Preparing Students as Leaders with a Global Mindset

A Study Abroad Phenomenological Case Study


  • Deborah R. Acker Shelton Leadership Center and North Carolina State University
  • Jason Bocarro North Carolina State University


Global learning; global leadership; interdisciplinary; study abroad; experiential learning; pedagogical practices; international perspectives; critical reflection


Research continues to stress the importance for college students to graduate with the skills to be successful as global-minded leaders in today’s evolving workforce. Although the typical study abroad programs can address this, critics point to some limitations. First, most study abroad programs are short-term, limiting students’ ability to internalize and apply cultural context upon their return to the United States. Second, although universities and colleges state the importance of developing students' cultural competencies, few have intentionally incorporated best practices for study abroad. The purpose of this phenomenological case study, therefore, was to explore how nine students from six different disciplines perceived a unique study abroad experience, designed to address some of the typical study abroad limitations. This interdisciplinary program was designed to immerse students in three European countries while participating in a formal learning cohort program that incorporated cognitive, experiential, and humanistic methodologies. The study also explored what role cross-cultural partnerships with companies, organizations, and community leaders played in enhancing the students’ application and integration of developing themselves as global- minded citizen leaders in their field of study. Data were collected through informal interviews with all nine students and supporting data included field observations, rich text, and results from the Global Mindset Inventory®. Utilizing a hybrid-coding scheme, researchers found four themes that emerged, supporting the notion that the cross-cultural pedagogical framework enhanced students’ self-efficacy as global-minded citizens, resulting from their interdisciplinary international experiences.