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Developing a new program

So you're interested in developing an education abroad program? Thank you! Many of MSU’s international learning opportunities wouldn’t exist without our dedicated faculty leading programs.

Keep in mind that developing a new program will require a considerable investment of your time and energy. The planning stage takes an average of 18 to 24 months before the times come to take students abroad.

Your first step in program development should be meeting with your college's education abroad designee to discuss your proposal and talk about how it relates to your college's mission as well as university-wide strategies. You should also meet with relevant members of the EA staff who can help support your efforts and guide you through the proposal process.

Keys to a Successful Program

Education abroad program leaders have identified the following elements as those that make for the most rewarding and successful education abroad program: 

  • Keep in mind that the following critical elements will impact whether or not students choose to participate in your program: courses, cost, location, and program dates.
  • Avoid simply duplicating courses taught in East Lansing. Relate subject matter to the host country.
  • Utilize the personnel, facilities, and cultural resources of the host country as much as possible, with the aim of providing students with opportunities for an intercultural unique experience. A quality education abroad program will maximize the use of the people and resources available in the host country. Students want an experience that they cannot obtain in East Lansing.
  • Set realistic enrollment targets when creating the program budget. This will result in an attractive program fee and a realistic budget for the program.
  • Provide more student-leader contact and interaction than is usually possible on campus.
  • Give attention to detail during all aspects of preparation.
  • Prepare in advance for potential difficulties, problem cases and emergencies.
  • Put effort and creativity into promoting your education abroad program.
  • Familiarize yourself with the application process and the Education Abroad Student Guide so that you can answer questions and retain enrollments.
  • Order the study abroad sections of your courses following the usual on-campus course section scheduling process. Monitor your enrollments throughout the program.
  • Communicate regularly with students through orientation sessions,informal gatherings,email, social media, and phone to provide information and build group cohesiveness.
  • Be proactive in addressing your expectations and the group's expectations for the program during pre-departure and on-site orientation.
  • Be prepared to handle on-site logistics and finances.
  • Be prepared to respond to behavioral problems and emergencies.
  • Provide feedback to EA. The only way we can make program improvements is through feedback from you and your students. Promptly submit a program report and encourage students to respond when they receive their online evaluation. 

Proposing a new faculty-directed program

A complete proposal will consist of the following three components:

  1. A completed proposal form for a new faculty-directed program
  2. A narrative description of the proposed program
  3. Supporting documents
    a. Draft budget
    b. Letter(s) of support from sponsoring department chairs and colleges' lead representative on the MSU Advisory Council for Education Abroad
    c. Map(s) related to intended destinations
    d. Projected itinerary, including travel, classroom time, field trips/excursions, guest speakers, etc.
    e. Draft of course syllabus/syllabi

Please submit completed proposal documents via email to Maria Beam: beamm(at)

Proposing a new partner program (direct-enroll or exchange)

Faculty members interested in proposing a new partner program will need to submit the following:

  • Completed program information page
  • Narrative (no longer than seven pages; see details below)
  • Map of the country(s) with program destination clearly marked
  • Letters of support from department chair and college dean indicating long-term commitment and support of proposed program
  • Budget using the EA budget template (contact the EA Business Office for assistance)
  • Completed and signed Subject Code Approval sheet (obtain the current one for your college from Maria Beam from the Office for Education Abroad, beamm(at)
  • List of courses (minimum of 10) that have been approved for MSU equivalencies. Include both the host institution courses and MSU equivalencies.

Once a complete program proposal is received by the Office for Education Abroad, a final decision regarding approval takes an average of one month, depending on reviewers’ availability and need for program revisions. In order to be approved in time for sufficient marketing and program planning, proposals should be submitted one year in advance of the planned program start date.

Early submission of proposals is critical due to the complexities of developing any new program.

Proposals can be accepted less than one year in advance, but program publicity and student planning, including student access to financial aid, may be adversely affected by late program approvals. New programs cannot be advertised or marketed to students until final approval is received.

