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This capstone research focuses on the assessment of returner programs at Pacific Lutheran University in the Wang Center for International Programs. The research is based on a phenomenological study that incorporates in-depth pre- and post-interviews of eight participants from two different returner programs administered by the Wang Center. The duration of the study was one academic semester, approximately four months during which all participants were involved in their respective returner program.

The literature review incorporates scholarly work in the areas of evaluation and assessment as well as reentry or returner programming. Each area of review was subdivided into categories to encompass research on assessment of student development in higher education, in education abroad, and more specifically in the Wang Center; the other categories focused on returner programming include research on reentry, on identified reentry programs at institutions of higher education, and evaluation and assessment of returner programs. This entire literature review contributed to the groundwork of this research, including the research design.

Based on the work of previous scholars and practices within the field, the research design was developed to focus on qualitative data collection and the individual experiences of each participant interviewed. The data collected was then correlated between the pre- and post-interviews as well as across returner programs. The results reflected varying degrees of growth and student outcomes, from one participant to the next. However, there were clear distinctions between the two returner programs.

Opportunities abound for further research in this area of returner programming. As a crucial part of the study away experience, there is a need for more research and assessment to more effectively provide students with the necessary resources when they return back home.


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | International and Comparative Education