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Faculty-led programs: the most popular option among our students

The Office of International Programs welcomes any faculty member with international contacts, experience, or interest to work with our office to develop a program.

SFA faculty-led programs are wholly self-supporting, and OIP will facilitate most of the program matters, including logistics and budget. We assist faculty members in keeping costs to the student at a minimum without jeopardizing the quality of the program.

Relying on the creativity and dedication of our faculty members to develop unique and interesting program options for students, allowing participants to engage with faculty members and peers on a deeper level while examining a specific topic in-depth.

Leveraging the location to enhance learning, leading a group of students abroad is a professionally rewarding experience with excursions and cultural activities built into the program. Help shape the student experience through meaningful engagement by sharing your knowledge and interest of another country and culture!

Typical class size

Class sizes are usually 12-25 students, allowing for an intimate learning environment.

Factors to consider

The success of a new study abroad program depends on many factors, including:


  • Course content that is relevant and interesting to a broad range of students
  • Clear, straightforward learning outcomes students can understand and embrace
  • Courses that fulfill specific SFA degree requirements
    • For example: a major, minor, or certificate program requirement, or a general education requirement that opens the program to students outside your department or college.

The courses associated with the program can range from existing SFA courses with student learning goals and assignments adjusted to reflect and incorporate location (these could be specific courses, special topics, or travel study designations) to the development of new courses approved through university curriculum committees.

Courses offered abroad must be of comparable academic rigor to those offered on-campus. Contact hours may include classroom time, lectures, field trips/excursions, group learning activities, research, service-learning, community projects, volunteer time, other academic activities and cultural activities conducted prior to, during, and/or after the in-country program dates.

Models and approaches

Repeating/recurring programs often assist in garnering student interest through word-of-mouth from previous participants. Explore the different models and approaches to consider when developing your program.

Program Models

Embedded programs incorporate a study abroad experience as a component of an on campus SFA course taught during the fall or spring semester. This type of program offers students a unique study abroad opportunity to incorporate coursework with an international experience during a term recess.

Freestanding programs are an SFA-operated faculty-led program that offers course credit. Course content is delivered almost entirely abroad (some meetings and assignments begin prior to departure or after return, as needed). Most freestanding programs run during any of the summer terms.

Program Approaches

There are many approaches to designing a faculty-led program.  A few examples include:

  • Classroom-Based Programs: Programs based at a study center or university in one city with visits to surrounding areas.
  • Field Study Programs: Programs in which students are exploring a theme via experiential activities outside of a classroom.
  • Academic Study Tours: Comparative programs investigating a topic or theme that travel to several cities or countries.
  • Service Learning Trips: Programs organized around intensive hands-on service projects that are coupled with focused reflection exercises.

Primary and secondary leaders

An energetic, motivated faculty director who can successfully promote the program to students is key to the program development. Repeating/recurring faculty leaders assist in garnering student interest through word-of-mouth from previous participants.

SFA recommends that all programs have two responsible SFA-employed leaders, with the primary leader being a faculty member. The secondary leader can be a faculty or staff member, or a graduate student.

Salary and stipends

Salary and stipends for primary and secondary leaders are handled within your department or college.

Travel expenses

Travel expenses for primary and secondary leaders are built into the program budget and covered by the students' program fee.

Destination and duration

Consider the appeal to students when exploring destinations and program duration.

Situate the course in a location that reinforces the curricular content and makes the site a learning laboratory. The group may stay in one location for the duration of the program, possibly with day or weekend trips further afield, or travel within one or more cities or countries. 

Time abroad might range from a week to several weeks, and academic credit will vary depending on the curriculum and the amount of time overseas.

The majority of faculty-led programs tend to be two to three weeks in length; short-term programs are especially attractive to first time travelers and students with family or job commitments.


We strongly recommend faculty members work with a program provider located in the destination city who can help manage logistics, assist in the event of an emergency and facilitate enhanced learning opportunities based on their local knowledge and networks.

If you have an existing network of contacts or colleagues who are willing and able to assist with the planning and execution, a program provider may not be needed.

Accommodation, meals and transportation

Accommodations might include hotels, youth hostels, apartments, university housing, host families or even camping.

Most programs include only group welcome and farewell dinners, but others may include most or all meals depending on the location.

In-country transportation options range from public (metro, bus, train) to walking. Programs typically include airport pick-up and drop-off.

Program cost

Program costs are incurred by the students and depend greatly on travel expenses specific to your program, including the destination(s), duration, transportation, activities and lodging. In addition to the tuition for the academic course, the cost to study abroad with a faculty-led program is generally between $3,000 to $5,000.

While students are encouraged to apply for scholarships, we recommend program budgeting remain reasonably affordable.

Ready to get started creating your study abroad program?

Contact the Office of International Programs to begin discussing your program idea with our study abroad coordinator. This dialogue will help give shape and structure to your idea. Topics like program size, working with a provider, and marketing and promotion will get the ball rolling. We do encourage you to have conversations with your department chair about the program prior to formally proposing your program.

Developing and submitting your program proposal

Through a traveler relationship management platform, viaTRM, OIP has centralized study abroad documents and processes. The platform is primarily designed for student applicants; however, it also has allowed us to streamline the process in which your program proposal is submitted, reviewed and approved.

How-to viaTRM guide

View the PDF guide on submitting a proposal.

Which faculty-led programs must submit a proposal?

All faculty-led programs, regardless of the status as “new,” “repeating” or “reproposed,” must complete the proposal application.

