Faculty Leader Responsibilities

Faculty Leader Responsibilities

The efforts of the faculty leader are the single largest determining factor in the success or failure of a study abroad program. Being a faculty leader requires a tremendous commitment of time and effort. A successful faculty leader must enjoy working with students and possess strong administrative skills. S/he must be comfortable in providing basic student counseling and in taking disciplinary action, if necessary. In addition, the faculty leader should be familiar with the host country and its culture, and have a basic understanding of the native language.

The faculty leader has ultimate authority to make decisions regarding students and instructors in the program during the time that the group is abroad. The faculty leader thus has significantly more authority and responsibility than s/he would at the home campus.

A faculty leader is responsible for the following areas:

  • Academic - Overseeing the academic portion of the program while students are off campus
  • Financial - Developing program budget, disbursing funds overseas, accounting for all expenditures, turning in receipts and a financial expense report upon return from an off-campus program.
  • Societal/Administrative - Serving as arbiter in case of disputes or disagreements involving students, faculty, host families, and parents. Solving problems to the extent possible while off campus. Submitting a written report summarizing the program upon return to campus.
  • Recruitment - Faculty need to be prepared to promote their program across the campus to ensure a significant population for their course. Many times the courses are geared for a cross-disciplinary approach. If a course is major specific, the leader needs to understand the culture of the students within the department to evaluate the likelihood of the program attracting enough students.

While the group is abroad, the faculty leader essentially is "on call" around the clock. If this seems a bit over stated, it is important to keep a few thoughts in mind: Some students who participate in the program have never traveled outside the country. Some may never have been on an airplane. There will be many situations which they will be facing for the first time in their lives, including homesickness, culture shock and communicating with people from other countries.

Ordinarily, while on campus, professors do not have to concern themselves with the welfare of their students outside the classroom. This situation changes dramatically abroad. It is important to understand that the faculty leader, and St. Catherine University, could be held legally liable for any misfortune that befalls a student on a field trip or other group excursion that was organized by the faculty leader as part of the off-campus program. The parents of some students also have the expectation that the program leader is providing a great deal of personal attention to the students.

Faculty leaders are not expected to watch over the students like parents or to anticipate all possible problems. However, it is important that students know how to reach the program leader (or his/her designee) at all times during the length of the program in the event of an emergency.

While most off-campus programs run smoothly, real emergencies have occurred. Some examples include serious illness and accidents that required students to leave the program early, a death in the family of a student abroad, a student who was sexually assaulted, and students who were robbed. This information is not provided to discourage faculty from leading programs off-campus, but as examples to illustrate that there is an enormous difference between teaching abroad and at home. A faculty leader must be prepared and willing to take on this added responsibility.

Finally, while abroad, and even before departure, students will have questions ranging from "how do I register for classes" to "what is the weather like."  A balance must be reached where sufficient support is provided while fostering an atmosphere in which students can develop independence and self confidence.

During this whole process the Office of Global Studies is available to answer questions and assist the faculty as they prepare for the program, facilitate the program, and evaluate after the program.

More details about proposing a faculty-led program are available on this website.  Please feel free to contact the Director of Global Studies at 651.690.6055 or at ccspaeth@stkate.edu for more information.