Faculty led programming is defined as…wait a minute, there isn’t really a definition for faculty led programs which is why I decided to write a blog post about it.

So I’m going to give it my best shot: faculty led programming is a few professors traveling with a group of students for a shorter period of time with a focus topic in mind. 

As a matter of fact, if you look at the history of study abroad, you will find that faculty led programming was exactly how students started to learn in different areas of the world, or what we now call, study abroad.

But here is the million dollar question that I am going to answer: why should you do a faculty led program?

I get it, you’re in college now, why would you want to take one giant, field trip? Field trips are for high school students. You’re in college, and the last thing you want is more supervision, you’re supposed to be learning about independence.

This is a step backward, not forward, right?!?!

Consider Your Major or Area of Interest

You’re in school now (probably college), so you’re experienced with professors.

How many times you been in a lecture diligently taking notes, and you’re professor stops for a minute and says something along the lines of: “if you think about it, it’s really pretty cool”

It’s that guy (or girl) that you will be on the faculty led program with.

So it’s a lot like having a tour guide right there with you, every step of the way. A lot of the time a professor will be on their third or fourth trip with you, because they enjoy going, and teaching. There some good professors, and there are some bad ones, and it’s the good ones that usually end up doing a faculty led program.

I was at a conference last year, and one of the professors told a story about her last faculty led program, and I could honestly see her light up like a Christmas tree. She was an engineering professor who had taken a group of engineering majors to Germany, which one could argue is the design capitol of the world.

She started to drift away from her speech, just a little, and you could see the excitement spilling into her breakout session. She was already talking about her next trip!

That kind of enthusiasm is contagious, before you know it, you will be the one telling your friends “how cool” it really is.

You Don’t Have To Do Any Of The Planning

Accelerate you within your major

When I interview students that take the traditional study abroad route, they get extra excited about the side trips that they plan. It’s usually business during the week, and adventure, travel, and excitement during the weekends.

Planning these adventures usually takes a lot of time. When you’re on a faculty led program, the leg work is done for you.

One of the ongoing themes on The Study Abroadcast is that “it’s not a matter of if something goes wrong, it matters what of when.” 

When you’re studying abroad; with professors; who’ve done it all before, you will find that there isn’t that much that goes wrong. You’re always moving, as a lot of these faculty led trips last about a month (this is my the words ‘short term’ often come before faculty led programming at a lot of campuses. They’ve got a curriculum they need to get through, and you need to see the sites, that’s the entire reason you signed up.

Can you imagine sitting in a classroom and talking about Mona Lisa in the morning, and then taking a trip to see the actual painting in the afternoon. That is the magic of studying abroad.

You Get More Commodore 

When you study abroad you make lifelong friends from every corner of the world. When you study abroad through a faculty led program you make lifelong friends from every corner of your campus.

What do I mean by this?

If you’ve decided to do a faculty led program, odds are you have a good idea of what you want your major to be, and even what you want to do.

Going on a faculty led program acts like a funnel for people throughout your campus that have similar interests as you do.

And Guess who else fits into this mold?

The professors that are taking you on the trip. Similar interests, right? After interviewing students who’ve done faculty led programming, I can tell you that once they return they will look at you as more of a peer than that a student, you’ll be on a first name basis with them.

Gaining commodore with your professors

When you get to know someone (anyone) that well, they will help you more than they would if you didn’t get to know them. They know people in the field, they have contacts to help you with your projects. They can advise you on future classes to take and whom to take them with.

No juxtapose this with traditional study abroad trips where you meet other students from around the country. Yes, you make those friends, and they’ll be your friends for life. But the odds are that you will be even better friends after you travel and experience what you experience with friends on your own campus.

You Don’t Have To Break The Bank

Like an exchange, you will be paying the normal tuition, so in reality your only expenses are travel related. Add to that, the short timeframe that you will be overseas, and you’ve got one hell of an experience. Now that is a sweet deal, that you should take.


What Faculty Led Programming is With IES’s Senior Associate Vice President for Customized Programs and Internships

Keith A. Dipple, Ph.D. 

Keith A. Dipple started his career at Morgan Guaranty Trust Co, (now JP Morgan) in London and after a brief spell at Mellon Bank, retuned to JP where he spent over 20 years managing traders and sales specialists under the firm’s investment bank umbrella. In 2009 Dr. Dipple became an adjunct professor at the Keller Graduate School of Management (now Adtalem Global Education) where he taught Leadership and Organizational Behavior to MBA and HR Master’s students. In the same year, he transitioned into higher education when he joined the University of Chicago’s Careers Office as Assistant Director in the Employer Relations and Development team. After one year, he took the job as Director for UChicago Careers in Business, a selective, pre-professional program for undergraduates aspiring to careers in financial services. He was later promoted to Executive Director for External Engagement, leading a team of nine whose main job was to source internships for students from the undergraduate college. He came to IES Abroad in October of 2013 for the official launch of Internship Programming and in 2018 was promoted to Senior Associate Vice President for Customized Programs and Internships. 