New programs: Before any promotion or implementation can begin, proposals for new faculty-led programs must be submitted for review and approval at the department, college and university level.

Reproposing programs: University-level approvals are valid for two years; however, these programs must submit for approval at the department and college level.

Overview of required components

Completing the faculty-led program package is the first step in developing your faculty-led program. A program package consists of four required components:

  1. Program proposal form, with the necessary signatures
  2. Detailed tentative itinerary
  3. Course syllabus
  4. Program budget

Program proposal form

The proposal form is where you identify the basic elements of your program: who, what, where and when. This is also where you’ll name the course, and indicate essential elements like number of credits, undergraduate, graduate or both, and make any cross-listings with other departments or disciplines. 

Detailed tentative itinerary and course syllabus

The tentative itinerary and course syllabus are closely connected, as the structure of the program exists within those two pieces. If you’re adapting an existing course, you’ll already have a syllabus to guide the development of your itinerary. If you’re starting from scratch, consider developing these in parallel, as one will surely inform the other.

Program budget

The program budget is often the trickiest to develop. As this is just a draft, don’t stress too much about making the actual costs and numbers perfect, but rather focusing on obtaining reliable quotes and price estimates for the different components of your program. Let us know if you need assistance gathering this information. We will work with you to define the final budget before announcing it to the students. 

Completing and submitting your proposal online

Important Notes: If your browser redirects you to the viaTRM login page after clicking the link below, use your mySFA credentials to log in and click this direct link again. First-time users will be prompted to complete a profile. Bypass this prompt by clicking the “x.”

Visit the SFA Faculty-Led Program application page on viaTRM. After reading the information posted on the program page, click “Apply Now.” Complete the online proposal application and click “Submit.”


Proposal Instructions for New Program
Proposal Instructions for Repeating Program

What’s next?

Before OIP staff submit your proposal to the provost, they'll schedule a short appointment with you to ask any clarifying questions. They also will notify you by email when your proposal is approved. Once approved, the signed proposal will be sent to you by campus mail and the faculty-led program package will be available in your viaTRM dashboard.

The program package will ask for different information specific to whether your program is new, repeating or reproposed, including:

  • Proposal form
  • Program estimated budget sheet
  • Course description and sample syllabi
  • Program itinerary and similar information

Deadlines and approval timeline

Summer programs:

  • April 1: Faculty-lead program package due
    • New programs: Accepted proposals at department and college level will go on to the Provost for final approval.
    • Repeating programs: Approved programs will be sent by OIP to your dean and department chair.
  • Mid-May through June: Final approval notices
    • OIP will contact faculty leaders to finalize program budgets and create program pages.
  • Mid-October: Program information released and application portal opens for students

Note: This reflects the timeline for programs intending to travel during the months of May through August. If you plan to lead a program at a different time, contact us to discuss your deadlines. 


Program cancelations

Minimum student registrations

The required minimum number of students registered for a course will be determined by your program budget. In the event this minimum is not met, there are options to consider before canceling the program, including:

  • subsidizing the program at the department or college level
  • or reducing costs in the compensation structure or travel expenses for primary and secondary leaders.

Unforeseeable circumstances

A faculty-led program may be canceled if a primary or secondary leader becomes ill and is unable to travel.

Occasionally, international developments will call into question the practicality or safety of traveling to certain destinations.

We encourage you to consider a thorough contingency plan prior to submitting your program proposal to avoid last-minute changes to academic content or costs.

Tips and resources

Promoting your program

Students will respond well to robust engagement from faculty members at both the department and college levels. As we mentioned before, repeating or recurring programs and faculty leaders assist in garnering student interest through word-of-mouth from previous participants.

Promotional materials must be carefully crafted.

  • Specific promises (for example: a "fun time") should be avoided.
  • Commitments should not be expressed unless they can be delivered in a concrete and ascertainable manner.
  • We recommend to include a disclaimer cautioning that changes in the program could occur and that reasonable substitutions will be made to the best ability of the faculty leader.

Tracking expenses while abroad

While abroad, be sure to document your expenses every day to avoid them building up and blurring together.

Preparing your students

Set expectations

One of the most important aspects of developing your study abroad course is setting appropriate expectations for students. The more students understand of the academic goals of your course, the standards you intend to apply, and the practical issues of logistics and cultural adjustments in an international setting, the smoother the program will run.

Discussion time is important throughout the program. A final meeting (or two or three) to identify what they have learned, how their attitudes or understandings have changed, and what they're going to do with it all when we go back home is essential.

Orientation sessions

The orientation sessions you hold in the months prior to departure will be an important source to the student for this information. During those meetings, you may want to show slides or photos of the course location, distribute the reading and project assignments list, and discuss the grading system.

Orientation is an ongoing process. As the director, you don't have to know all the answers. If in doubt about the bus routes, where the best cell phone deals or Internet cafés are, or where to eat in a new city, assign the students to figure it out the answers as a team and bring them back to share with the rest of the group (in the form of maps, schedules, price lists, etc.). It actively engages the students in the host language and culture and it takes the burden off you.

First-time travelers

The majority of students participating in your course will not have traveled abroad before. Your clarity about the country where you will study will be reassuring to them. While they will welcome your observations about the course site, your students will greatly enjoy hearing from other SFA students who have studied there. Best of all would be a presentation from SFA international students who could speak from an insider's perspective on his or her home country.

External resources


Inés Maxit, Study Abroad Coordinator


Office of International Programs
Fax: 936.468.7215
Staff directory

Come see us:
Steen Library, Suite 103