Transcript

The Future of Study Abroad Programs and the Impact of the COVID-19 Global Pandemic

Host: Hello, and welcome to Prevention and Protection, the United Educators Risk Management podcast. Today’s guests are Caitlin Murphy, Acting Dean of International Education at Juniata College in Pennsylvania; Sam Gammons, who serves as School Operations and Safety Manager at School Year Abroad, an organization that offers year-long, and semester-long, study abroad programs for high school students; and Henning Snyman, who serves as Security Director in the U.S. South Atlantic for International SOS, an organization that provides health and security services for programs abroad. Moderating today’s discussion is United Educators Risk Management Consultant, Liza Kabanova, who serves on UE’s COVID-19 response group. Note that this and all other episodes of prevention and protection are also available on iTunes. Now here’s Liza.

Liza Kabanova: Henning, Sam, and Caitlin, thank you so much for joining me today to discuss study abroad programs in 2021, and onwards. I’d love to pick your brains about the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on study abroad programs, what risks K-12 schools and higher education institutions face today, and the future of study abroad as more programs start up again this year. I’m excited to hear from each of you about your diverse perspectives on this very important topic. Hi everyone.

Caitlin Murphy: Hello.

Henning Snyman: Hi. Good morning.

Sam Gammons: Hello.

Kabanova: Before we dive in, I wanted to address the elephant in the room – that things are changing rapidly in the travel and study abroad context right now as we record in June 2021. Today’s podcast will focus on how the global health pandemic has impacted your programs, and what we can expect for study abroad programs in the future. For listeners who have day-to-day questions about planning study abroad programs, visit UE’s COVID-19 topic page or email risk@ue.org to connect with our risk management team directly.

There are also some fantastic resources through the Forum on Education Abroad, NAFSA: Association of International Educators, American College Health Association (ACHA), and others that focus on day-to-day changes and recommendations. First, I’d love to hear from each of you about where your programs stand today as compared to before the global health pandemic. Caitlin, let’s start with you. Could you share a little bit about Juniata College’s study abroad programs before the pandemic, and how that compares to programs you’re planning for summer and fall 2021?

Murphy: Sure. So, generally, I would say Juniata sends on average maybe 229 students. It ranges, but somewhere in that 230 mark for students studying abroad for a year in terms of short-term programs, or exchange, and semester year programs. So when the pandemic hit we did recall our students home, and so we returned them and then we were hopeful. We weren’t sure what was going to happen. So, of course, all of our programs for summer of 2020 were canceled. And as we moved each kind of month along looking and hoping for light at the end of the tunnel, we, unfortunately, did make the decision to cancel for fall 2020 as well as spring 2021. And that decision did extend into summer 2021 for students.

We do have a travel safety committee and we reviewed this on a country-by-country basis and looked at all sorts of factors, which I’m sure we’ll talk about more today, but we are meeting as a committee next week to have another preliminary screening. And then we hope to meet again to make some final decisions for fall 2021. We are hopeful that we can restart study abroad at least some parts, or some countries in the world, but that decision has not yet been made.

Kabanova: Great, thank you so much for sharing that. How about you, Sam? Where did School Year Abroad send students before the global pandemic? And has that changed at all in terms of your plans for the summer and fall?

Gammons: Thanks, Liza. So School Year Abroad sits at a pretty unique place having both a long history in high school study abroad, and also a brand new cohort of usually around 200 students every year. Prior to the pandemic, SYA ran full-year programs for 10th through 12th graders in four countries – China, France, Italy, and Spain – as well as summer sessions traditionally, and usually maybe three or four of those countries depending on the interest. Totally unrelated to the pandemic we actually suspended our program in Beijing, China, starting in 2020. With that background in mind, the major challenge for SYA since the start of the pandemic was not only that we had to evacuate four campuses in spring 2020, like so many people, and transition to four fully online programs in a whole lot of different time zones, but also it became clear we couldn’t safely run any student programs in the academic year 2020-2021. And that included both of those summer programs.

