Office of International Education: Current Status and Plans for the Semester


Sunset photo from November 2017.

In March 2020, COVID-19 forced all study abroad students to return home early and finish the remainder of their semester online. The entirety of Champlain College’s study abroad program was put on pause. When the year was finally coming to an end, the college laid off the majority of the Office of International Education (OIE) staff. Read more about this in “Changes in the Office of International Education: How They Affect Study Abroad.”

While understanding the unforeseen circumstances of COVID-19, students, professors, and staff were confused and disappointed by the college’s decision to remove the well-established staff members that made up the OIE. Students addressed a letter to the administration asking them to be more open with changes to the college. 

With vaccinations rolling out over the summer, the OIE is slowly on its way to becoming whole again. Stephen Robinson, director of the Dublin campus, reports that a group of 18 students successfully made it to Dublin this semester, which is a small group compared to the usual 45 to 50. The Academic Center is following Ireland’s requirements for education. The guidelines include social distancing within the classroom, mask-wearing, opening windows, and carbon dioxide monitors. 

“While Ireland is slowly opening up and reducing restrictions, we’re not sure where things will end up over the next few months,” Robinson says. “But I’m confident that Ireland is in a good place to further open up society.  We have a much more conservative approach to Covid than seen in the U.S.”

While Dublin has taken a small group of students in, Montreal’s campus is still closed for studying abroad. The Director of the Montreal campus, Genevieve Lord, mentions that the preparation study abroad takes and the uncertainty of COVID informed their decision. Lord says that the removal of the OIE staff “was not a fun situation.” She follows up with, “It was therefore felt, by most students and ourselves, that it was better to focus our energy on the spring semester.”

Now the Montreal campus is starting the process of hiring new staff. They have already hired a new assistant director, who Lord says “is eager to make a difference and has many positive ideas.” They are currently in search of a new student life manager

David Mills, the Dean of International Education and Core Division, says that there are around 40 students who are currently building their schedules to study abroad in Montreal for the spring semester. 

In addition to the spring semester, Montreal plans to offer film and culture summer programs again. Lord also says that “Montreal is focusing on gaming and gamification now, as we are one of the top cities in this field. The industry needs students from adjacent fields (marketing, communication, data analysis, writing ..) who are excited about working in interactive media.” 

Dublin started hiring new staff once they knew students were arriving in the fall. Robinson shares that Tony Langan, who was their previous student life manager, was rehired as the assistant director. Liz Gillis is the new part-time student life manager, and Caroline Elbay has stayed on the team to facilitate student internships. 

The Burlington office is still being rebuilt, and Robinson says it’s been a challenge. 

“We lost a lot of good people, and people I consider friends.  These were the people who recruited students for abroad, and made sure the courses worked out and they were prepared…basically everything prior to them arriving,” he says. “Right now Elin Melchior is handling that all by herself and it’s a big load for her.  We need more support on the Burlington end of things, and the administration knows that, so hopefully that will change soon.”

Mills says that they are working on posting a new job position for someone to join Melchoir. He also mentions Champlain’s new Provost, Monique Taylor, who has 20 years of international experience. 

“With her experience of a variety of approaches to international education, she wants to be strategic about the rebuilding, and not just rush to rebuild exactly what we previously had in place,” Mills says. “She wants to take the opportunity to look holistically at international education across the campus and determine whether we need to change our organizational structure or whether what we had before was best. So we may end up with something very similar to the OIE office of 2020 and prior. Or we may end up with a new configuration of things.” 

Robinson wishes that Champlain would make study abroad a degree requirement. “A global experience is an amazing opportunity for students, looks great on their resume, and is incredibly character-building,” he says. 

Mills would like to remind students that a semester abroad in Montreal or Dublin costs the same amount as an on-campus semester, and there are scholarships available to help with tuition. He says, “you won’t regret making room for this transformative experience during your time at Champlain.”