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Michigan State University
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Back to Directory Opal Leeman Bartzis Executive Director Office for Education Abroad

105 International Center


Biography: As executive director of education abroad, Opal provides vision for the education abroad office and leadership for all aspects of the education abroad experience at MSU. In addition to managing education staff units, she actively engages faculty and offices across campus in the institutional aim of cultivating globally engaged citizens.

Opal came to MSU from twenty years at the Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University, where she was Vice President for Academic Affairs, overseeing curriculum development, faculty engagement, and student success, and instructor of Exploring Community and Culture in a Global Context, a unique course that engaged students studying in varied countries in online intercultural learning communities known as “global cohorts.” She also worked in Ireland for three years as a resident director, looking after over 300 students per semester and managing institutional relationships with nine Irish universities. Through her work at IFSA-Butler, she is credited with being the first education abroad administrator to adapt an academic advising/positive psychology practice known as appreciative advising to education abroad.

Opal studied abroad on multiple programs, including an academic year in Switzerland and a short-term program in Russia, and she was part of the first student diplomatic mission to Lithuania following the political end of the Soviet Union. She has an honors bachelor’s degree in German and a master’s degree in history (both from Butler University), and a doctorate in adult, higher and community education from Ball State University, where her dissertation evaluated the impact of engaging in student teaching abroad on the development of culturally sensitive instructional practices. Through professional and scholarly experiences, she has developed her expertise in areas such as inclusive pedagogy, experiential education, and academic ethics across cultures.

Some of Opal’s recent publications include chapters titled Student Teaching Abroad: Intercultural Learning in Context and a Changing Approach to US Teacher Education Preparation, Innovative Approaches to Study Abroad at Harper College and Fox Valley Technical College, and Study Abroad: Toward Fulfillment of a Critical Need for More Culturally Sensitive Volunteers. Opal has held multiple regional and national leadership positions with NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the Forum on Education Abroad, and is the current chair of the Study Abroad Committee of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).