By Paola Guzman
Following the departure of Patricia Seaman Summer 2016, former director of study abroad and academic standing, there has been uncertainty among students about the study abroad program . As a student who plans to go to France this summer, I had no idea who to go to or where to start.
I set up my very first study abroad appointment last semester with Natasha Vaughn (‘16), who had applied for the job as temporary study abroad director and academic standing coordinator after working there as a student worker for four years. We met up in the study abroad office located in Winnick Mansion, and scrutinized my options with regard to my major, core class fulfillment, and desires. Seaman had previously sat with students to explain their options and check their credits.
Vaughn left later that semester to start a new job. The study abroad office was empty for multiple weeks. After revisiting of the office constantly, confused about where I stood in my study abroad process, I was introduced to Kaitlin Jensen. Jensen was presented to me as the new director of study abroad and academic standing coordinator late fall 2016. Jensen has also been an LIU promise coach.
Weeks after meeting Jensen, I decided to visit the study abroad office to further my process. However, I found a sign on the door stating that all study abroad inquiries were to go to the promise coaches. I immediately set up a meeting with my promise coach to once again begin my study abroad process.
The promise coaches are now in charge of providing the students with study abroad information. The promise office on the second floor of Hillwood Commons advises students to look into affiliated programs, particularly faculty-led study abroad programs. Currently, if a student is interested in studying abroad through a non-afilliate, they will have to do the research and application on their own, according to the promise coach I met with Diana Vsky (‘16), worked as a work-study in the study abroad office for four years. Her experience working with Seaman was different. “It didn’t matter if it [the program] was afilliated or non-afilliated, it had to do more with preference,” she said when describing the previous study abroad process.
After meeting with my promise coach, the next step was to contact Dean of Students, Abagail Van Vlerah. After emailing her secretary to schedule an appointment, I was redirected to Kaitlin Bathrick, a success coach assisting Van Vlerah with the study abroad process.
Unfortunately, the only faculty-led study abroad program I was interested in, Black Paris, Choosing Exile led by Deborah Mutnick and Ellen Short, was cancelled due to low enrollment. Therefore, I decided to go for a non-afilliated program Vsky had advised me was as a popular one. Upon meeting with Bathrick, she was able to better guide me on paperwork that needed to be filled out and what the new process looks like.
According to Bathrick, the study abroad process now consists of three steps. First, students need to meet with their success coaches. They are the ones who will provide information on strictly afilliated programs. If the student is interested in a non-afilliated program, they have to do the research on their own. Thereafter, the students will be directed to Kaitlin Bathrick, who will guide students in the right direction as far as paperwork and credits go. Lastly, Van Vlerah receives and looks over the applications.
The study abroad process is no longer administered by a single person, according to Van Vlerah. “Our success coaches, as well as Kaity Bathrick and myself, as the dean of students, are taking the lead in informing students on what is available, how to get the ball rolling and how to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Van Vlerah declined to answer questions in person or over the phone. She would only reply to the Pioneer’s inquiries through email.
Bathrick now sets up information sessions with affiliated and non- affiliated programs. The first information session took place Feb. 15 for students interested in the non-afilliated center for international studies program (CIS), led by a CIS representative. A faculty-led study abroad information session was held on Feb. 16. There will be another information session set up for March 6 at 12:30 pm, in Hillwood Commons room 221, with the affiliated program at Regents University London.
According to Van Vlerah, affiliated study abroad programs include, “University of Cambridge in England, Fudan University in China, Regents University in London, Södertön University in Sweden.” Van Vlerah did not respond to why Jensen is no longer the director of study abroad.