Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Leadership Studies


Organization & Leadership EdD

First Advisor

Genevieve Negron-Gonzales

Second Advisor

Ursula Aldana

Third Advisor

Emily Nusbaum


International experiential learning programs provide opportunities for young people to develop the necessary skills to succeed in and adapt to the complexity, diversity, and ever-changing landscape of the globalized workforce. There are however, several barriers that prevent students of color from accessing opportunities to be fully engaged in a global discourse – placing them at a severe disadvantage when compared to their White counterparts. While current efforts focus on increasing access for students of color, there is often little done to understand how these students experience and are impacted by these programs. The purpose of this qualitative study sought to understand how a student’s racial identity shapes their experience in a multiracial international service-learning program – and more specifically how it shapes their own ideas and actions around race, belonging, and difference. The study also sought to understand the ways teachers can influence student’s development and learning throughout the immersion trip. There are four major findings of the study: (1) Students’ racial identity shapes their experiences in an international service-learning program in ways that can be both empowering and disempowering, (2) Class shapes the types of connections students formed with their peers and others abroad. Middle to upper-income students adopted a helper mentality, while low-income students felt a sense of responsibility tied to similar experiences of systemic oppression, (3) Class and racial privilege combine in unique ways which shape how students draw lessons from the program and experience encounters with extreme poverty, and (4) The life experiences of teachers and their critical reflections of their own racial identity, power, and privilege fundamentally shape their teaching approach and work as leaders and mentors. These narratives and findings have implications that can be applied more broadly to the ways we approach study abroad experiences for students of color and trainings for educators or support staff. Recommendations include incorporating intentional discussions centered around race and privilege, curriculum that is culturally relevant to students, and educator trainings that build their critical consciousness.