In the waning weeks of her administration, Student Association President Nicole Capp met with the director of the Office of Study Abroad to address a growing number of concerns students have with the office.
Capp, Rob Hallworth, the director of the Office of Study Abroad, and Donna Scarboro, the assistant vice president for special and international programs, discussed strategies that could improve the office’s ability to interact with student participants and handle their problems.
“I wanted to identify the communication breakdown between students and the office,” said Capp, a junior. “We needed to figure out why the staff was not responding to students in a timely manner.”
The office’s small staff was an immediate concern.
“There’s not enough people to serve in all the ways that students want,” she said.
Hallworth said the office is hiring a new adviser and is considering purchasing software that allows students to keep track of their own paperwork and applications – addressing a major concern of misplaced or unprocessed paperwork.
Another issue discussed at last week’s meeting is the requirement that students pay regular GW tuition rather than their study abroad programs’ often cheaper program fees while abroad, Capp said.
“I think it would be good to adjust the costs, especially when many programs are so much cheaper compared to GW,” she said.
Prior to the meeting, Capp met with several students who voiced their concerns with the Office of Study Abroad.
“Studying abroad is amazing, but getting there was a lot of trouble,” said Melissa Meyer, one of the students with whom Capp met. “It should not have to be that way.”
Last month Meyer sent an e-mail to the Focus on Fall Abroad listserv asking students who had problems with the Office of Study Abroad to voice their concerns to Capp.
In response, Melanie Centeno, the former executive coordinator of the Focus on Fall Abroad program, sent another e-mail across the listserv telling students not to respond to Meyer’s e-mail and to address their problems to her. Meyer’s e-mail eventually led to her removal from the listserv.
To give students a forum to discuss their study abroad problems and experiences, junior Mackenzie Drutowski created the Facebook group “Please, Let’s Improve GW Office of Study Abroad.”
“When you study abroad, it’s a one-time thing – if something goes wrong, no one bothers to fix it,” she said. “But I talked to other students, and we all would like a more competent Office of Study Abroad.”
Hallworth said that while there remain a “small number of stubborn issues,” the staff works hard to avoid them.
Next year’s SA administration will continue to work with the Office of Study Abroad to make sure that these and other issues are addressed. Specifically, Capp said that she was preparing Daniel Curran, next year’s vice president of student policy, to take over the discussions with the office.
She said, “These considerations need to be taken to the next level.”