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MSU Interdisciplinary Study Abroad Program Returns With Arts & Non-Profit Trip to London

Murray State University offers a wide variety of study abroad programs around the world.
MSU Education Abroad Office
Murray State University offers a wide variety of study abroad programs around the world.

After a long hiatus following the COVID-19 pandemic, MSU's interdisciplinary study abroad program returns this winter. David Balthrop, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and Dr. Elise Kieffer, Program Director of Nonprofit Leadership Studies, speak with Tracy Ross about the upcoming trips and the many benefits of studying abroad.

The last time MSU took an interdisciplinary group overseas was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students and faculty were rushed home, and only small smatterings of single-discipline groups have traveled since. The fine arts and nonprofit departments will partner this December 26-January 8 in London, England, for the "reemergence" of the traditional MSU study abroad program.

"Much of my background in the nonprofit sector is in the Arts & Culture sector, particularly in arts administration," Dr. Kieffer begins."So, this is a perfect fit for us to work together to create an arts and cultural comparative experience for students. We're going to have some exposure to music, theatre, dance, visual arts, and also cultural institutions—museums, things like that."

"There's three of us actually teaching," Balthrop adds. "Dr. Kieffer and I are teaching together. Heidi Ortega is taking a theatre class that's focusing on theatrical design. All three of us will be there under the direction of Dr. Tana Field. We'll have each of our individual classes doing our inidvidual things. There's lots of opportunity."

For Balthrop, he says traveling to London for theatre is a no-brainer. "I can take students to London to see theatre in English, or I can take them somewhere they're probably not going to understand the language. It's the best theatre on the planet. Others will argue New York. I argue London."

"I've seen lightbulbs go off on people's heads," Balthrop continues. "I can stand in a classroom all I want and talk about the Globe Theatre and what it was like and how it was built, and that's great. Or, I can take them there and put them in the middle of it and say, look around. The enlightenment you gain from actually seeing it and being there is amazingly different."

Similarly, Dr. Kieffer explains that English colonists founded nonprofit studies. "Much of our social sector is inspired by and informed by the programs that we brought over with us. So, there's really alot of opportunity for drawing parallels with our culture here by seeing the way that they run things there."

Traveling doesn't just bolster nonprofit and fine arts studies. "I think that it's important for anybody to travel," Dr. Kieffer says. "For our students, many of them are coming from small towns that aren't that different from Murray, or thye're coming from right here in Murray. The opportunity to travel and see something different and learn something different is just invaluable. It changes your whole perspective."

The MSU study abroad program requires a minimum number of students to go, but there is no maximum amount. "The main thing I want students to know is there's funding available, Dr. Kieffer continues. "98% of Murray State students who apply for support receive support."

"[The study abroad program] has been stockpiling money for the last two years not being able to send students," she continues. "So, there is a very good chance that anybody who applied would receive some financial support to go."

Students can learn more about study abroad programs and apply for trips and financial aid at MSU's Study Abroad Online Portal. You can also contact the Education Abroad office by phone at 270-809-2277 or by e-mail at

The Education Abroad office is located at 131 Blackburn on MSU's main campus. Summer office hours are 7:30 am to 4 pm Monday-Friday. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are encouraged.

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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