So for fall 2021, we are reopening our three European campuses in France, Italy, and Spain, with a full enrollment. And we’re really excited about that. We have also added semester programs this year for fall and spring at all campuses, which was a strategic goal of ours before the pandemic, but that we were able to roll out with our admissions team while we didn’t have any students enrolled.

Kabanova: Thank you for your perspective, Sam and Caitlin. I know that we at United Educators have seen so many different takes on study abroad programs throughout the pandemic. I know some institutions have put programs on pause while others have selected several locations that they’ll focus on. I’d love to hear from you next, Henning, from a global perspective, since you work with leaders at K-12 schools, colleges, and universities. Could you comment on what you’ve seen change the most in study abroad programs throughout the pandemic? What new risks, or considerations have leaders had to tackle that they never had to before this global health crisis?

Snyman: It was definitely a challenging time for all concerned, and especially with study abroad programs that traditionally have a very low tolerance of risk. One of the facts is that very few study abroad programs did take place for the last 12 to 18 months, basically. I think one positive that came out of the last 12 months is organizations and schools and not only schools, but the broader spectrum of organizations with a global footprint really re-evaluated their duty of care. How do we look at duty of care? What does this mean to the organization? The value of risk assessments really came to the fore, and this was highlighted by the challenges of what we’ve seen in the last 12 months.

I think all organizations have managed crisis before. That’s not new to all of us. One thing that was definitely new to us that this was global, it was everywhere. The pandemic was everywhere, and it was in different phases. And then on top of that, we added, for instance, in the U.S. the elections protests that we’ve seen, and this is not only in the U.S. but it was throughout Europe. It was in Hong Kong, for instance, and the traditional risks still existed. And I think that was the main challenge for organizations and their risk management. And we are responsible for duty of care within those organizations.

Kabanova:That’s a great point, Henning, in terms of reevaluating a duty of care. Actually, from our experience, when we see leaders overseeing study abroad programs we see that in this field you’re already natural risk managers because there’s just so many diverse risks. And so it’s great to see that that’s something that continues to evolve even after the pandemic. Sam, in terms of your planning and safety for study abroad programs, what new challenges have you faced throughout the pandemic? I know you mentioned a couple already, but anything else?

Gammons: Yeah. So the two biggest challenges that SYA has faced in terms of safety have on one hand to do with the breadth of our programming, and on the other the age of our students because we work primarily with minors. As you know every country had a different strategy around COVID-19, developed different strategic planning, and those plans often shifted by the day. So the challenge to our organization became tracking what those changes were and planning for our students in a way that was both sensitive to the environment where they came from, which is largely from U.S. independent schools, and, also, sensitive to the national, regional, and local guidelines of the countries where our campuses are located. So this led us to developing a set of reopening plans that was at once both very broad that covered all three campuses, but also very specific covering one campus only at a time.

The second challenge really kind of dovetailed in with our first because the laws around minors and health care are also very different from country to country. So when you throw in the added impact of COVID-19 that led to a lot of uncertainty from medical professionals regarding which laws superseded others. So, in other words, which one is more important? The laws about minors when the adults who are present who are [inaudible] adults were in loco parentis, or was it the COVID specific regulations in the country? And usually what we found was that the COVID-specific regulations were the ones that went out, and that was something that we had to plan for as an eventuality.

Kabanova: Thanks for that, Sam. And that’s certainly a unique challenge to coordinate so many different approaches from country to country, particularly as there are so many conflicting requirements, and it’s really hard to ensure that we’re meeting everyone’s best interests while also complying with so many different requirements. Caitlin, what about from the higher education perspective? Has your experience been pretty similar to Henning and Sam’s in terms of the new challenges and planning you need to focus on today? Is there anything else that’s drastically different as you plan programs?

Murphy: Yeah, sure. Juniata works primarily on an exchange model. So we have direct relationships where we try to send students and bring them here. We do have a series of providers, though, in certain situations. So I think for me in this role right now, and other study abroad professionals, understanding those agreements, understanding those contracts, because I know a lot of institutions paid out money that was lost. And, also, how do you negotiate with your providers who are also struggling in this time frame to call back on deposits and payments? So I think partner development and partner building and relationships is going to be so essential in how schools make decisions on how they want to kind of enter into certain agreements, and understanding what that relationship means in general. And I think as you mentioned earlier, the Forum On Education Abroad set its new six standards. And so they also have been pushing for how do we understand these equitable, fair relationships, and moving away from decolonized thinking, and who owns the power in terms of those relationships.

