International Experience

The Department of Leadership Studies (DLS) believes that the embodiment of a global perspective is imperative to modern leadership, and in support of that belief provides outstanding and unique opportunities for students.

With seven to 13 international experiences offered each year, the Global Center offers a variety of experiences from short-term, faculty-lead programs to longer out of country studies.  More than simply understanding policy and structure, these global study experiences promote the desire and effort to understand different ways of viewing the world, and being human.

International Requirement - Student Information

All students enrolled in the Department of Leadership Studies (DLS) are expected to participate in an international experience as part of their studies. This requirement can be met through either credit or non-credit bearing experiences.

Goals and Objectives

An international experience is defined as an opportunity for students to interact with a culture other than their own in a manner that fosters their personal and professional growth, promotes cultural understanding, and prepares them for working more effectively with diverse communities. Through this experience it is hoped that students will:

  • develop a deeper understanding of another culture 
  • appreciate its differences and similarities,consider its gifts and challenges 
  • understand the educational and practical implications of cultural diversity and globalization issues

Participation Criteria

All students enrolled in the DLS are expected to participate in a multi-cultural experience as part of their studies. Where students are able to demonstrate a deep understanding of how their previous work with other cultures influences the way they lead and manage, they may petition their advisor for an exemption to the requirement.

Options for Fulfilling the Requirement

The DLS faculty recommend that students take an “I” designated course from the department.

"I" Designated Courses: 
These courses have a significant international component embedded within it (i.e., specific curricula, reading, and assignment). They have components that reflect the stated goals of the international experience as agreed upon by the Leadership Studies faculty. Current approved “I” courses offered by the Department of Leadership Studies include:

  • LEAD 518I: Nonprofits in Civil Society in Guatemala
  • LEAD 519I: Understanding Bi-National Nonprofits In the US-Mexican Border Region
  • LEAD 556I: Culture and Leadership
  • LEAD 535I: Models of Participatory Leadership (Mondragon)LEAD 556I: Culture and Leaderhip
  • LEAD 568I: Global Perspectives in Higher Education in Brazil 
  • LEAD 581I: Professional Development and Conferences (ILA 2017 in Brussels)
  • LEAD 587I: Community Models of Leadership - Sri Lanka Global Study 
  • Additional LEAD 579I courses are regularly developed

The department recognizes that other SOLES and USD departments offer study abroad or “I” designated courses. These and other options for fulfilling the international requirement will be considered in consultation with the student’s advisor.

Additional options include:

  1. Students may carry out an applied project within an international organization as long as the project includes a multi-cultural experience. By a multi-cultural experience we mean working closely with people from another culture.
  2. Students may have completed an extensive study or living-abroad experience before entry in to the program. These students should complete and submit an additional project/paper demonstrating applications of this experience to the Leadership Studies program.
  3. Students may participate in an international internship including being placed in international schools, universities, and community organizations.
  4. Students may choose to engage in a sustained period of systematic language study.
  5. Students may participate in international speaker events held at USD. Students should document the results of their experience and its relationship to Leadership Studies through a written comparative or reflective essay.
  6. Occasionally with permission from the advisor, students may take, for either credit or not for credit, an international course from another university that has our departmental approval. (Courses taken for credit to fulfill USD degree requirements must also have the approval from the program director/department chair and associate dean on the Transfer of Credit form).
  7. Students may participate in a research abroad project that focuses on enhancing the students’ cultural understanding of the population being studied.


All DLS degree candidates will be required to provide an analysis of the learning that results from participation in international experiences. Reflection is a key component of this analysis, and can be demonstrated in one of the following manners:

  • International experience paper (for example, a comparative essay on how specific issues are handled abroad and how they might relate to policies and their implementation in the US);
  • electronic presentation;
  • oral presentation;
  • participation in department- or school-wide symposia on international experiences; or
  • one-to-one conference between student and faculty or class discussion.


Students who meet the international requirement by taking an “I” designated course do not have to complete the International Experience form. Students who have chosen one of the alternative options to meet their requirement must receive a sign-off on the SOLES International Experience form from their advisor prior to engaging in the experience. Once the student has completed their experience, they must receive a final sign-off on the form and submit it to the Department of Leadership Studies for graduation clearance.