The Perspectives of University Administrators Towards International Leadership, Study Abroad Programs, and Cooperative Agreements in Central American Public and Private Universities

Curbelo, Aurelio
Major Professor
Larry Ebbers
Committee Member
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Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

As the world becomes globalized by the influence of science and technology, academic institutions in Central America must provide international academic and research opportunities that are conductive to multicultural learning for students, faculty, and staff. Public and private universities in Central America are attempting to increase awareness about their international leadership, study abroad programs, and cooperative agreements to compete in the global market of higher education. As a result, undergraduate students in the region are currently participating in global experiential learning programs under the guidance of faculty mentors. Students experience unique teaching methods, conduct scientific research projects, practice a different language, and enhance their understanding about other cultures.

The purpose of this research study was to develop a profile of university administrators in Central America based on professional and personal characteristics, perceptions, and experiences working with international programs. A second purpose was to describe the diversity of international leadership, study abroad programs, and cooperative agreements available for undergraduate students in Central American. Specifically, this research explores the academic background of university administrators and their leadership role establishing study abroad programs and cooperative agreements with academic institutions worldwide.

A descriptive electronic survey method was used in this research study to collect data from a group of executive university administrators working with international programs in Central America during 2011. The administrators could choose the English or Spanish language versions of the survey. From a total of 885 administrators contacted, 32% of the executive administrators completed and submitted the electronic survey. The study comprised a group of university administrators working in the countries of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.

Results of this study indicate that executive administrators have graduate degrees, academic experience, and language abilities to establish exceptional study abroad programs and cooperative agreements with institutions worldwide. Based on the results of this study, the most common forms of study abroad programs established by administrators were designed to provide students with academic experiences, internship opportunities, research experiences, and foreign language skills. Furthermore, executive administrators helped in establishing international cooperative agreements to improve the quality of education in science and technology programs. They also signed unique agreements to provide undergraduate students with academic scholarships. Overall, the executive administrators emphasized their interest in establishing modern study abroad programs with universities in the United States and in expanding the number of cooperative agreements with European countries. This research study serves as a resource for universities worldwide because it provides information about the diversity of international academic initiatives and professional leadership available at Latin American universities.