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This paper presents the phase one findings of a two-phased action research study which led to the development of a plan to design a study abroad program for both undergraduate students and students of DECA, a business organization, at the college of business and entrepreneurship of a state university set in a rural area in the Midwest of the United States. The question which guided the research was: How can a study abroad program, promoting career enhancement, be designed to meet the needs of the students from rural agricultural communities? Exploratory data were collected both on campus and in Thailand over two years, and included reflections, observations, informal interviews and conversations, peer reviews, documents and artifacts. Based on the findings, a plan emerged with three sections: 1) making instructional decisions, 2) creating learning by experience, and 3) updating logistics. The instructional decision section was further categorized into three areas: 1) career enhancement, 2) personal growth and management and 3) community collaboration. These categories led to the design of a course promoting learning by experience by directly engaging students with another culture in Thailand. The conclusion is that such programs, when based on needs analysis, become an indispensable part of higher education, workforce and the economic prosperity of the state/region


This article originally appeared in the International Journal of Management and Applied Science Vol. 5, #9.

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