International Studies & Programs

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Narrative instructions for faculty-directed program development

Please address, in order, the seven categories outlined below. The organization of each category is open and depends on the specifics of your program. The questions reflect the information the review team is looking for. Please feel free to ask for help and share drafts with your college representative and EA staff.  We also recommend using the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad Programs produced by the Forum on Education Abroad to guide the development of your program proposal.

Background Considerations: Rationale, Viability, Sustainability

What are the proposed program's goals, objectives, and expected academic and experiential student learning outcomes? How do the program learning outcomes support college / department strategies for education abroad?How is the proposed length of the program conducive to achieving the stated learning outcomes? How is the site chosen appropriate for the focus of the program? (N.B. Preference is given to longer programs when feasible. Across MSU's large catalog of faculty-directed programs, the mean is 1.5 credits per week. Many of our successful programs are based on a 6-week model offering 9 credits.) How are the number of proposed sites to visit, their geographical proximity to each other and the time spent travelling between them conducive to achieving the stated learning outcomes?

Keep in mind that MSU already offers over 300 education abroad programs. Please consult the program search function on the OSA website to identify other programs with similar academic content and/or in the same region. OSA can assist with data on enrollment trends. Please describe any discussions you have had with your college(s) and other program leader(s) regarding competition or potential collaboration with existing programs.

Address the following:

  1. What is your best substantiated estimate of likely student enrollment initially and in subsequent years?
  2. What is the minimum enrollment needed to cover costs?
  3. Who are the primary person(s) taking responsibility for recruiting students? What is your recruitment plan (list enrollment in targeted majors, plans for program promotion, etc.)?
  4. Once the program is up and running, could its capacity be expanded to include additional fields of study? (optional)

Program Budget

The OSA program coordinator for your college can assist you in developing the program budget, as well as your college's Education Abroad Advisory Council representative. As a public institution, MSU strives to offer the highest quality international learning experiences to our students at the most reasonable cost. A number of factors can affect program cost, such as:

  • number and location of excursions
  • type of accommodations
  • number of program leaders

For example, including more than one faculty member for each 12-15 planned participants can add significantly to the cost of a program. This is sometimes necessary to meet the pedagogical goals of your college's program model. For field-based programs, this can also be necessary for risk management. Your college representative as well as OSA can provide averages for your college. In addition to including a detailed budget proposal, please address how the proposed cost/value ratio reflects your college's strategy.

Academic Profile

Appropriate approval from each department and college offering credit on the proposed program is required.

Academic program

What is / are the proposed program's:

  • subject matter?
  • academic learning outcomes?
  • instructional models?
  • plans to incorporate foreign language coursework into the program, if applicable?

Does the proposed program offer experiential opportunities? If offered for credit, do internships, community engagement, service learning and field research have appropriate academic and field supervision?

How will field trips, host-institution faculty, and aspects of the host culture and environment complement and be integrated into the academic program and courses?

  • What are the nature and level of contacts already made (guest lectures, guided tours, company visits)?
  • What are the credentials of host country faculty/speakers?
  • How many contact hours will be provided through field experiences?
  • What, if any, are your plans for internships, service learning and community engagement?

How does the program seek to integrate student overseas learning with requirements and learning at MSU? Specifically, how can:

  • University, college, and major requirements prepare students for this education abroad experience?;
  • Credits earned on this education abroad experience be used to fulfill university, college, and major requirements (as determined by the relevant academic units)?;
  • This education abroad program enhance the value of student's degrees?; and
  • This education abroad experience be reintegrated into the on-campus curriculum and learning environments, as well as career planning, when students return to campus?

What are the MSU course titles, codes, and numbers that will be taught on-site? What is the total number of contact hours provided (in-class and on field trips)? Include draft syllabi for all offered courses.

Academic Credit

Each academic credit requires a minimum of 14 contact hours. Field trips that are directly related to the academic objectives of the program, as described in course syllabi, may be counted on a 2:1 ratio, e.g. 2 hours of guided field trip = 1 hour of classroom contact. 2 hours of 'study time' must be available to students for each daily contact hour. Total contact hours cannot exceed six in one day.

Requests for approval to use any social science course number in a study abroad program offering, regardless of disciplinary area, must go to the Associate Dean of Social Science who has responsibility for education abroad programs.

If you plan to include an IAH course in your new or existing program, please remember that the syllabus must be received and reviewed by the CISAH office prior to opening the section for enrollment. Additionally, OSA cannot include IAH offerings in any marketing materials unless CISAH approval has been obtained in advance.

Program Leader Linguistic and Cultural Background/Profile

What is/are the program leader(s)' prior experience in the host country/region and, if the official language is not English, level of foreign language proficiency? If program leaders have little or no applicable foreign language ability, how will this barrier be overcome? Program leaders should understand that, especially for short-term programs, the entire experience in the host culture forms the class.

Please provide program leader bio.

Research Opportunities

How does the program contribute to a program leader's &/or department's research agenda (optional)?

Does the program offer research opportunities for undergraduate students (optional)?

Student Profile

What are the minimally required, as well as desirable, prerequisites and student qualifications for participation in the program?

What are the program's physical requirements along a scale of "regular", "strenuous" or "very strenuous"?

Program Site

Physical Environment

What is the proposed program's physical environment in regards to:

  • Student accommodations? Programs involving homestays may require additional information. Please discuss this option with OSA staff.
  • Meal arrangements?
  • Availability of accessible grocery/daily incidentals shopping?
  • Availability of public transportation?
  • Accessibility and services for students with disabilities?
  • Availability of computer labs and internet access?
  • Availability of libraries?