Narrative Instructions

Proposal evaluations will focus on the issues below that must be addressed in a proposal Narrative.

  1. LEARNING OBJECTIVES: Specify the learning objectives, including cross-cultural and, where applicable, foreign language learning goals. Define the program in terms of program subject matter area or areas of study which this program will cover. Include references to MSU subject codes (e.g. French (FRN), Economics (EC), Political Science (PLS). Use checklist of possible subject codes provided by the Office for Education Abroad. Specify the academic unit(s)/faculty(s) in the host institution that will be the main focus of the program.
  2. HOST COUNTRY: Discuss whether this program will/should have any relationship to other MSU study abroad programs in the host country and in the subject matter area. You can contact EA to determine if any potential overlap exists. Specifically address: a) opportunities for cooperation with other MSU programs and departments (or those of other universities) in the locale, and b) potential undesirable consequences of competing with established MSU programs for interested students.
  3. FOREIGN LANGUAGE: Describe any foreign language prerequisites for this program, if applicable.
  4. INSTRUCTION: Summarize the sponsoring unit’s assessment of the quality of the institution or of the areas of proposed study (include assessment indicators/criteria). There are many ways to document institutional quality or reputation. Select one or more means of doing so from those below (or others). EA can assist academic units with compiling the requested information.
    • Institution or program accreditation? If so, by which accreditation board?
    • Institution or program ranked by country or regional/world sources?  (by whom & the rank)
    • Does the institution have exchange or other enrollment relationships with any CIC institution or other high quality U.S. American institutions? Other evidence of institutional or program quality or general reputation as appropriate.
  5. ENVIRONMENT: Give a brief description of the program environment (including student accommodations and meal arrangements; availability of accessible grocery/daily incidentals shopping; availability of public transportation; opportunities for interaction with locals; etc.) as well as of logistical arrangements which addresses issues of health, welfare, safety, and security of students. Note required and recommended vaccinations (this is also important in determining the budget). Additional topics to address are the security of housing (gates, guards, swipe keys, porter, etc.) and/or transportation risks (group and individual, public and private). Refer to the U.S. Department of State’s Country Information Sheets for information on crime and other travel hazards.
  6. REQUIREMENTS: Describe the minimum, as well as desirable, student qualifications for participation in the program.
  7. ENROLLMENT: Provide a substantiated estimate of likely student enrollment initially and in subsequent years.
  8. RECRUITMENT: List the primary person(s) taking responsibility for recruiting students. Also provide a reasonably detailed description of the plan to be used for recruitment.
  9. PREPARATION: Describe any pre-departure preparation students will receive in addition to the generic/general orientation program provided by the Office for Education Abroad. Describe any planned post-program activities/events that are designed to help students process their study abroad experience.
  10. EVALUATION: Describe how the sponsoring MSU department and college will evaluate the program and assess student learning outcomes.

Special Considerations for Exchanges

Programs which involve an exchange component of any kind will require additional documentation. 

While these documents can be initiated before final program approval, it is suggested that signatures from the international institution NOT be collected until after MSU has fully vetted the program.

For assistance with this process contact visit International Agreements.


Deadlines for submitting an education abroad program proposal are outlined below.

Fall Semester Program

  • Deadline: October 31 the year prior

Winter Break Program

  • Deadline: January 31 the year prior

Spring Semester Program

  • Deadline: January 31 the year prior

Spring Break Program

  • Deadline: January 31 the year prior

Summer Program

  • Deadline: August 1 the year prior

Review Procedures

Review of formal program proposals takes place on a rolling cycle during the year.

When completed proposals are received, the overall review is coordinated by the Office for Education Abroad (EA). Those consulted may include:

  • Relevant MSU faculty and staff (including those familiar with the geographic area and/or subject matter)
  • Executive Director of the Office for Education Abroad (for overall proposal strength)
  • Relevant EA coordinator (for feasibility of program logistics, cost, and marketing)
  • Office for International Health and Safety (for review of any health or safety concerns)
  • Dean of International Studies and Programs

Once a complete program proposal is received by EA, a final decision regarding approval takes an average of one month, depending on reviewers' availability and need for program revisions.

