“We always think about the safety of our students,” said Candace Chenoweth, director of Education Abroad. “We have an excellent record. The number of incidents involving our students has been very small when you consider that anything can happen in this world.”
Over the last five years, Chenoweth explained, WSU students have been involved in fewer than a half-dozen incidents that were serious enough to require her office to take action. During that five year period, about 2,000 students were involved in study-abroad programs, with 620 students abroad during the 2006-2007 academic year alone.
“Those incidents ranged from robbery to illnesses that required the student to return home,” she said. “I am thankful we have not had more serious concerns.”
The safety of college students who choose to study abroad was recently raised by an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (ONLINE @ http://chronicle.com/weekly/v53/i32/32a04502.htm) noting that Ithaca College had suspended its partnership with the School for International Training, an independent provider of study-abroad programs, following complaints by an Ithaca student about her experience in Jamaica.
The School for International Training is also a WSU partner, Chenoweth said. She said that she is “completely impressed” with that program provider and describes the company, after visiting some of their international offices, as a “very professional organization.”
The School for International Training is one of about two dozen providers that offer international programs to WSU students at the study abroad fairs held on campus each semester. The providers invited to the study abroad fairs are carefully selected, explained Lance LeLoup, associate vice provost for International Programs.
“We only allow providers with excellent reputations. We put a tremendous premium on student safety,” LeLoup continued. “We have never experienced any safety concerns with programs run by the School for International Training.”
One reason that WSU has such good record of student safety is the orientation program all students are required to attend, LeLoup said. That program (and the accompanying student handbook) provides a comprehensive overview of student safety issues, including health insurance information, pedestrian safety, drug and alcohol use, dating and other issues of integrating with the culture, the use of a buddy system, and copying of important documents.
This year, that orientation program was selected as the best in the Pacific Northwest region at the regional conference held in October of 2006. Because of that regional award, the program was also presented at the national conference of NAFSA: the Association of International Educators which was held in Minneapolis on June 1.