Faculty Perspective: Study Abroad with Dr. Dave Louis

by Stasia Lopez /
Stasia Lopez's picture
Nov 20, 2013 / 0 comments

As part of our College Programming Series, we are continuing to interview students as well as faculty who have participated in different kinds of college programs. Faculty-led study abroad programs continue to grow as more and more students are venturing abroad for the first time with guidance and support of experienced professors. Today we are featuring Dr. Dave Louis, an Assistant Professor at Texas Tech University. Originally from Trinidad, Dr. Louis really can resonate with the experiences of studying abroad, having lived and studied in the U.S. for many years and earning all of his college degrees from well-known institutions like Morehouse College, Harvard, and Texas A&M University. Dr. Louis is now working toward a tenure-track professorship and continuing to work with students in the classroom. Read his interview below and learn more about a faculty perspective taking students abroad on faculty-led programs!  



Dr. Dave Louis


Did you always want to work in higher education? What led you becoming a faculty member?

I always knew that I wanted to be in higher education. However, for a long time I was not quite sure what role I would have in the field… faculty, administration, student affairs. I had an interest in all of them, and had experience, as well, in each area. Nonetheless, I taught a course while I was Director of Student Activities at a small liberal arts college and realized my desire to be a faculty member.


Were you always interested in leading a group of students abroad? Where was your first trip? How did you get involved in faculty-led programming?

I was always interested in study abroad. My first trip was to England with the Honors Program at Texas A&M University. I was an assistant director at the student union, a newly minted PhD, and taught adjunct in the higher education program. It was an opportunity that was presented to me by the director of the student union. It was a collaborative effort.


What are some challenges that faculty members face leading a group abroad? How do you tackle those challenges?

For a tenure track professor, the main is issue is “How does this count toward tenure?” The biggest challenge is planning and having students prepared for the trip. Having students understand that the trip is NOT a vacation but an educational venture is the biggest hurdle. Constant communication about expectations… the purpose of the trip… the deliverables… and even the grade acquisition were all helpful aides.


Does a faculty member have to be tenured to lead a group? What are some trends that you’ve seen and what are the skills needed to lead a group of students abroad?

No they don’t have to be… but if faculty members are tenured, there is not the issue of “how does this fit into my faculty portfolio?”  However, these trips can give faculty members who do not have prior administrative experience the opportunity to gain some of those skills beyond the classroom.


What do you tell students about the importance of studying abroad?

I reinforce to the students that these opportunities are once in a lifetime and they should take full advantage of the experiences. Having the students understand the privilege that they have to travel and to be part of a life-altering experience. I have issues with always trying to relate that the experience will assist in securing a job, because the purpose of education is the acquisition of knowledge and enlightenment. So, I try to superimpose the idea of the life impact that the experience can bring.


Dr. Louis at Westminster Abbey


Are there certain times of the year that faculty-led programs usually take place?

Spring and summer are the ones I am most accustomed.


What is a typical faculty-led program like? How do programs [that you’ve facilitated] integrate course material and the local culture?

The course that I taught for eight years was Cultural Exploration, so the travel abroad component was directly correlated to the curriculum and course content. The course was a two semester course that examined local culture and self-definitions of culture in the first semester. The second semester was exploring cultural lenses and examining the culture of which were eventually to immerse.


What advice do you offer students who’re interested in going on a faculty-led study abroad program? Are students required to attend a pre-departure orientation?

Pre-departure orientation is IMPERATIVE. In fact, there should be multiple meetings (if not imbedded in a course) to discuss dangers, documents, behavior, cultural norms, money, language, university expectations, course deliverables, among other things.


Did you study abroad as a student in college?

I was a foreign student… it was all study abroad to me (smile).


Dr. Louis





This is part of a series on international education, as part of our commitment to #GenerationStudyAbroad and our commitment to the White House Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship. You'll find many more inspiring stories here on Wandering Educators!





Anastasia R.D. Lopez, M.A. recently graduated with her Masters degree in Educational Leadership in Higher Education and Student Affairs degree from Western Michigan University. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management from Robert Morris University. Her experience in higher education and student affairs ranges from Career Services, Academic Advising, working with first generation students, students with disabilities, international students, transfer students, undergraduate/graduate students, and study abroad and international education at both public and private universities. She also has related experience in business as well as hospitality and tourism management. Stasia is a Global Education Editor with Wandering Educators and lives with her husband, Fernando, in Michigan.
All photos courtesy and copyright Dr. Louis