And I know often universities do where there feels like we need to answer to them. And, of course, that’s something that’s very important, but I think for me, personally, as we make decisions on risk, what I’ve found is often the people in that room aren’t necessarily in touch with the country, right? We know because we’re interacting in these study abroad offices, but trying to connect upper level, higher level leadership and get to know the communities that we’re working in so they have a more balanced, maybe fair approach to what might be happening on the ground.

So I’m really trying this time around to include input from our partners, or our providers getting more data, having more meetings, understanding your programs better because it’s very hard when that is removed. And I think COVID really made the world become more connected, and it really encouraged that opportunity through technology. So, yes, I think that would be my take on what COVID has challenged. Of course, there’s other things in terms of new risk statements, and new waivers we’re having students sign. And we are going to require our students who are traveling abroad to be vaccinated, so understanding liability around requirements for staff and students, I would say that’s all new from our perspective.

Kabanova: And thanks for making that point on partner development being very important. First of all, that was one of the reasons we wanted to include ISOS, or another partner to share about other considerations that we’re hearing. And I know, also, I’ve been hearing on some webinars recently about the value of leadnng on partners to make decisions in each host country since they might be on the ground, and might have a little bit more information, or have more information about compliance requirements. So this is all very much in line with what United Educators is hearing.

Members have shared that it’s very challenging to plan ahead with COVID-19 numbers fluctuating greatly from country to country and even state to state, and also guidance from the CDC and the State Department changing, and sometimes even conflicting with each other as some of you have mentioned already. So because of these changes, decisions about study abroad programs are made with new stakeholders on campus having additional input. For instance, the COVID-19 response team or senior administration have to make decisions informed by leaders like each of you to decide about existing programs. Sam, have you been working with new stakeholders on campus during the pandemic that maybe weren’t involved before the pandemic?

Gammons: Yeah, so having three campuses, the focus has as much been on kind of reshuffling priorities and keeping our communication smooth between all of our constituents as it has been on bringing in new stakeholders. So when I’m talking about our own constituents, I’m really talking about our in-country staff, our U.S.-based staff, the board of trustees, and our existing partners like insurers, people like that. And in all three of our countries, our resident directors have been really heavily engaged with other study abroad organizations and college programs. It was, I think, in some ways a real banding together experience of like-minded individuals who were all experiencing the same issues from different perspectives. And it provided a really unique way for our directors to learn from other’s experiences and vice versa.

So at the same time, each of our campuses has actually been bringing in at least one, sometimes, more safety experts that they hadn’t worked with before necessarily. People who were really well-versed in the social and physical distancing requirements for the country that would ensure we’d be able to operate within the new legal constraints. So in some of those cases we had no previous relationship with that person. And sometimes, like in Spain, for example, the requirements are so stringent, and the repercussions for not following them are so strict, that it could be potentially devastating for a program. On the home office front in a lot of ways every member of our U.S.-based staff has needed to become an expert in what we’re doing overseas. So what changes we’re making, what is our roadmap for reopening campuses, etc. So in a way, our own staff became new stakeholders as their knowledge and their comfort with the new information increased.

Kabanova: That makes a lot of sense. And it’s great to hear that you’re partnering with even more and everyone really sees their role in terms of investing in risk management. How about at Juniata College, Caitlin, are you also working with any new stakeholders today who were not previously involved?

Murphy: That’s a good question. I would say from the college standpoint as a whole, similar to what Sam said, when this first started to become clear on people’s radars it wasn’t until maybe late February, March, whereas, in study abroad we were looking at this happening in late December, early January, with evacuating students in China. So we, I felt like had been in our island, like, being a doomsday shouter, like, “Hey, everyone, wake up, this is coming.” And I think we finally had a COVID planning meeting where we brought tons of people across the campus who never had to think about risk, right?

