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Education Abroad Leadership, Management and Professional Development

By Erica Jorgenson posted 07-12-2023 01:08 PM


By: Erica Jorgenson & Jessica Fetridge

Dear Colleagues,

As we make our way out of the COVID-19 pandemic with growing numbers of students studying abroad and education abroad offices slowly bouncing back after years of burnout, turnover, and budget cuts, the need for effective leadership and support for staff is at an all time high. 


During the annual conference in DC, we hosted a lively and thought-provoking roundtable discussing leadership, management, and professional development in education abroad. The discussion centered around 3 main topics: Professional Development and Resources, Management, and Leadership. We asked a series of open-ended questions for each topic, giving participants about 10 minutes to discuss at their tables and then shared out as a full group. You can see the list of questions here


Here we’ll share our takeaways from the conversation, some questions you can ask yourself, resources and existing opportunities, and areas for growth.




Professional Development

  • Desire for more onsite opportunities, having trainings come to our offices
  • Desire for more training for middle managers
    • Training on Business operations: budget, contracts, etc
  • One roadblock to professional development requests was that the opportunities don’t always align with the timeline for budget requests


Management & Leadership

  • End of year reviews can be scary - make sure conversations are happening throughout the year so that there are no surprises
  • Always take advantage of a 1:1 with your supervisor to talk about goals, come prepared and use an outline
  • Again, more training is desired for managing others
  • Write mentorship into position descriptions and job descriptions when hiring
  • Some of the challenges faced by managers are: Building rapport and relationships, how to balance mentorship/supervision with the rest of your job duties

Questions to ask yourself and others

Some questions that International Education professionals can ask themselves on the topics of professional development, management and leadership are:

  1. What are skills you would like to develop?
  2. How do you talk about Professional Development with any staff that you supervise? 
  3. How do you empower others to take advantage of opportunities they think they aren’t ready for?
  4. How do you empower yourself to take advantage of opportunities you think you aren’t ready for?
  5. Do you feel empowered in your role to make decisions for anyone you supervise or for unit level policies/procedures?
    1. Where do you feel like you need more support/training/empowerment?


Resources and Opportunities

Some resources that were discussed and currently exist in the field are:


Areas for Growth – What are we Missing?


  • Onsite trainings for whole units/offices to reduce cost and maximize learning rather than sending 1 person to a conference or workshop
  • Training and development for new and middle managers
  • Disability advocacy 
  • Formalized training on business operations such as creating and maintaining budgets, working with contracts, and program development best practices
  • Navigating siloed international offices on campus


We know this is only a start and we know these conversations are necessary as we evolve and change as a field. What opportunities would you like to see that don’t currently exist?