Directing an Off-Campus Program

University of St. Thomas faculty and staff are invited to serve as Program Directors on short-term off-campus programs. These programs are typically one- to four-week-long experiences at the host locations with integrated discipline-based and intercultural learning. They are rigorous, intense and often transformative, challenging students academically, personally, socially, physically and spiritually. 

Faculty-led programs run over January Term and Summer, or as Fall- or Spring-Embedded programs. A full cycle from program proposal to the end of travel usually takes a full year. All proposals are submitted with chair and dean approvals and are vetted by ARCIE, the Academic Review Committee for International Education. For UMAIE programs, the consortium’s board must also vet the proposals. 

Faculty-led programs are a collaboration between individuals and units both inside and outside the university. Many of the processes, from enrollment to training, are centralized in the Office of Study Abroad. Program Directors are responsible for the design and delivery of the academic and experiential content, communication with specific program organizations and participant recruitment and selection. On St. Thomas programs, colleges and schools oversee all budgets and financial operations. Travel logistics, such as group flights, ground transportation and lodging reservations, are outsourced to professional providers. 

Faculty and staff interested in learning more about proposing and developing programs should schedule to meet Aga Michalak, Assistant Director – Short-Term Programs, aamichalak@stthomas.edu.

Who is eligible to lead these short-term programs?

Short-term off-campus programs must be led by a team of at least two Program Directors (Policies for Program Directors #4). 

  • Any full-time, clinical or adjunct faculty member with chair and dean approval may serve as a Program Director. Faculty members are encouraged to collaborate across disciplines. 

  • Any staff member may serve as an Assistant Director who will provide support to the primary Program Director and the students but will not have teaching, grading, etc., responsibilities (Staff Participating in Off-campus Activities Policy). 

  • Any faculty member may similarly serve as an Assistant Director. Often in such cases, the primary Program Director mentors the Assistant Director who will either take over the same program in a later iteration or develop his or her own in that or another location. 

  • Non-St. Thomas individuals with relevant, complementary and unique expertise and skills may serve as Assistant Directors with the primary Program Director’s chair and dean’s approvals. 

At least one of the Program Directors must have previous experience in the primary program locations (Policies for Program Directors‌ #2). Mixed-gender leadership teams are desirable. 

What is the program proposal and approval process?

Short-term off-campus program proposals are received twice a year: 

  • In mid-October for Fall-Embedded and January Term programs (about 11 to 16 months before program start). 
  • In mid-April for Spring-Embedded and Summer programs (about 9 to 11 months before program start). 

All full-time faculty receive calls for proposals by e-mail from ARCIE several months before the submission deadlines. These include instructions for accessing proposal forms. 

The proposal forms for St. Thomas and UMAIE programs are very alike. Both require an integrated daily syllabus which breaks down on-site activities, assignments and readings, and makes clear connections between these and the academic and intercultural program objectives. ARCIE reviews all proposals and is primarily concerned with sufficient justification for programs to be taught off campus, including the ways they make use of their locations. 

Additionally, proposals for UMAIE programs are reviewed by the UMAIE board, which is guided by the following principles: 

  • Quality: Programs must meet or exceed the minimum academic standards for regular on-campus January term courses, including the number of contact hours. 
  • Extent of Program Directors’ experiences in the proposed locations. 
  • Innovation in program design: First-time Program Directors, new programs and innovative models, such as hybrid online/on-site programs, are welcome. 
  • Balance of offerings: The overall slate of UMAIE program offerings in any one January term is expected to represent a range of locations and disciplines. 
  • Universal representation: If possible, each UMAIE consortium institution should have at least one program offered during January term. 
  • Shared opportunity: In cases where similar program proposals are received from two or more UMAIE consortium institutions, the institution that has not recently offered such a program or that would be offering it for the first time would be given preference. 
  • Proportional representation: UMAIE consortium institutions that have generally provided a greater share of enrollment will be allocated a higher number of programs. 
  • Costs: Programs that would be priced at $5,500 or less or that incorporate cost-cutting measures are favored.

