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Affiliation: Alumna

Program: PhD, Educational Thought and Policy

Education: BA, Connecticut College (psychology and French): MA, Middlebury College in France (French)

Background: French Teacher, Harley School in Rochester and Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, Conn.; Administrator, Yale University Graduate Student Center

Honors: Warner School Scandling Scholar; CIEE Ping Foundation Fellowship

Specialty: Higher education study abroad

Dissertation Title: Factors that Affect American College Students' Participation in Study Abroad
Chelsea BaileyShea


Chelsea BaileyShea

After studying abroad for one year in France as an undergraduate, Chelsea BaileyShea gained a new perspective on her place in a global society. The Warner doctoral student in educational policy and theory keeps that perspective fresh by speaking only French to her two young children and working to increase the number of students nationally who take advantage of study abroad programs.

“Before I went, I used to think that people are people, that we can’t be that different,” she recalls, adding that the experience was the most influential of her college career. “But we are. Our histories are different so we don’t think about things the same way. Given the climate we’re in, young people need to understand better just how the world works and our role in it. Studying abroad forces you to think more critically about who you are and what you value.”

Supported by a CIEE Ping Foundation Fellowship, BaileyShea hopes her doctoral research offers evidence to support governmental and higher education policies and initiatives that promote and boost participation and access to study abroad programs, particularly among minorities.

Because there is no standardized formula for reporting study abroad figures, no one knows exactly how many college students participate. The statistic most often quoted, however, is about 1 percent of the student population, according to BaileyShea. As demonstrated by the American Council of Education, roughly 83 percent of study abroad students are Caucasian, which provided motivation for her study.

BaileyShea aims to provide information that could narrow the gender gap as well. During the 2005-06 school year, about 65 percent of college students who studied abroad were female.

Her biggest question: Why is the number of study abroad participants so minute when a poll of high school seniors revealed that almost 80 percent had an interest in such programs? Especially when some 55 percent of them were either “certain” or “fairly certain” of their participation?

In her research to find out, BaileyShea is using a data set that includes college students from 120 institutions across the country. The data set includes relevant variables from freshmen and senior surveys administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. Among other things, the surveys ask questions about students’ academic and extracurricular activities. BaileyShea is working to understand how those activities may play a part in students’ decisions to study abroad. For example, is a sorority member more likely to study abroad because she would consider it an extension of her extracurricular activities, or would she skip the opportunity to stay in her close-knit social network?

BaileyShea says one encouraging sign of a stronger emphasis on study abroad programs is the decision by a number of colleges and universities to require participation. Multiple studies have demonstrated the importance of future generations having knowledge of other countries and cultures, and that knowledge of other languages will give them a competitive advantage in career opportunities.

And, of course, there are personal rewards.

“You learn that people know more about your country than you do— they read the news about all these things you take for granted,” she says. “The experience pushes you to grow, to have that lack of comfort in having to think about, ‘What is important to me?’

“It forces you to live more consciously.”

(Published August 2008)

Tags: educational leadership, educational policy, educational thought and policy