Date

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Department

Educational Leadership

First Adviser

Sperandio, Jill

Other advisers/committee members

Wiseman, Alexander; Hochbein, Craig; Huston, Richard

Abstract

As the field of study abroad grows and diversifies, scholars call for more research on how the components of such programming impact students. In response to such calls, this study explored how alumni of the Latin American Studies Program (LASP) perceived specific study abroad components to influence changes in their religious faith. LASP alumni completed an anonymous, qualitative survey that invited them to indicate whether studying abroad influenced a change in their religious faith, describe this change and its consequent actions, and identify LASP components that most influenced this change. The survey generated 430 responses, which represent 24% of LASP's alumni population. Results indicated that 89% of respondents perceived that studying abroad influenced a change in their religious faith. Respondents' descriptions of this change revealed six themes--increased awareness of culture's influence on religious faith, new embrace of doubt, more inclusive religious faith, greater emphasis on social justice, left Christianity, and solidified existing Christian faith. Respondents' descriptions of the actions that emerged from these changes illustrated five themes--justice-centered vocation, creating sustainable economies, transforming communities, family decisions, and personal development. Respondents identified a blend of components that drove this change, which was characterized by formal learning experiences (lectures, readings, assignments) that were brought to life by reflective engagement of the Latin American context (relationships with host families, study trips, discussion groups). The results contribute to a growing body of research that identifies intercultural experience as a driver of religious change. Furthermore, the findings encourage educational leaders to prioritize study abroad programs that achieve integration between formal learning experiences and direct engagement of the host context.

Share

COinS