Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Melanie Hildebrant, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Melissa Swauger, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Christian Vaccaro, Ph.D.


The purpose of this study was to understand how the cultural immersion program structure impacts the learning processes in which students develop transformational outcomes (e.g., global awareness, cultural tolerance, and social justice consciousness) and how these transformational outcomes influence students’ attitudes and behaviors towards others who are physically and culturally different from them. Using a qualitative method research framework, I employed both individual in-depth, semi-structured interviews and program-related documents to understand the experiences of current and former students as well as faculty members who participated in cultural immersion programs within the last one to seven years.

The data analysis produced seven categories that are influential in shaping the learning outcomes in various ways (participant worldview and program expectation, experiencing cultural immersion, program structure, design, learning are multidimensional, the impact of the experience coming back home, lessons from global service, and takeaways from study abroad). The study findings further revealed themes about how each type of program influences the way that the participants translate these transformational outcomes in multicultural contexts. Additionally, the findings indicated that participants in both program types experienced a new insight about the strength of culture and shared humanity of others around the world, but the GSL participants retained a deeper understanding of how power and privilege operate in a “cross-cultural context.