Considerations in leading a program abroad

​​The Office of Study Abroad welcomes the opportunity to work with CMU faculty to develop unique academic experiences for CMU students outside of the United States. Below is information that will give interested faculty an overview of the initial process. 

Length of program

Faculty-led programs may be offered during spring break for one week, during summer for one to 12 weeks, or for a full semester.

Program credits

Faculty-led programs follow the same rules for number of credits as any regular campus class. Below is the federal regulation for the award of credit hours. 

Federal credit hour definition: A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than: (1) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or (2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practicals, studio work and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours. 34CFR 600.2 (11/1/2010).

Faculty-led program types​

Course taught entirely abroad: This is the most common type of program. It is recommended that a few class meetings be scheduled prior to departure to prepare the students for the academic work.


Combination course: This is typically a summer course. Meets with on campus for the first part of the course for one or two weeks and the second part of the course is offered abroad. 

Field trip for a campus course: Faculty may offer, for example, a spring semester course with a required spring break field trip abroad.​

Faculty-led program models 

Experience living or traveling in the host country(ies) is essential when planning to lead CMU students abroad. Contacts abroad at foreign universities or organizations that can help with program planning will be very helpful. Program models:

Faculty leader plans program:  With experience and contacts in the host country(ies), the faculty leader can plan the program activities, including housing and transportation. Program costs for students are most affordable with this model.


Program organized on site by a third party program provider: There are several reputable organizations, commonly called "program providers," the Office of Study Abroad has worked with over the years that help reserve housing, transportation, schedule guest lecturers, field trips, etc. These program providers charge a fee that will be built into the students' program cost. Program providers can offer varying levels of support, depending on the organization and the requests of the faculty-leader:

  • Pre-planned courses and on-site assistance
  • Logistics only and the faculty-leader teaches the course
  • Service-learning, combining classroom learning and active learning to provide students with real-world experiences and opportunities to connect those experiences with course topics through reflection and discussion.

On-site coordinator hired to assist with planning in-country:  Faculty who have contacts abroad with reliable individuals who can assist with program logistics have successfully received assistance with program planning.

Getting Started​

It is strongly encouraged that a potential faculty leader begins planning and working with Study Abroad 18 months prior to the start of the program. (ex. June Program, begin planning and meeting with Study Abroad in January of the previous year).

  • 18 Months prior: meet with the director of study abroad and faculty-led programs coordinator to discuss the program.
  • Obtain initial support from the chair and dean to develop a new program.
  • 12-15 months prior: Apply for the Study Abroad Development Grant​ if necessary to visit the site to develop the program and make contacts in-country.
  • 12-15 months prior: by April of the year preceding the start of the program: Complete the program proposal via the online system. The program proposal asks for the 1. program description and learning objectives, 2. field trips, 3. Syllabus and student development, and 4. budget. Study Abroad will provide access and instructions for the online proposal and will assist with the budget development. Study Abroad will send new proposals to the chair, dean and provost for approvals; renewals will only be sent to the chair and dean for approvals.
  • Once approved, Study Abroad will add the program to the study abroad website to assist with promotion. Study Abroad also will send you an official letter informing you of the approval and the next steps. At this time you are encouraged to begin actively promoting the program.
  • For undergraduate courses you are encouraged to request the university Program IV-B approval to offer students an additional option to fulfill graduation requirements. UP IV B approval may be requested from the General Education Subcommittee. Instructions to request UP IV B approval can be obtained from the Academic ​Sena​te Office.​

Program renewal

It is expected that faculty-leaders will offer the program for at least three years or every other year for five years. The program renewal process in subsequent year(s) is simple. Study Abroad will provide access to the previous year's proposal to make necessary updates (ie. program dates, field trips etc.). Renewals must be completed by April 15 of the previous year. 

Planning and proposing a faculty-led program

Proposals are due by April 15 of the prior year.

Faculty-led program accounting procedures

Faculty leaders are responsible for accounting and reporting all program expenses. 

Liability and risk management

Risk Management, Environmental Health and Safety provides information about liability and insurance provided to CMU employees.

Specific information for study abroad is included in the Foreign Travel section of their website.​