Available student services:

  • on-site/arrival orientation?
  • health care providers, counseling services?
  • emergency assistance?
  • registration/enrollment assistance (partner programs only)?
  • assistance with locating safe and affordable housing (for students and program leaders)?
  • other services and relevant aspects?

Cultural Engagement, Learning and Sensitivity

What types of activities exist to help students learn about the new culture (e.g., attendance at local events, fairs, festivals, visits to local museums, historical sites of interest, etc.)?

What opportunities exist for students to interact with people from the host country (e.g., homestay accommodations, local students, guest lecturers, etc.)?

How will students be encouraged to reflect on their cross-cultural learning development (e.g., reflective essays, journals, debriefing sessions, etc.)?

How does the program demonstrate sensitivity to and respect for differences between local cultural norms and those of the home culture?

  • What are the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the program on the local community? How will the program endeavor to create a relationship that is mutually beneficial, and minimize any negative effects on the host society?
  • What are the plans for offering effective orientation to students so that they are aware of applicable host and home country ethical and legal practices, and so that they understand the host society, in order to avoid actions that negatively impact that society or the image of the host country?
  • How does the program consider and respond to local environmental, economic, and cultural consequences of its presence (or disappearance) in the design and management of its activities?

Health, Safety and Security

Risk management is a crucial component in our review of program proposals. The Office of International Health and Safety (OIHS) is happy to assist program leaders in developing thorough health, safety, and security program protocols so do not hesitate to reach out to them (oihs(at) or 517-884-9419).

Program leaders must complete a Critical Incident Management Seminar (formerly called the Emergency Preparedness and Response Seminar – or EP&R) before leading a program for the first time and then at least every two years. More information on these seminars and other important tips for program leaders may be found on the OIHS website.

Safety and security

Program proposals must demonstrate the leaders’ clear understanding of the risk environment and must detail appropriate risk mitigation strategies. Many risks can be mitigated through thoughtful program design, pre-departure education, and consulting local sources.

For each category below, identify any risks that may impact your program and the strategies your program will undertake to mitigate these risks:

a) Terrorism

b) Civil unrest

c) Crime/criminal activity

d) Natural disasters

e) Other


Program leadership must be aware that there may be health issues that arise during the program, and should be prepared to handle student, faculty, or staff health issues.

Identify the risks and mitigation strategies for:

  • Public health risks including but not limited to: water drinkability, food safety, and air pollution
  • Access to medical care (e.g. nearest local health center/hospital with appropriate standard of care - email oihs(at) for assistance)

Program activities

It is also important to consider risk as it may relate to the program activities. In this section, please offer the following:

  1. A detailed program itinerary that describes the locations and activities the program will undertake. Relevant information includes vendors that will be contracted. We understand that your program itinerary may change but request an overview of what you expect your program will look like.
  2. A description of any water safety concerns and mitigation strategies (e.g. swimming, snorkeling, water sports etc.).
  3. Maps of program activity locations.
  4. Physical requirements for participation in the program. Keep in mind that students with physical disabilities and/or pre-existing physical and mental health conditions may be interested in participating in your program.
    • Regular: involves similar activities to those on campus. Moderate level of walking expected. Should not create any unusual physical demands.
    • Strenuous: Involves travelling that includes carrying luggage and may include frequent use of public transportation. Includes one or more required physical activities that contribute to the academic goals of the program.
    • Very strenuous: Involves regular, constant and demanding physical activity necessary for full participation in the program. Above average physical fitness required.

Local support resources

Strong local support can be crucial in ensuring your program is healthy, safe, and well managed. Your program proposal must include:

  • An overview of on-site contacts that your participants and MSU can connect with while your program is running.
  • A description of the types of transportation you will be using throughout your program. This may include modes of public transportation, contracted vendors, etc.
  • Contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in each location your program will be visiting.


Looking at the logistics of your proposed program, address the following administrative steps in regards to:


  1. Are visas required for U.S. citizens?
  2. How will any pre-departure activities (if any) be organized?
  3. Who will serve as point person to the Office of Study Abroad regional coordinator (e.g., developing program cost, developing program informational sheet, paying invoices, etc.)?
  4. Who will be responsible for student advising?
  5. Student selection:
  • Who will review student applications?
  • Will an interview be required?
  • Will an essay be required?
  • How will non-MSU student applications considered?


  1. What, if any, non-academic on-site support exists?
  2. How will on-site disciplinary issues be handled?
  3. Who will be the chief of party?


  1. How will any post-return activities (if any) be organized?
  2. Who will take responsibility for post-program financial reconciliation?

Student Learning & Development

  1. What pre-departure preparation will students receive in addition to the generic/general online orientation program provided by the Office of Study Abroad?
  2. What post-program activities/events are planned to help students process their study abroad experience?
  3. How will students' cross-cultural learning be facilitated on-site (e.g., interaction with locals, cultural "debriefing" sessions on site, reflective essays, etc.)?
  4. How does the program provide opportunities that encourage student development (e.g., leadership skills, service orientation, maturity, tolerance for ambiguity, growth in cultural awareness, academic growth)?
  5. How does the program address MSU's Liberal Learning and Global Competencies goals?

Markers of Success

How will the sponsoring department and/or college evaluate the program and assess the intended student learning outcomes? (Consider available sources of information such as SOCT, SIRS, study abroad / college-level / program-specific evaluation forms, Liberal Learning Goals, Global Competencies, etc.)

Please note that proposals are considered incomplete until all sections are received. Please feel free to discuss drafts with your college representative and Office for Education Abroad staff.