And so suddenly they’re like, “Oh, is this how you evaluate?” And explain to them, this is how the State Department tracks this. And this is what a travel advisory means, and here’s the CDC, and this is how we balance. So I think it was kind of interesting to be part of those discussions and then say, “Oh, well, what about students overseas? What are we going to do?” So in a way it felt like we were sharing our struggle of being risk managers. Although, we do have a designated person on campus, of course, and other people that do risk management, but it was fun to share that with everyday people who don’t have to think through those things.

And then I would say in terms of other experts, there were times where the college and it influenced study abroad, so I’ll reference it, but sometimes we had some key alumni who were experts in medicine, or in certain types of vaccinations. And so we often found our school reaching out and trying to gather more information. I think for me, personally, having connections maybe in certain parts of the State Department, or certain types of scholarship programs we work with, trying to see how they were evaluating risk in their programs because they were government funded. Building a network within practitioners, I think, has been for our office really important besides what I mentioned in trying to build other stronger relationship with exchange partners, or our direct providers.

Kabanova: Wow, that’s really interesting, Caitlin. It really sounds like you were involved with educating peers on campus about COVID-19 response. That’s what we call in risk management risk champions. So it’s great to hear that you’ve been championing risk management as a result of this. So I know that each of you have had to juggle many other safety and health issues before the pandemic as well as risk management to deliver the best study abroad experiences. And the pandemic just adds new risks to that mix. Henning, what existing risks have you had to review again with fresh eyes? Could you share one or two risks that are still very important to leaders beyond the risks that we might have considered as a result of the pandemic?

Snyman: Yeah, where do I start? I think all the existing risks are still there. I think one factor that came out during the pandemic, and we’re still in the pandemic to be quite honest. We’re not through it yet. I think is a huge focus on COVID-19. And then it seems that everything else fell by the wayside, but I think all the risks that we saw pre-pandemic are still there. I think what COVID-19 has done is it’s almost like a light going through a prism and it’s bending the light. And it’s, also, I think, COVID-19 magnified risks that’s been there that maybe were boiling under the surface. I don’t think we’ve seen the full extent of the socioeconomic impacts that COVID-19 has had on the world, and this is global. It’s not only in the traditional developed countries.

We’ve seen an increase in crime, for instance, in places like Brazil, and South Africa, we saw a downturn, and now there’s an upturn. We see gross human rights abuses in countries because of COVID-19 were fantastic for shutting down countries. So all of that needs to be taken into consideration going forward. And I think it once again just highlights how important risk assessments are. How important, I think, Caitlin referred to it as well, really understanding your destination, really understanding your traveler.

And then something else that I always want to always highlight is I mentioned duty of care early on. I think there’s a duty of loyalty as well from travelers. And what that basically means is not to endanger yourself, not to endanger your co-travelers, not to endanger the reputation of the organization that you’re traveling on behalf. So there’s a lot, and I think risk assessments is going to be more important going forward as well, but a multitude of risks. Road traffic accidents are still there. Geopolitical upheavals are still there. Coups, we’ve seen coups the last 12 months. So the normal risks are still there. And I think coming out of COVID, the pandemic, it’s been magnified.

Kabanova: I’m so glad you shared this, Henning. I do think that we’ve been really COVID-19 24/7 for so long. And so I do think it’s really important to hear from each of you that there are still some risks that remain and are growing that are outside of COVID-19 response. Caitlin, what about you? What should study abroad offices focus on outside of COVID-19 response as they plan programs?

Murphy: Yeah, that’s a hard question to answer, but I would say as it relates to COVID, and doesn’t, I mean, I think the pandemic has taught us to be careful like the financial aspect, that risk part is important. So how you make your payments in advance, doing your deposits early, booking flights. I think now we’re going to see a move to waiting until people are in country until we pay anything, having refundable options. Having flexibility, I think, in programs, although that’s not necessarily risk, but definitely a change in what we’re going to see.