Dr. Dipple’s career has seen him work in London, Hong Kong, New York and Chicago, and it was while in London that he sat on JP Morgan’s Diversity Board. Until recently, Dr. Dipple was a member of NAFSA’s Work, Intern, Volunteer & Research Abroad (WIVRA) sub-committee and served as Board Chair of the National Psoriasis Foundation – Chicago Division, from 2015 to 2017. 

Dr. Dipple has a BS in Healthcare Management, an MA in Leadership, and in 2015 earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education, with a specialization in Leadership in Higher education, from Capella University in Minnesota, graduating with distinction.


What to Know Before You Go

As with all study abroad options, there are a few pointers to keep in mind if you choose to go with a faculty led program:

1. Be prepared for some extra work before you begin your travels.

What! More work! Sorry, but besides the normal preparations for a trip abroad, you’ll probably need to take additional classes for a few weeks in addition to your current coursework. It could be intensive and require a lot of extra reading, writing, and class time. So try to find a balance and don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed. It’s temporary. You can do it!

2. Make a list of ideas for your final paper as early as possible, ideally before you leave.

Ok, I’m asking you to brainstorm a topic for your faculty led study abroad course final paper while in the initial weeks of a class, while writing other papers and, yes, while making plans for your trip. Sounds crazy – I get it. But if you wait it will only get more challenging once you’re abroad because that’s when you’ll want to soak up every sight and sound of your exciting experience. Not think about homework, papers, and grades. 

Start brainstorming by giving some thought to the things that interest you most about the subject matter you are studying and the culture you will be learning about. Before you know it, you’ll have an overall idea, or even the full-on topic for your final paper.  

As you travel around, keep your topic in mind. Ask relevant questions pertaining to it and gather as much information as you can. Whether through your own observations, by listening to a speaker, or at a site visit, the notes you’ve jotted down along the way will be priceless when you return home and are ready to write your paper or do a little more research on it. 

A good way to chronicle your thoughts, either for your paper or just for personal use, is to keep a daily journal. You can do this on your own, or it may even be required by your professor. Some actually do that. You’ll find it’s a great way to note your reactions to speakers or site visits, or any other experiences you encounter during your adventure abroad. The key is to be diligent about writing in it every day, even those days when sleep sounds a little more appealing. I promise, you won’t regret it.

3. Get to know your group members and share information with each other. 

One of the best perks of any study abroad trip is the friendships you form with your fellow travelers. As I mentioned earlier, maybe you’ll know some of them from current classes, while others will be new acquaintances who are not from your core program. Whatever the mix, group dynamics are pretty important when traveling. That’s why it’s vital to get to know each other, determine individual strengths, and share information before the trip. Remember, once you’re at your destination, it’ll be you and your group working as a team and looking out for each other while making awesome memories together.

4. When it comes to packing, share the load. 

Faculty led programs typically are shorter than other study abroad options. So why load your luggage with the same items as your classmates. I’m not talking about things like clothes and really personal items, of course. But it makes sense to coordinate other odds and ends (like a hair dryer) with your travel mates, especially if you know who your roommate will be. Share the load and you can cut down dramatically on the amount of stuff in your suitcase. Go ahead and bounce ideas off each other about exactly what to bring. You’ll be happy to have some space later for bringing home all the special mementos of your trip.

Here’s another space saving idea: Designate one individual in your group to be in charge of certain items, such as general health/first-aid supplies, for example. This person could bring a good stock of basic medicine, ointment, and band-aids, and serve as the group’s go-to health source. I’m sure you can think of other similar tasks to assign, but you get the idea – right.

5. Plan a way to share photos.

It’s a given that EVERYBODY in your group will be taking photos of the amazing new sights you’ll be seeing, not to mention photos of each other hamming it up at those sights. Instead of getting overloaded with doubles and triples of the same scene, why not establish a way to share your photos early on, like through a photo sharing website. Everyone can upload their photos to the site, as well as access others to create a sensational photo book or video montage of the trip. Got a photo buff in the group? That person may jump at the chance to take the lead on coordinating. 

Get in Synch with Your Major Via Faculty Led Programs 

If you’ve been thinking that faculty led study abroad programs are just for language or cultural studies majors, it’s time to think again. More and more university departments are seeing the value of incorporating this global studies component into their programming. Like them, I’m sure you get the idea that it’s a great way to customize your study abroad experience to match your particular major. By choosing a faculty led program, you’ll earn direct credit toward your degree while gaining a first-hand understanding of the global affairs in your field of study. All in a very compact period of time. 

Our society is becoming more globally connected by the minute and practically every profession is feeling the impact. Probably even your chosen profession! If you think a faculty led study abroad program is right for you, explore the offerings at your school, sign up, and get ready for one of the greatest, most productive, and most beneficial adventures of your life. 

Where Do I Come Out On This?

If only I had a time machine, I would’ve done both, but unfortunately I wasn’t aware of faculty led programming when I planned my trip.

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