What is UMAIE and how are UMAIE programs different from St. Thomas programs?

UMAIE (Upper Midwest Association for Intercultural Association) in a consortium of five institutions. St. Thomas has been able to offer January term programs through UMAIE for which there might not otherwise be sufficient demand, such as those for small majors or in non-traditional destinations, enriched by the diverse perspectives contributed by the students from across the member institutions.   

Some of the differences between St. Thomas and UMAIE courses are summarized in the table below.

 

St. Thomas programs 

UMAIE programs 

Term 

Any, including Fall-Embedded, January Term, Spring-Embedded and Summer 

January Term only 

Proposal approval 

By ARCIE only 

By ARCIE and UMAIE board 

Participants 

St. Thomas undergraduate and graduate students only 

Undergraduate and graduate students from St. Thomas and other UMAIE consortium member institutions 

Curricular fit 

Recommended for programs that fulfill core curriculum requirements and for first year-only programs 

Recommended for both narrow and broad-focus programs, especially those not approved to fulfill any specific requirements 

On-site arrangements 

Made by recommended providers 

Made by Seminars International, one of St. Thomas’ recommended providers 

Pre-departure orientation 

Usually held on campus and conducted in person 

Conducted via webinar 

Post-return 

Possibility of organizing post-return meetings exists 

Difficult in most cases to arrange post-return meetings 

UMAIE’s Faculty Handbook offers additional information about the consortium’s programs, policies and processes.

How do I establish local contacts, evaluate potential locations and develop an itinerary for a program I would like to propose?

On-site experience is key. The Office of Study Abroad facilitates several grants for site visits and travel seminars. 

Additionally, UMAIE offers a Faculty Travel Grant and the Center for Faculty Development allows that its Teaching Enhancement Grants be used for travel to re-vision core curriculum courses as short-term off-campus programs. 

What other teaching abroad opportunities do I have through the Office of Study Abroad?

The Office of Study Abroad manages semester programs in London and Rome on which faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Opus College of Business serve as Resident Faculty or Program Directors, teaching, providing on-site support to the students as they navigate the host country cultures and serving as the St. Thomas administrators at these locations. 

Additionally, several of St. Thomas’ study abroad partners recruit instructors for their programs. Among these are: 

  • CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), which seeks US-based faculty to teach as guest instructors at one of its Global Institutes in Berlin, London, Paris or Rome. These institutes transcend the limitations of traditional study centers by creating opportunities for exchange among faculty and increased flexibility in course design, allowing academics from around the world to share and improve teaching practices. CIEE invites interest from faculty from any of the disciplines taught at the Global Institutes through the innovative Open Campus program - currently, liberal arts, business, communications and new media, political science and international relations, foreign language and literature (French, German and Italian) and health sciences. Each course is 45 contact hours (60 for language instruction), taught in either a 6-week block during a semester or a 4-week session in the summer.   

    • Summer: three 4-week sessions from late May to mid-August 
    • Fall: three 6-week blocks from mid-August to mid-December 
    • Spring: three 6-week blocks from mid-January to mid-May 

Further information is available on CIEE’s visiting faculty program page 

  • DIS, which invites proposals from faculty in a variety of disciplines – neuroscience, music, business, sociology and criminal justice, sustainability, communication and journalism, computer science, theater studies, etc. – to teach on its Copenhagen semester programs. Proposed courses should complement DIS’ existing curriculum and be site-relevant, planning to make use of local and regional resources. DIS requires attendance at its International Educators Workshop prior to submission of a proposal, at least 18 months in advance of teaching. Further information can be found on DIS’ visiting faculty member page. 

  • IES Abroad, which offers fall semester, spring semester and summer teaching grants at eleven of its centers in Western Europe and Latin America. Proposed courses must align with the centers’ curricula, which range from European Union politics, economics and cultures in Freiburg to agricultural and environmental sciences in Buenos Aires. More information may be found on IES Abroad’s teaching grants page. Additionally, IES Abroad offers research associate grants at any of its centers for up to one month over a semester or summer program. Its research associate page offers further details.