely at two of the key indicators, meaningful engagement and critical reflection, and how they are linked with students’ academic learning and personal development in study abroad programs. We will demonstrate this link using the example of a student- initiated and team-oriented study abroad program in Ghana that we have developed at Grand Valley State University.

The theoretical contexts of our Ghana program have both prepared us for our experiences and validated them. In Kuh’s research on the effects of high impact educational practices, he notes that “student development is a cumulative process shaped by many events and experiences inside and outside the classroom (13). Chickering (as cited in Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, & Whitt) adds another dimension to student development that he calls “cool passion”: “Cool passion seeks a fulfillment by joining the forces of heart and mind, commitment and critical analysis. Such passion pursues its purposes with ‘tenuous tenacity’” (77). Finally, Vande Berg refers to a new student learning paradigm that influences how we approach study abroad programs: “We no longer believe that our responsibilities to our students, where their learning is concerned, end when they leave the United States” (394). This paradigm, along with Kuh’s cumulative model and Chickering’s “cool passion,” illuminate the high-impact practice of our study abroad program in Ghana.