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Journal of Student Affairs


As more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students consider studying abroad, it is critical for researchers and student affairs educators to know more about how students engage with the study abroad process and make decisions about whether to participate or not. This qualitative study examined the decision-making process in which STEM students engaged regarding study abroad at a STEM liberal arts college. An organizational culture lens was utilized to make meaning of the formal study abroad decision-making process within a deeply entrenched institutional bubble that permeates all college facets and stakeholders. Focus groups engaged both participants who studied abroad and those who ultimately chose not to, yielding five overarching themes: decision-making process, motivations to study abroad, college bubble, rigor, and academic issues. This study provides critical insight into understanding STEM study abroad decision-making in a unique institutional culture. Moreover, it offers student affairs educators meaningful knowledge to help support STEM students navigating the study abroad process and sheds light on the ways in which deeply entrenched institutional cultures can impact decision-making processes.

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Colorado State University Division of Student Affairs



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