Trends in Faculty-led and Custom Programs

Authored by:
Brenda Majeski

Brenda Majeski

The Faculty-Led & Custom Programs division is having one of its busiest years since the program launched in 2012. At the close of FY19 in August, the 14-person team will have run 240 programs for 157 school — a 26% increase over FY18, and a 700% increase since CIEE added faculty-led programs to its international portfolio.

The growing trend in short-term study abroad programs is one of the strongest factors boosting activity. Faculty-led programs are becoming more popular because it’s often the most affordable option for students. Not only are faculty-led programs attractive because they’re less expensive, but first-generation college students who’ve never traveled are far more comfortable knowing their classmates and teachers will be taking part. In fact, 49% of CIEE Faculty-Led program participants are ethnically diverse, which far exceeds the nationwide average of 26% participation of diverse students.

Faculty-led programs saw another spike with CIEE's recent purchase of University of Georgia’s (UGA) campus in San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica. With fifteen faculty-led programs focused on ecology, business, and humanities running this year in Monteverde, it tops this year’s faculty-led program locale, with Berlin, London, Paris, and Santiago, Dominican Republic, following closely.

As for the most popular area of study? This year, business programs are running neck and neck with history and culture. Traditionally, business has been the front runner, prompting the creation of a dozen “ready-to-run” business programs and a first-time ever, Faculty-Led & Custom Programs Business Catalog. The new “ready-to-run” programs require half the planning a custom program does, making it easier for faculty, who are often juggling many responsibilities, to run a program.

Busy schedules also impact faculty’s ability to advertise their program and attract student participation. To help overcome this barrier, CIEE developed a Marketing Recruitment Toolkit, customized for each program, that includes posters, postcards, and a slew of CIEE-branded swag like journals, pens, luggage tags, frisbees, and more. The effort is paying off. Not only are faculty raving about the materials, but they’re touting their effectiveness. For instance, Gannon University was running a spring ’19 program for nursing students and were struggling to get 10 students enrolled. When the customized toolkit arrived, they posted the materials around campus and six additional students enrolled within the week.

 CIEE will continue to look for ways to make the process easier for students and faculty. If you are interested in leading your students abroad on a faculty-led program, click here for more details, or email

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