2024 Faculty International Innovator Award

Goes to Dr. Ludmila Leontieva for her Study Abroad Program in Ireland

Gifted educators are those rare individuals who overflow with an unquenchable passion to share their expertise with students by immersing them in real-world experiences.

For economics assistant professor Luda Leontieva, Ph.D., that meant designing and implementing a comprehensive study abroad program for both undergraduates and graduate-level economics students focusing on business as a force for good. It fulfills her mission as an economist and educator: To help students develop a global mindset through long-term thinking in a short-term world.

This comprehensive program, which Dr. Leontieva first developed in 2017, has proven highly successful. Taking 10-15 participants per trip, 61 Kent State students have benefitted from the study abroad experience in Ireland. It has earned Dr. Leontieva a nomination by her colleagues and the subsequent honor of being selected by the Office of Global Education to receive Kent State University’s 2024 Faculty International Innovator Award.

Both humbled and energized by this recognition, Dr. Leontieva is even more dedicated to her study abroad approach. “Because our world is increasingly interconnected, and we want our students to achieve global success, I believe that helping our students develop a truly global mindset should be integrated into the education of our business students,” she says.

Students posing in Ireland

She says she could never have brought the study abroad program this far without the support she receives from the Kent State Department of Economics, Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship (ACCBE) leadership and Geauga campus-TAC leadership.

“We have such a creative and positive culture,” Dr. Leontieva says. “I am grateful to their leadership for sharing my vision and encouraging my international initiatives. My success would not be possible without this support.”

This award celebrates Dr. Leontieva’s internationalization efforts, raises awareness about her work, and encourages future collaboration. The award honors her achievement in conducting ground-breaking global collaborations; establishing relationships between Kent State and global institutions and organizations; promoting cross-cultural understanding; developing international curriculum; and providing innovative international education programs.

Dr. Leontieva has taught at the Kent campus since 2007 and at Twinsburg Academic Center since 2018. She has been teaching economics and mathematics at various levels, for 23 years, from fundamentals to graduate courses.


She initially designed and implemented one new study abroad program: International Economic Experience: Ireland as a Hub for Transnational Business. Building on the success of this program, she designed a new graduate course for MBA students: Business Consulting in Ireland/Immersion into Design Thinking. She then developed a third study abroad course: Circular Economy in Ireland. Through these programs, Dr. Leontieva established working relationships with government organizations and businesses in Ireland.

In March 2020, the European Union adopted its new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) that acknowledges the need for accelerated transitions towards the model. Subsequently, in June 2021, the Government of Ireland approved the national Circular Economy Bill with the commitment to achieve a systematically circular economy. At Kent State University, as a signatory to Principles for Responsible Management Education and an associate member of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI), the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship (ACCBE) is committed to promoting and demonstrating how business can drive achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The concept of building a global mindset for students throughout my courses is a direct outcome from when I developed and taught the Circular Economy course in 2023,” Dr. Leontieva says.

A group photo of the Kent State students outside of Quin Friary.

“The focus there was on learning and implementing the CEM, which is now globally recognized. This model has the potential to profoundly impact humanity by improving economic well-being while preserving the natural world for current and future generations.”


Dr. Leontieva was first introduced to Ireland in 2016 when she accompanied a friend to The Emerald Isle. Even though she was reluctant to go, she was surprisingly inspired.

“I fell in love with this beautiful country and its big-hearted, massively talented, warm, witty, passionate people!” she enthuses. “Irish people love to think big and make things happen. It’s so inspiring!”

Ireland maintains a global economic outreach favorable to investment, cultural exchange, tourism, and proactive efforts. Due to its low taxes and average wages, advanced telecommunication and transport infrastructures, government incentives and support, 950 American companies operate in Ireland. Since Brexit, Ireland is the only English-speaking country other than Malta remaining in the European Union, which makes it an ideal hub from which American businesses can reach the rest of Europe, Dr. Leontieva says.


During the study abroad program in Ireland, students meet with leaders of socially responsible businesses and government organizations, integrating the real-life principles they have learned in class to help advise them so their ventures thrive.

Through these personal interactions in Ireland, students make the transition from theory to practice, applying knowledge gained in class to real-world economic decision-making, all while gaining a broader understanding of economics in a global realm.

“My students often share with me that studying in Ireland was truly a life-changing experience for them that also enabled them to expand their professional network,” Dr. Leontieva says.

“They have expressed their intentions to apply their gained knowledge in their personal lives and future careers, and they have shown interest in being Circular Economy ambassadors at Kent State University. I also have received positive feedback from Irish companies regarding my students’ impact on their businesses.”

Line of students and faculty at a conference smiling

True to the Circular Economy ethos, this collaboration is mutually beneficial; advantages return home with the students, inevitably producing a local impact. Dr. Leontieva says that students are now equipped to work proficiently with Northeast Ohio businesses and government agencies to promote the region’s transition from a linear model to a circular one.

“The study abroad experience elevates future leaders and improves business processes as students learn how to make informed decisions and identify opportunities for American companies to collaborate with global businesses,” Dr. Leontieva explains.

“I am proud to say that the students who completed the 2023 Circular Economy program not only presented their business proposal (as part of the course) to the Cleveland Mayor's Office of Sustainability and Climate Justice, but they also received highly positive feedback after doing so.”

Alex Steighner, an undergraduate student in ECON 42189 during the Summer 2023 study abroad trip to Ireland, wrote in his final paper, “The learning experience is unmatched. To gain an understanding of a completely different functioning economy on a global scale is not an opportunity to take for granted. Many Americans have not heard of the circular economy proposal. Learning the detailed aspects from large-scale politicians to small-scale startup companies, it was an experience that I can apply to my future.  It is important to create the notions of an economy that functions efficiently, and without a sustainable method to do so, it is hard to grow. Personally, I may apply these methods to my everyday routine. Finding efficiency in time, less waste in products so that my part in helping the economy in any way is fulfilling.”

As an enthusiastic and passionate educator, Dr. Leontieva sees her mission as enabling students to discover the power of economic thinking through practice. She accomplishes this by facilitating project-based learning in collaboration with leading international enterprises so that students experience, first-hand, the most effective business applications of economics.

Her next study abroad trip to Ireland is scheduled during May 2024's Spring Intercession and is full. But if any Kent State student would like to participate next year, they can find details here and should email Dr. Leontieva at lleontye@kent.edu. To learn more about Kent State’s 200+ study abroad opportunities in 60 countries, visit the Office of Global Education website.

Dr. Leontieva has been to Ireland nine times but always finds the people, culture and landscape inspiring. Her favorite saying is: You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a ticket to Ireland and that’s pretty much the same thing.

POSTED: Thursday, March 14, 2024 01:47 PM
Updated: Thursday, April 11, 2024 11:05 AM
Estelle R. Brown