And then something else, I think it’s not necessarily risk-related, but also looking at our impacts, like the risk we’re creating by sending students into the communities. We often think on our end, but how are we going to affect if we’re vaccinated our local community, or what is the potential that there could increase? I think Henning mentioned, you don’t want to affect your provider by students doing something silly, and then it really impacts their ability to host students, or their brand name, or reputation. So, yeah, I think considering how our students might interact and the causes of risk they might create for the local community, too. It will be interesting.

Kabanova: Yeah. I hadn’t really thought about that impact on flexibility, and even communicating to students and parents about their own need to be flexible. So that sounds like something new here. Sam, what about School Year Abroad? Are there any risks that leaders need to remember to consider or discuss with students and parents before study abroad programs can happen?

Gammons: Like Caitlin and Henning were saying, there’s always risk. And there are some new ones, but the ones that we’ve been talking about for years and years consistently with our students and parents are going to stay as critically important as they have been in the past. They still need to be mentioned, and some of those are particularly salient for minor students, things like sexual assault, abuse, and sexual or gender-based harassment, mental health care, and medication management, drug and alcohol use and abuse, which with American students going to Europe, which has a lower drinking age than in the U.S., that does come up from time to time. There’s also the additional aspect here of race or ethnicity-based incidents. And this last one is particularly important right now, I think, as cases of race-based harassment, or violence against people of Asian descent have grown more widespread since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kabanova: That’s a great point, Sam. And, in fact, in a recent podcast that my team shared in terms of forecasting different risks that are coming out, one of the ones that we really highlight for leaders is to think about drug abuse and also alcohol abuse. And I can see how that can be something in a different context for the study abroad programs that we’re seeing. So I know we’ve covered a lot of ground in such a short period of time. And so the last topic I really want to discuss, and really the most popular question that we hear as risk management consultants, is what emerging study abroad risks should leaders really start thinking about now? Henning, how do you see educational study abroad programs needing to adapt beyond the pandemic?

Snyman: Study abroad is always to a large degree associated with groups, the risk to a group of students that are going abroad. I think that what needs to change is the focus on the individual. The individual risk profile of students and travelers in general, not to think of the group, but to think of the individual. And I think what’s been highlighted during COVID-19 is the profile-specific, or the risk profile of people. And everyone is different. We’ve seen challenges, for instance, your nationality having a bigger influence on where you can go, where you can be evacuated to. If you become sick, where can you go. If there’s a security escalation, what is the nearest safe haven? Your pre-existing medical conditions have a massive impact on a traveler.

And that shouldn’t only be applied because of COVID-19. That should be a general practice. I think that a rethinking of how to do a risk assessment, my own opinion is it should be almost if I can use the description of door to door, looking at every step. The risk of just going to the airport now. The risk of transiting through an airport. The risk of getting into an Uber, or a taxi, or public transport. All of that needs to be taken into consideration. So I suppose in a nutshell it’s going to be more complex.

Kabanova: Thanks, Henning. And your first point of focusing on the individual really does fall in line with the new focus on diversity and inclusion throughout the world today, whether that’s accommodating students with a disability or considering cross-cultural differences. And then your point in terms of door to door risk assessments. I mean, I think that’s a really great way. Just a follow-up question for you, Henning, would you recommend tabletop exercises for leaders to really consider those different scenarios?

Snyman: Yeah, definitely. I think Sam and Caitlin mentioned that earlier on is that I think out of my own experience with so many organizations when they enter into a crisis management exercise, or a desktop exercise, sometimes they meet people in that exercise that they’ve never met before. So it’s a fantastic way of understanding the gaps in your own crisis management plan, or your business continuity, whatever needs to be done, but, yes, and that needs to be done as the world changes. And as your organizations approach changes to test your ability to manage these crises and to make sure, at the end of the day, it’s all about keeping your travelers safe and secure, and it needs to be exercised.

Kabanova: Thanks for that. And really tabletop exercises are a really great part of educating leaders, as you mentioned, and also finding those gaps so that we can adapt and advance. Of course, we can’t plan for everything, but it really does help people kind of build those muscles of working together and managing risks. So what about at Study Year Abroad, Sam? What are some new and emerging risks that leaders need to consider past this coming year?

