Study Abroad Research Proposal: A Dissertation Topic

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The final draft of my dissertation topic presentation.

The final draft of my dissertation topic presentation.

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  • At UHD, we know that high-impact educational experiences shape the quality of our programs. We also know that students in today's marketplace must have an international appreciation. Our study-abroad programs blend these beliefs to create an invaluable experience.
  • If high impact educational experiences are a key element to a UHD education, what is the future of the traditional classroom? Which delivers the greater chance for a high impact experience, a four-wall classroom, or this?
  • As you can see, study abroad is certainly a high impact experience. Which leads to this question, can study abroad be viewed as a retention strategy? Today, I’m advocating that we further review the retention potential of study abroad programs at UHD.
  • We know that study-abroad programs are valuable, but what are their measurable outcomes? The University of Minnesota's Study Abroad for Global Engagement project has identified some expected outcomes. Few studies, however, have measured the impact on retention and graduation.
  • In a recent article,Christy Metzger argues that study abroad programming consistently yields positive outcomes related topreparing the workforce for a global economy, retention of students, managing the economic shift and may very well be a retention strategy that has been overlooked.
  • Keeping with the theme of retention, another question arises. Are retention and graduation rates affected not only by study abroad participation, but also the duration of the program? Are there differences between one week, one month, and full semester programs?
  • A recent article by Karin Fischer points out that data released by the SAGE project suggests that students who go overseas for a short period of time, four weeks or less, are just as likely as those who study abroad for several months or even a year to be globally engaged.
  • This SAGE table confirms what Fischer reported. In her article, she also argues that this will “add fuel to the already fiery debate over the efficacy of increasingly popular short-term study abroad programs.” But since retention was not studied as an outcome, we don’t know if it is also unaffected.
  • Another topic of research interest is barriers to student access. What prevents a student from ultimately making the decision to study abroad? Do these barriers have varying effects depending on diversity factors?
  • In a recent article on study abroad minority access, Mickey Slind argues that “real barriers do exist, but the continuance of institutional assumptions and individual students with misinformed perceptions limit the success of overcoming any of them.”
  • The three research topics we just discussed are part of my dissertation proposal to the University of Houston in conjunction with the University of Houston-Downtown. I believe that if we collaborate on this project, there are added benefits to our institution and to our students
  • So how do I propose that we analyze these topics? First, considering study abroad as a retention strategy, I am proposing that we analyze retention and graduation data for recent and future student abroad participants and compare to similar student populations who did not participate.
  • On study abroad duration impact, I am recommending that we analyze recent and future study abroad programs based on duration to detect whether real differences exist and affect student persistence, retention, and graduation rates.
  • And on access barriers, I propose that we analyze student attitudes and beliefs on study abroad to detect barriers to access. We would then take this data and group by ethnicity, age, gender, and other attributes in order to determine the varying affects.
  • To support all three research topics, I also recommend that we develop a study abroad survey to record student beliefs related to study abroad retention impact, satisfaction in regards to duration of programs, and perceived barriers to study abroad access.
  • What resources will be necessary to move forward with this proposal? I foresee the need only for collaboration with relevant UHD faculty, staff, and administrators and the approval of UHD to proceed and conduct a survey.
  • I mentioned briefly that there are benefits of this study to UHD. I believe that we will benefit by increasing valuable data on our study abroad outcomes; having a better understanding on student attitudes and access barriers; and possibly viewing study abroad in a new light as a retention strategy.
  • Much of what we’ve discussed today reconfirms what we already know: studying abroad is a uniquely valuable experience that many students consider the most impactful in their student careers. Hopefully by working together, we’ll learn more about these positive effects and further enhance our programs.


  • 1. Study Abroad Research Proposal:A Dissertation Topic
    Presented By: Paul Donaldson, Associate Registrar
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
    • Study Abroad as a Retention Strategy?
    • 5. Study Abroad Duration Impact?
    • 6. Barriers to Study Abroad Access?
    Proposed Research Topics
  • 7. Study Abroad as a Retention Strategy
  • 8. Study Abroad as a Retention Strategy
    “Study Abroad Programming: A 21st Century Retention Strategy” by Christy Metzger
    • Preparing the Workforce for a Global Economy
    • 9. Retention of Students
    • 10. Managing the Economic Shift
  • Study Abroad Duration Impact
  • 11. Study Abroad Duration Impact
    “Short-Term Study Abroad Trips Can Have Lasting Impact, Studies Suggest” by Karin Fischer
    • Duration does not impact global engagement outcomes
  • Study Abroad Duration Impact
  • 12. Study Abroad Access Barriers
  • 13. Study Abroad Access Barriers
    “Barriers to Diversifying Education Abroad” by Mickey Slind
    • “Real barriers do exist”
    • 14. Lack of Diversity in Study Abroad Programs
    • 15. Insert Point
  • University of Houston
    • Ph.D in Educational Psychology & Individual Differences
    Dissertation Research Questions:
    • Study Abroad as a Retention Strategy
    • 16. Study Abroad Duration Impact
    • 17. Study Abroad Access Barriers
    Thesis Proposal Overview
  • 18. Study Abroad as a Retention Strategy
    • Analyze retention/graduation data
    • 19. Compare retention/graduation data
    Thesis Proposal Overview
  • 20. Study Abroad Duration Impact
    • Analyze recent and future study abroad programs based on duration
    Thesis Proposal Overview
  • 21. Study Abroad Access Barriers
    • Analyze student attitudes
    • 22. Uncoverbarriers
    • 23. Detect potential differences
    Thesis Proposal Overview
  • 24. Study Abroad Survey
    • Survey study abroad participants on attitudes
    • 25. Survey a cohort on attitudes towards barriers to study abroad
    Thesis Proposal Overview
  • 26.
    • Collaboration with study abroad personnel
    • 27. Collaboration with
    Institutional Effectiveness
    • Approval to conduct survey
    Collaboration Resources
  • 28.
    • Data on study abroad outcomes
    • 29. Better understanding of student attitudes
    • 30. Potential new retention strategy
    What’s in it for UHD?