Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Foundations & Leadership


Higher Education

Committee Director

Mitchell R. Williams

Committee Member

Felecia Commodore

Committee Member

Rosalind L. Raby


Since 2007-08, the number of community colleges who reported sending students abroad has tripled. Community college students represent diverse demographic backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, and life experiences that are often underrepresented in higher education and education abroad (EA). The purpose of this narrative inquiry was to explore the long-term learning outcomes gained by 27 community college alumni who studied abroad between Fall 2015 and Fall 2019. Data collection consisted of two rounds of in-depth, individual semi-structured interviews as well as a pre-interview survey. Participants had graduated within the past five years and participated in both short-term, faculty-led and mid-length, faculty-in-residence programs on four continents.

Findings of the study indicate that community college alumni report a variety of learning outcomes that have remained impactful for them in the years after studying abroad. Three participants chose to move abroad for graduate school or work, while other participants reported that EA supported the development of skills to support the transition to independent adulthood. Further, study participants made professional connections regarding their desired careers along with academic connections, which consist of knowledge and attitudes regarding academic coursework or continual learning. Findings of this study also revealed that participants acquired knowledge about their host culture, which led to a lasting shift in perspectives about that culture and the participants’ relationship with host nationals. Finally, participants narrated a development or shift in their personal identities, as well as meaningful contributions to their social capital.

Implications of the study for practitioners include the importance for advisors and faculty to encourage their students to study abroad, the need for assets-based preparation of EA participants, as well as the importance of helping EA alumni to actively process their experience abroad to better articulate outcomes. Results also support the need for practitioners to serve as advocates for their students and for EA program development. Implications for campus leaders and policymakers include the need to support EA programs on their campuses, and to potentially leverage these programs to differentiate individual community colleges in new student recruitment. Campus leaders must also work to create cross-campus buy-in and toward raising funds for EA programs.