Le Fer Hall

Balancing Life, Learning and Cultural Immersion

Blog | 06.28.2024

By Shelby Kuhlman, Ph.D. in Global Leadership student

When considering Ph.D. programs, I envisioned rigorous coursework and challenging research. While these elements are inherent in any Ph.D. program, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) embeds a unique component into their curriculum: cultural immersion. I did not anticipate how profoundly this would shape my Ph.D. journey. The cultural immersion at SMWC has been an accelerant for my academic and personal growth. It has enhanced my understanding of the world, enriched my research and allowed me to explore new locations around the globe.

Global Connections and Collaborative Learning
Cultural immersion is integrated into the Ph.D. in Global Leadership at SMWC. These experiences enable students to “continue to widen their global lens outside of the classroom” (Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, 2021). The program requires three cultural immersion experiences, which can be either in-person or virtual. This aspect of the curriculum is designed to prepare students for the complexities of an interconnected world. Cultural immersion offerings at The Woods include short-term study abroad, virtual study abroad, global research collaborations, international conferences, global case studies and more. The diverse range of global connections and collaborative learning opportunities align with the program’s commitment to accessibility and flexibility.

Flexibility to Fit Your Life
The cultural immersion requirement is thoughtfully designed to be flexible, accessible and affordable. Students in the Ph.D. in Global Leadership program at SMWC can apply for professional development funds of up to $2,500. Professional development funds can support activities such as attending conferences, conducting research and studying abroad. This funding is offered through the Global Leadership Institute which helps mitigate financial barriers to further the potential and knowledge of global leaders at SMWC. Students are encouraged to document their experiences through presentations, journals, posters or essays. Many students use these works as formal publications. Individuals who participate in cultural immersions are also eligible to participate in International Ring Day. This unique tradition at SMWC involves a ceremony where students receive rings that symbolize their transformative experience abroad. These elements integrated into the Ph.D. program ensure that students can achieve their academic and professional goals while gaining global perspectives.

Personal Experience and Growth
As a student at SMWC, my personal experiences and growth have been profoundly shaped by the cultural immersion opportunities offered through the Ph.D. program in Global Leadership. Since beginning my Ph.D., I have traveled to four new countries (Bali, Singapore, Vietnam and Greece) and virtually explored two others (Ecuador and Ireland). The virtual immersions in Ecuador and Ireland provided flexibility for me while still offering rich cultural exchanges and learning opportunities. During these experiences, I engaged with different cultures, completed a case study with a global team and connected with business executives around the globe. These experiences have taught me resilience, adaptability and empathy. I have also been challenged to step out of my comfort zone and embrace new ways of thinking. The integration of cultural immersion in the Ph.D. program has been pivotal in my growth – providing lessons that extend far beyond traditional academic learning.

Shelby Kuhlman is a third-year Ph.D. student at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, where she also served three years as a Graduate Assistant. In addition to her academic journey, she is a dedicated mother of three and has built a career in accounting and finance in the automotive industry. Shelby joined the SMWC community in 2010 during her undergraduate degree in accounting. She has stayed connected to The Woods while completing a Master’s in Leadership Development (MLD) and a certificate in Women’s Leadership. She has also received her executive MBA from Michigan State University. Her research interests include accounting and finance best practices, organizational behavior and fraud tolerance.  Shelby’s dedication to her role as a mother, student and professional reflects in her commitment to advancing knowledge within her field and to the community at The Woods.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.