Global Education Office plans for post-pandemic programs

Caleb Marll, News Editor

As Westmont looks towards a return to normalcy in the 2021-22 academic year, one aspect of campus life will remain restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic: off-campus programs. While the school waits for study abroad programs to resume, the Global Education Office has begun to strategize how and which programs will function in the coming years.

As previously announced by the provost’s office in fall 2020, Westmont-run off-campus programs have been cancelled through the 2021-22 school year. However, the Westmont in San Francisco and Westmont Downtown programs will continue to be offered every semester. Several study abroad programs will return for Mayterm 2022, including many offerings that were scheduled to take place during Mayterm in 2020 and 2021. Among the courses offered are programs in India, Jerusalem, Singapore, London and Northern Ireland.

Westmont’s Interim Director of Global Education, Dr. Patti Hunter, said that the key factor for the programs will be the safety of travel at the time. Hunter stated, “Most programs take 9-12 months to prepare for, so as we look ahead and start booking lodging and transportation, we will need to be confident that travel to our destinations will be allowed by those countries.”

The Global Education Office has also begun the process of choosing “Westmont in” off-campus programs for the 2022-23 academic year. An update submitted to the academic senate stated that the office will select programs “based on a number of factors, including: overall campus enrollment, the availability of program leaders, and the impact that cancellations in 2020-21 and 2021-22 had on students’ curricular options.” The programs suggested include England Semester, Westmont in Mexico, and the Global Health Uganda program for fall 2022 and Westmont in Cairo for spring 2023. 

In conjunction with the Off-Campus Programs (OCP) committee, the Global Education Office has also announced they are “working to enhance the professional development we provide to faculty who will be leading our programs.” Some of the key topics listed involve students’ mental health needs; serving students with disabilities; safety and security; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and budget training for new leaders. 

Several key policies and procedures will also be adapted as programs return. In particular, OCP has “decided that going forward, the College’s new policy is that semester programs run by married couples or family members will need to have a non-family member on the leadership team as an equal partner, in either a faculty role or a professional staff role.” The document cites the stresses placed on program leaders, as well as “a number of incidents on programs over the last five years” as contributing to this change.

The OCP committee will also be using the break from study abroad programs to review the racial climate of their programs, amid “conversations about racial equity and climate in the academic program generally.”

Hunter has been serving as interim director of global education since 2016. She stated, “We had a full-time Director of Global Education for several years and look forward to filling that position again in the next couple of years.”

In the meantime, Kim Notehelfer, who serves as Assistant Director of Global Education, continues to advise students as they plan for their off-campus semester, whether it be Westmont in San Francisco or Westmont Downtown, or one of the abroad programs in future years.

Hunter was adamant that global education programs will return and remain an important part of a Westmont education. “Global programs are a key aspect of Westmont’s mission,” she said. “In the coming years we look forward to offering the programs that have been staples of our past options and looking for new ways to connect students with other communities and cultures as they learn, both in the U.S. and abroad.”

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