Northwestern hosts national forum on study abroad practices

Yvonne Kim, Reporter

Northwestern’s Study Abroad Office hosted leaders from across the country Thursday for a one-day national forum to foster conversation about safe and secure education abroad.

“Beyond the Basics of Health, Safety, Security and Risk Management” was the seventh annual Standards of Good Practice Institute sponsored by the Forum on Education Abroad, and the second hosted by NU. This year’s Institute had 135 attendees, its highest attendance ever, according to Julie Friend, director of NU’s Office of Global Safety and Security and co-chair of this year’s Institute.

“The goal of the Institute is to provide a venue for people who are working in the area of education abroad … to share their best practices and to really advance our skill set and knowledge base,” Friend said.

Divided into multiple sessions with concurrent speakers, the Institute covered a wide range of topics, from travel risk assessment to accommodation for students with special needs.

Stephen Hargarten, an associate dean at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the Institute’s plenary speaker, discussed the importance of risk management and public health sciences in risk prevention and mitigation abroad.

“You want the students to have a very healthy and safe experience,” he said. “It’s an ongoing, important effort. … The Forum and Institute are pulling it in the right direction.”

Carrie Yachter who works at NU’s Center for Awareness, Response and Education, shared her findings on how to make the University’s response to sexual violence overseas more survivor-centered and student-focused, as well as the importance of partnering with other organizations such as the Study Abroad Office.

Wachter said when CARE first started addressing study abroad, there were only two other schools that had information on the matter.

“We were right on the forefront,” she said. “We saw this conference and we were like, ‘We need to share this information, we need to talk to other folks so they can do the same.’”

The event encouraged schools to share their practices and experiences in a confidential way, Hargarten said.

“That’s of critical importance, to have this group really continue to explore and understand what’s the best way to reduce the risks and to maximize the health and safety of students studying abroad,” he said.

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