Gammons: Yeah, a major area of concern that continues to emerge is really the mental health, and the mental health care support, especially, for teenagers. As we continue emerging from the pandemic, I think we’re only really seeing the tip of the iceberg where the COVID impact is concerned, particularly, impacts of quarantine, virtual learning, things like that. So the more that we can prepare to support our students’ mental health and well-being, the better we’re going to be in the long-term.

I also want to pick up on something you were saying, Liza, about a risk area that’s not really new or emerging, but it’s been more and more often recognized as an area of concern highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s someplace that our students often excel and we’re just starting to catch up to them. That is DEI, diversity, equity and inclusion. So the risk here in my view is not just a lack of DEI programming, but a misunderstanding, or an improper application of its function. So why is it there? Is it there to make the adults feel better, or is it there to help improve access and address the structural inequalities in society for our students? So how do we understand and support our students who are activists, for example?

So, one thing that I really love about working with high school aged students is how passionate they are, and how much information they absorb from the society around them. So as DEI intersects with health care, and health and safety in many ways, for the sake of our students, I think it’s really important that our educational leaders continue to explore what disproportionately impacts students of color starting with economics, and then, obviously, extending to other areas, not just in the context of the pandemic, which we know did disproportionately impact communities of color. So, all in all, if we’re going to provide our students with a safe environment to learn and grow that safety isn’t just physical. It’s also emotional and mental as well.

Kabanova: That’s great. And I’m really glad that you mentioned that, Sam. I mean, we’re really hearing from mental health experts that we’ve all had a level of trauma as a result of this pandemic whether that’s the isolation that everyone was in, or canceling, or changing milestone events like graduation, or someone’s first year of school. And so that’s really something that we need to be thinking about holistically, both from a mental health perspective, but also from a diversity inclusion perspective in terms of impact and equity on everyone. So last but not least, Caitlin, what emerging risks might leaders overseeing study abroad programs like yourself really need to pay attention to after this coming year?

Murphy: Yeah. It’s interesting to listen to what Henning, Sam, and you have said. I have plenty to comment on here, but one thing I’d like to say is we originally were thinking to move away from having health and safety evaluations from doctors on file, or mental health notices be required to review before students go abroad. And it’s been interesting because we’ve been trying to balance the student development theory of challenge and support. So coming back to duty of care as well, how much are we taking on to try to ensure safety, right? And then how much are we allowing our students to be informed to make their own choices? And so we’ve been trying to balance that before the pandemic, but now so we’ve learned that, OK, yes, we had been collecting and reviewing health standards on the individual level to try to present problems in countries. So I think that practice is going to remain when we thought from a liability standpoint maybe not having them was better, but I think from a support in country how we handle that, I think, will be interesting in terms of process.

Kabanova: Are you training students any differently? Is your orientation going to be any different in terms of allowing students to make their own safe choices?

Murphy: So while we are still trying to empower our students to have the knowledge, and I’m really trying even more so, and we’ve been trying this before, but pushing them to seek their own answers, using us as a cc function for a resource as they navigate that process to get used to that, but I would say we’ve definitely included way more virtual programming. I do a lot more individual, again, back to Henning’s point, a lot more individual advising and counseling sessions. I feel that in group settings right now, in relation to what Sam said about mental health, there’s so many things students want to share, but they aren’t going to share in those group pre-departure orientation sessions where it’s now, like, let’s sit down, let’s go through how you’re feeling. What are your concerns? How can we work through this plan? And so relatedly, we’ve been talking about as Henning mentioned, OK, you’re leaving your house. What are you doing? What happens if this happens? What happens if that happens?

And so I feel like we’re sort of just creating, We used to have a Plan B, and now I’m having them have Plan B, C, D, and E. So if this as canceled, if you can’t have access, if you’re quarantining. And so I don’t necessarily really know if that’s necessary risk, but I think that our offices need to lay out several plans, and they need to be prepared to implement them at any point, whereas, I think we would have some flexibility in years past.

