Study abroad programs help students succeed, 10-year study concludes

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  Scholars to present results at Kennesaw State forum Nov 10   KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 6,…

Georgia (Nov 6, 2009)

Scholars to present results at Kennesaw State forum Nov 10
KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 6, 2009) —Students who study abroad during college are more likely to earn higher grades and graduate, especially those who were less academically prepared or had lower SAT scores, concludes a 10-year study whose results will be presented at Kennesaw State University on Nov. 10.
Richard C. Sutton, visiting senior research fellow at KSU’s Siegel Institute for Leadership, Ethics and Character, and Donald L. Rubin, University of Georgia professor emeritus and Emory adjunct professor, will present the final report of the Georgia Learning Outcomes of Students Studying Abroad Research Initiative (or GLOSSARI), which surveyed more than 30,000 Georgia students since 2000.
“Educators have long thought study abroad programs were advantageous to students, but did not have empirical data to support this assumption,” Sutton said. “I joined Dr. Rubin in this research to help the academic profession be more confident about what we are promoting for students.”
The research project was conducted in five phases using large samples and control groups to compare participant and non-participant learning outcomes and their performance on course-specific exams, GPAs and graduation rates. The final phase correlated learning outcomes with study abroad program design elements such as orientation, length of stay, location, scheduling and debriefing.  
“We not only found that students who go abroad have higher academic performance as measured by GPAs and graduation rates, but the survey data consistently revealed that they have a much greater knowledge of how to navigate uncharted terrain,” Sutton said. “Knowing they can deal with new situations is a fundamental cognitive skill that helps get students ready for life.” 
Another key finding is that the impact of study abroad on GPAs and graduation rates was greatest for students with less academic preparation than for those coming into college with higher grades and SAT scores. 
“The results indicate that we need to think much more carefully about how we design study abroad programs,” Sutton said. “We typically set a GPA as a cut off for allowing students to study abroad. We might want to rethink that. Once students with lower academic performance go abroad, they really get up to speed academically in demonstrative ways.”
GLOSSARI was initiated by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, for which Sutton formerly served as assistant vice chancellor for International Programs and senior advisor for Academic Affairs.  Sutton and Rubin received $547,000 in 2006 from the U.S. Department of Education to complete the ambitious project that is designed to assess what students actually learn from study abroad experiences.
The forum, presented by KSU’s Siegel Institute, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Institute for Global Initiatives, is schedule from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. at CETL in House #54 on Campus Loop Road on the Kennesaw State campus. For more information on the researchers and the GLOSSARI project, visit
Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including new doctorates in education and business. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 22,300 from 142 countries.
Contact: Sabbaye McGriff, 678-797-2550 or


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit