While leading an education abroad program can be demanding, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Leaders have a front-row seat to students’ transformation, and many students will remember the program as their “best experience in college.” It is important to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each traveler associated with a UNL education abroad program, both among the leadership team and for the participating students.
Before proposing a program, prospective leaders are encouraged to reflect on whether they are prepared and committed to lead a program in the coming year. In addition, chairs and deans are encouraged to use the following guidelines and criteria when approving program proposals.
Ideally, a leader:
- Is well-liked and/or well-respected by students. Positive student evaluations for past UNL courses and/or education abroad programs can be a helpful indicator. Students will consider traveling to a relatively unknown or challenging location if they think highly of the leader.
- Has spent time in the host location(s). At a minimum, the leader should have done an in-depth site visit, but preferably the leader will have visited the location(s) on multiple occasions or spent time living there.
- Knows the host language (if applicable), as well as the cultural and social norms of the host culture.
- Understands and embraces the “student support” aspects of program leadership: setting clear expectations, promoting positive group dynamics and inclusion, responding to student crises, etc.
- Will be present and available in Nebraska, during the student recruitment, preparation, and post-program phases, and be present and available in the host location(s) for the full duration of the program.
- Has a fairly permanent employment status at UNL and plans to remain at UNL for at least one semester after the conclusion of the program.
Composition of Leadership Team
A student-to-leader ratio of 10:1 can be used as a benchmark in determining who will teach and lead the program and what the minimum and maximum student enrollment goals should be. However, leadership teams and enrollment goals vary widely and are based on several academic, logistical, and financial considerations, some of which vary by UNL department and college.
The primary leader should be a UNL faculty member with academic expertise in the program’s field(s) of study. A qualified UNL lecturer, instructor, Ph.D. candidate, or staff member may be approved to serve as the primary leader at the discretion of the department and college. If a Ph.D. candidate is the primary leader, there should also be a UNL faculty/staff member designated as "program director" to provide oversight.
The leadership team and the on-site partner(s) should have complementary characteristics and skills. The most effective way to “bridge a gap” associated with local knowledge, host language skills, and student support is to work with a professional education abroad organization.
In addition to the primary faculty leader, the leadership team may include one or more co-leader(s):
- Another UNL faculty leader: Depending on the nature of the program, two faculty members may choose to teach in alternate years, co-teach one course, or offer two or more distinct courses. Leaders should consult with their departments and colleges about instructional salaries and minimum student enrollment numbers. Leader’s travel expenses are typically incorporated into the program budget, but if the student group is small relative to the number of leaders, the leaders are encouraged to seek departmental or college funding for one leader’s travel expenses to keep the overall cost down for students.
- A UNL staff leader: Some leaders invite a departmental or college advisor, an Education Abroad staff member, or a Student Affairs professional to co-lead, often assuming duties associated with student support, financial management, and cross-cultural understanding. Staff leaders’ travel expenses are often incorporated into the program budget. A staff leader typically will not expect a labor stipend. However, some supervisors may request a buy-out of the staff member’s time.
- A UNL graduate assistant: The opportunity to co-lead may be offered to a full-time UNL graduate (not undergraduate) student who is uniquely qualified to co-lead the program. The opportunity should not be offered simply as a reward or “perk.” The faculty leader should put in writing the expectations, limitations, duties, and privileges of the assistantship, and both the leader and assistant should sign. The department or college should complete the hiring paperwork for the assistant. A labor stipend is optional, and may be incorporated into the program budget or paid by the department/college.
- A faculty leader at a partner institution: Some UNL programs run in tandem with other U.S. universities to share logistical support. The leaders at the two institutions might agree to co-teach the course and/or serve as back-up leaders to students from the other institution.
- A non-UNL technical expert: While rare, some faculty leaders invite a technical expert not affiliated with UNL on a permanent basis to serve as an academic co-leader. The primary UNL leader is responsible for ensuring that the expert understands and complies with all University policies, including those prohibiting harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct. The UNL leader must share all UNL Education Abroad training materials with the expert, and will assume full responsibility for the expert’s conduct. The UNL leader should put in writing the expectations, limitations, duties, and privileges of the expert, and both the UNL leader and expert should sign. The department or college should complete the hiring paperwork for the expert. An expert’s travel expenses and/or labor stipend may be paid by the expert, incorporated into the program budget, or paid by the department/college.
Leader Workshops & Certification
The EAO staff offers five workshops throughout the academic year for current and prospective faculty leaders.
- Supporting the Whole Student
- Program Design and Partnerships
- Intercultural Learning and Student Preparation
- Understanding Financial Aid and Student Spending
- Health, Safety and Student Conduct Abroad (required for leaders each year)
Workshops 1-5 are delivered in 45 minutes, and workshop 5 is delivered in 2 hours, by EAO staff and relevant guest presenters (Director of Global Safety and Security, Business & Finance, Title IX Coordinator, experienced leaders, etc.). Workshop 5 is required each year a leader is traveling with students. If a leader attends three optional workshops and the required workshop consecutively, the leader will be certified and the certification will be noted on program marketing materials. Certification will be valid for three years. (Even if certified, the leader is required to attend the health, safety and conduct training).
The schedule for Spring Semester 2020 workshops is below:
Register for workshops on the UNL Training website here. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Marnie Nelson at email@example.com.