Changes in the Office of International Education: How They Affect Study Abroad


Photo from @champlainedu on Instagram.

“How are students going to be able to take advantage of Champlain’s well-marketed and inflated study abroad programs if the entire Office of International Education staff has been laid off, but students haven’t received any communication about it?” students asked in a letter addressed to Champlain College’s administration. In February 2021, many students signed a letter demanding that Champlain be more open about the changes to the college, saying it affects them personally, academically, and professionally. 

“We’ve spent considerable time unpacking what these changes mean, speculating why they’re even happening, and having to wonder if the information we are receiving is even accurate,” the letter stated. “Unrest, uncertainty, and disappointment have been prominent feelings for us lately.”

In November 2020, Champlain decided to remove seven out of the nine staff members in the Office of International Education and many Burlington study abroad staff members, leaving behind the two directors in Dublin and Montreal, and a few faculty in Burlington. 

Evan Goldstein (Psychology ‘21) was one of the students who signed the letter. Goldstein heard about the changes to the OIE in late November from former Study Abroad Advisor, Deborah Bloom, who held a farewell meeting for her time at Champlain and the closing of the OIE. 

He said he signed the letter because “it was none of the faculty members’ fault that study abroad was abruptly halted, so I felt it was necessary to show my appreciation and gratitude toward the OIE by signing the letter in solidarity with other students.”

Goldstein said that he thought what occurred was anticipated because of COVID-19. “I was saddened because not only did I lose the study abroad recruiter position at the end of the semester, but the individuals associated with Champlain’s study abroad programs would be facing a more difficult departure from their respective roles.” 

“This was a real blow to all of us in the Champlain community, but especially to those who lost their jobs after being so dedicated to international education at Champlain. It hurt then and it still hurts now,” said Stephen Robinson, the Director of the Dublin campus. “OIE was a solid group of people, who worked amazingly well together supporting each other in these difficult roles. More than just colleagues, we were all friends.

“The staff in Montreal and Dublin were responsible for all that happened on the ground at the respective abroad sites,” Robinson said. This included semester planning, staff hiring, housing, social and cultural activities, health and safety, and many more things. Robinson mentions that these few staff members were responsible for a large group of students in a foreign country. “But again, we all did it because we loved it. I’m not Irish, but I’ve lived here long enough to have fallen in love with the country and its people, and love nothing more than showing the place off to visiting students,” he added. 

The Burlington study abroad staff members were responsible for many aspects of the study abroad program. From recruitment to departure to insurance, they handled a lot. Robinson said, “It was a small group of highly dedicated and talented professionals who did this work out of a passion for global student learning. They knew how an education abroad experience can impact the lives of students.”

Noah Goldblatt, former director of the study abroad program and OIE, said that they mapped out every major to make sure students knew when studying abroad would fit best with their schedule. Goldblatt mentions that study abroad staff worked with students and professors to create professional and educational outcomes. He said, “I always say that the active part of going abroad is study, right? Study abroad. And so, we would really try and focus on okay well, it’s not just location, but what are you trying to achieve professionally, you know, what do you want to do when you graduate Champlain… and align the international experience with your overall personal and professional goals.”

Goldblatt mentioned that this was a tough decision for Champlain to make, and it wasn’t based on anyone’s performance. Champlain’s study abroad program is one of its notable aspects. Many students look forward to being able to study abroad, knowing how valuable the experience is. 

In the fall of 2020, Champlain was ranked 15th in the country for the percentage of students they sent abroad. The study abroad experience is ingrained in Champlain and is a big selling point of the college. Study Abroad Coordinator Elin Melchior said, “We’re always trying to move forward and think, like, how can we make study abroad more automatic, almost. So instead of people deciding they want to study abroad, we want people to decide they don’t want to study abroad.”

When the pandemic hit last March, the study abroad program came to a halt. Students who were studying abroad were sent home seven weeks early. The study abroad program was then canceled for the following fall semester as well as the spring and summer 2021 semester. 

“The most obvious effects were for those who had hoped to study abroad during this current academic year, and were unable to do so,” said David Mills, the interim Dean of International Education. In the future, Champlain plans to rebuild its operations and fully expects the Dublin and Montreal campuses to be back in operation in the fall. He said he understands that it’s been a confusing and worrying time, and to use the website to find information and reach out to staff with any questions. 

While many students may have missed their chance to study abroad with Champlain, Melchior said it’s still possible for students to have an abroad experience if it’s important to them. However, for students who have time to study abroad, the program will be there. 

Robinson mentioned that new OIE staff will be hired this summer, and he is expected to greet a group of students at the Dublin airport in August. He said, “It won’t be the same as before without the amazing staff I got to work with in OIE, but we’ll get there, and will still provide an amazing abroad experience for Champlain students. Never underestimate the Irish.”