All new summer program applications submitted by August 1st of the previous year will be reviewed and a decision made prior to the Fall Education Abroad Expo so that you can recruit at your college's table at this key event. Late proposals will be accepted up until September 1st but final review and approval cannot be guaranteed prior to the Expo. Proposals received after September 1st will be considered for the next cycle. New programs cannot be advertised or marketed to students until final approval is received.

Role of the Office for Education Abroad

PRE-PROPOSAL PLANNING: During the pre-proposal development stage, EA staff will provide feedback on your preliminary ideas and help you make connections with resources to support your efforts. These people may include experienced program directors, your college representatives, area studies staff, and the EA team. Programs traveling to rural locations or to areas with high health risks should consult with the Office for International Health and Safety.

FULL PROPOSAL: During the development of the program proposal, EA staff will provide input on several key aspects of the proposal, including feasibility of program logistics, potential for marketing, program costs, sufficient contact hours for the number of credits offered, inclusion of academic instruction and activities for the duration of the program, and health/safety concerns. Prospective program directors will need to make appointments with the appropriate EA coordinator to discuss the plans and to develop a draft budget for the proposed new program.


PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION: Once approved, all MSU education abroad credit-bearing programs are administered by EA, in partnership with the sponsoring college(s).

Role of the Academic Units

PRE-PROPOSAL PLANNING: Faculty planning to submit a new program proposal should consult with the sponsoring department(s) and college(s) (any that will offer academic credit on the program) on issues regarding academic design, instructional delivery methods, desired learning outcomes, and the proposed program's fit with the college's existing programs and strategic plan for study abroad programming.

FULL PROPOSAL: Some colleges have their own internal review process for new program proposals. The college-level review must be completed before a proposal can be forwarded to EA for final review and approval.

PROPOSAL REVIEW: Academic units and colleges are responsible for review of program and course subject matter and instructional delivery methods. Program proposals must have the written support of the relevant department chair(s) and college dean(s) or dean's designee before they can be sent for final review.

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION: Once approved, decisions regarding the academics of the program, including faculty staffing, courses offered, and instructional delivery methods, are made by the sponsoring academic college(s).

Role of the Risk and Security Assessment Committee (if applicable)

PRE-PROPOSAL PLANNING: MSU does not generally operate or endorse programs in countries with U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings. If you are considering such a destination, consult with the Office of International Health and Safety.

FULL PROPOSAL: All programs proposed or occurring in countries with a Travel Warning must submit a Travel Warning Waiver Request Form. Appeals for a waiver are made to the Risk & Security Assessment Committee (RSAC). If the Committee concurs that a waiver to the Travel Warning policy should be granted, it may recommend approval of the request to the Provost. The Provost makes the final decision on all Travel Warning policy waiver requests.

PROGRAM REVIEW: The Executive Director of Education Abroad, in consultation with the Office for International Health and Safety, the University Physician, and the Dean of International Studies and Programs will determine which proposals require review by the RSAC. The Office for International Health and Safety will guide faculty through the RSAC review process. In addition to reviewing all programs proposed or occurring in countries with Travel Warnings, the RSAC will review programs in countries where no other education abroad activities presently occur, in locations where health, safety, or security may be of particular concern, or in regions/cities of individual countries with significant levels of health, safety, or security concerns as identified by the U.S. Department of State, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or any other reputable body or individuals that express a valid concern about the program or location.

Available Grants

The grants below are available to support the establishment of new MSU education abroad programs.

Site Visit Grant

Offered by the Office for Education Abroad, Site Visit Grants are available to MSU faculty and administrators in support of developing a new education abroad program. The grants provide partial funding (up to $2,000) for one traveler for a maximum of 10 days. Visit the Site Visit Grant webpage to find out more details.