Faculty-led short-term programs are the most popular type of study abroad experience for undergraduate students in the United States. The rise of the FLST model has created new challenges for institutions and faculty. This study undertakes a critical analysis of the practice of faculty-led short-term (FLST) study abroad at U.S. colleges and universities. In particular, it highlights the efforts of faculty who have designed and led justice-centered programs that challenge colonial discourses in study abroad. It advances a critical framework for understanding FLST as a phenomenon in the neoliberal university and discusses the implications for practice in higher education.
The creation of new study abroad programs represents a significant investment of time and effort on the part of faculty, and the sustainability of FLST programs depends in large part on the willingness of faculty to engage and, importantly, to reengage in this labor. Most colleges and universities promote study abroad as one facet of an overall goal of campus internationalization, yet rhetorical support is often unmatched by institutional funding, administrative assistance, and recognition for faculty leaders.
Applying a Critical University Studies lens to the practice of FLST, this qualitative case study focuses on the lived experiences of faculty leaders, their definitions and justifications of social justice frameworks, and their perspectives on the significance of study abroad to higher education and the academy as workplace. The data that inform the study were collected in semi-structured interviews with 14 Oregon State University faculty members who have developed and directed justice-centered FLST programs. The findings document how faculty innovations in social justice pedagogies are reshaping the role of study abroad and expanding the scope of what can be accomplished in the short-term format. At the same time, findings show that stronger institutional support is needed to sustain these high-impact, transformative learning opportunities for students. The discussion and analysis aim to situate FLST practice within the context of educational labor in the neoliberal university and to prompt new dialogue among stakeholders in higher education.