New Director of Study Abroad aims to broaden programs

Trang Le

While Rochelle Keesler is used to setting her sights abroad, a new opportunity fixed her gaze back to her hometown Easton this summer as Lafayette’s new Director of Study Abroad.

In her new role, Keesler looks forward to creating more major-oriented programs. In particular, she wants to shift the focus of study abroad from destination to curriculum.

“We want to make sure when students are going abroad, they’re also taking courses that are a good fit for their major and they’re making decisions based on not where they want to go, but rather why they want to go and what they want to learn,” Keesler said.

To get to this point, Keesler feels the program needs to collaborate with other academic departments. It would help the study abroad office recommend appropriate programs for students and help the office see what opportunities may be missing for each major, Keesler said.

“We can see certain majors consistently petitioning for programs that are underserved, so we would look at them to make sure there are ample opportunities for students of every major,” Keesler said.

Kessler, previously an employee at Boston University and University of Pennsylvania, said she is no stranger to Lafayette’s study abroad program.

“I was already very familiar with Lafayette College’s study abroad programs, partially because Boston University is an affiliated program [with the college]. I used to come here as a representative at the study abroad fairs and worked with faculty in the study abroad office,” Keesler said.

Lafayette’s range of study abroad opportunities prompted Keesler to make her decision to join the college, she said.

“It’s amazing to come to an institution where study abroad is embraced. We send between 60 and 65 percent of our students abroad before they graduate. That’s really impressive. The national average is much lower than that,” Keesler said.

Keesler’s decision was also influenced by location.

“I am from the Easton area originally,” she said. “I grew up over on the South Side, so when this opportunity came up, I was excited to be able to return to my roots and come back home with my family.”

Keesler was in the process of completing her Ph.D in French at Boston University when she was offered an assistant position for an overseas program that started her career in study abroad. After years of experience in international travel, she said she recognizes the importance of cultural immersion and is dedicated to getting more students interested in going abroad. 

“Students who go abroad come back reporting that they have gained more independence and certainty about their areas of studies,” she said. “It’s more than just going and learning a language, but it’s also about developing soft skills like independence and problem solving. I really enjoy working with students to help them bring about significant changes in that sense.”