In early March, as concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continued to mount, NC State and Poole College of Management leadership had to make difficult choices regarding campus operations – and that included the temporary halt on spring and summer 2020 study abroad programs.
To Robert Sandruck, Poole College of Management director of global programs, the decision was the right one.
“The safety of our students is at the heart of every decision we make as a college,” Sandruck explains. “Working in partnership with the University Study Abroad Office, we knew we had to suspend our study abroad programs through the summer. With our students’ safety in mind, NC State required us to recall students who were abroad this semester and cancel the nine faculty-led group programs that were scheduled in the summer.”
Students like sophomore business administration major Katherine Bublitz had mixed reactions to being requested to return to the United States. She had been studying in Vienna, Austria, for a little over a month before receiving the news.
“I was at first really upset when I heard that NC State was canceling all study abroad programs in Europe and bringing us all home,” Bublitz says. “But the more I thought about it, I began to be grateful for the month I did get to have to experience all the amazing things about Vienna, and that I had such an amazing school like NC State to return to at the end of all of the craziness.”
Despite the recent circumstances, the Global Programs team has been hard at work thinking through how to continue providing students with a global experience – even if it has to look different than it has in years past.
“How do we move some of our international partnerships to online programming? How do we integrate a global context into faculty lectures? Those are the discussions we’re working through,” Sandruck says. “But while we’re managing today’s issues, we’re also moving forward planning for the future. This is a short-term problem; global education isn’t lost forever.”
In fact, Sandruck and his team are already hard at work planning study abroad programs for next academic year and summer 2021. And while the impact of COVID-19 has made profound changes in daily operations at the university and around the world, it also comes with opportunity.
“We’re living through a case study that’s unparalleled when it comes to understanding globalization – not just from a public health perspective, but also from an economic one,” Sandruck says. “Our world is intertwined. Globalization is here and the adaptability of our future business leaders is going to be critical. So here at Poole, we’re focused on working with our students to develop the skills and knowledge that will serve their future employers.”