Kabanova: I’m seeing a lot of head nods from Henning and Sam. So I just want to give you one last opportunity, if there’s anything else you’d like to add, Henning, or Sam?

Snyman: Yeah. I think what Caitlin said is preparation is key. Having access to reliable information. I think pre-pandemic, we normally advised our clients to confirm flights, and confirm destination specific information, maybe a week out, or two weeks out. I would recommend travelers to do it on their way to the airport now because situations change. I think everyone heard about the new variant, or not the new variant, the variant that’s made its way to the UK now, the delta, I think it’s called delta and a concern about that. So my advice would be is information is absolute key. Reliable information is key to base decisions on. And very important as well, flexibility, and Caitlin mentioned as well, having Plan A to D is going to be really important going forward.

Kabanova: Thanks, Henning. Sam, anything else to add?

Gammons: Yeah. I just want to add that one of the things that’s emerged as incredibly important, and something that we’ve always known, but really got solidified, in this is the importance of communication and having a communication plan, and not just focusing on what’s the next thing that’s going to be going out to whatever group of constituents that you’re working with, but what’s the next, and then the one after that, and the one after that.

Murphy: And I would add, too, if that’s all right, something in this next year for study abroad advisors is we’ve talked about is, but our offices have always relied upon state guidance to make these decisions, right? So you’re a travel one, or travel two country, you’re good, but the minute you cross that travel three, travel four, you’re done. And so study abroad advisors in terms of risk management I don’t know, I can’t speak to everyone, but it’s kind of been a lazy approach, right? Where we don’t make the choice government says, and we make those challenges, but now, as we’ve seen the nuances of how state and CDC report risk and how that conflicts with maybe our goals, we’ve sort of seen institutions making shifts.

And so if people are shifting from State Department guidance then it will be harder, I imagine, to ever shift back to a place where that could ever be a dictating line. So in this coming year, I’m very curious to see how institutions decide to resettle and reformat their travel guidelines. And if we will now be having more in-person risk assessors, or are we going to contract to organizations that filter in risk reports to us? Are we going to pay for that technology approach? So I’m curious because I think institutions that already have risk assessors, they might have elevated that position where they might have contracted more people. In smaller schools it can be hard to justify additional people just for risks. So you use a college-wide person, right? And sometimes those needs are very different. So it will be very interesting, I think, to see how the State Department, and CDC in general becomes more integrated back into decision-making for those institutions.

Snyman: Yeah. And just the interesting one, Caitlin, on what you mentioned about CDC and State Departments’ warnings. We, as an organization, we did research with Ipsos. And one of the facts that came out is that, and this is not study abroad, or students, or anything, but organizations and employees, basically, one of the biggest changes is employees looking towards their organizations, or their companies for reliable information and guidance, not to CDC or State Department. And this is a trend globally. It’s not only in the U.S. I mean, this pandemic has been politicized to one of the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, we haven’t seen this for a very, very long time, since I think, the previous time was with HIV/AIDS in the late ’80s, early ’90s, the politicization of it, but you’re right. I think people are turning towards their organizations for advice and guidance, not to governments anymore.

Murphy: Yeah. It’s been a pleasure to connect with both of you as well. I know both of your organizations. I’ve seen them posted at conferences and I’m familiar, so great to have a name and a face.

Kabanova: Thanks, Caitlin, and thank you, Henning and Sam. It’s certainly such a challenging time for leaders, and it will be interesting to see, like you all said, how leaders are going to be making decisions going forward in terms of where and how to travel, and also when. So I’d love to thank all three of you for your time today. We covered a lot of ground from risks to participants’ physical and emotional safety in light of the pandemic to some of the risks that you all have been experts on even before the pandemic. So I’ve learned a lot from each of you. And I know our conversation really gave listeners a new list of questions to ask on campus and people to connect with. So thank you all so much for sharing your experiences.

Snyman: Thank you.

Gammons: Thanks Liza.

Murphy: Thank you.

Host: From United Educators Insurance, this is the Prevention and Protection podcast. If you’re a UE member, don’t forget you can reach out to a skilled risk management expert with any questions about a specific risk on campus by emailing risk@ue.org.