Administration, ASWC Instrumental in Lifting International Travel Funding Ban
After strong advocacy from ASWC, students next year will be able to travel internationally unaccompanied with college funding.
At a Senate meeting on Sunday, March 31, ASWC President Kayvon Behroozian made the announcement of the policy change, attributing the results primarily to the efforts of ASWC.
“It’s been on ASWC’s radar for a while, but this year is when substantial steps forward were made,” he said.
The ban on college-supported international travel was put in place three years ago, and according to administrators, removal of the ban has been a much-discussed topic ever since. By lifting the ban, the administration aims to expand the opportunities available to Whitman students.
The ban proved detrimental to clubs that base themselves around missions of international travel, including Whitman Direct Action and GlobeMed. These clubs had to resort to fundraising efforts to continue their relationships with international communities.
For GlobeMed, the change could help the club expand outreach efforts in Thailand.
“Right now we are completely responsible for raising the money for our trip. Now that we could potentially have ASWC funding, more people could be able to go,” said first-year Brooke Bessen.
Student groups wishing to attend conferences or events abroad were also unable to receive funding because of the ban. Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland maintained that its implementation was the result of increased safety concerns.
“We found a lack of ability to vet the trips in terms of safety. It was mainly a liability issue,” Cleveland said.
Next year students groups can apply for international funding through the ASWC Travel and Student Development fund.
“Starting next year, if the money is there, and if the Finance Committee and the Senate approve the funding for the trip, and [if] the country the group or person is trying to go to meets the criteria, ASWC will be capable of funding such travel,” Behroozian said.
International internships sponsored by the college will now also be possible. Currently, the Student Engagement Center offers a stipend to students planning on securing an internship, but this funding has been offered exclusively to students working domestically until now.
As part of the decision, Assistant Dean of the Student Engagement Center Noah Leavitt announced that students will be able to apply for funding in Canada starting this summer. This announcement was made before the official lift of the ban, but it marks the beginning of wider opportunities available in the 2013-2014 academic year.
Expanding professional opportunities for students served as a central motivation for the college.
“The biggest change for us is that we are going to set up a process by which we have students develop proposals for professional experiences outside the United States,” said Leavitt. “We’re still exploring ways we want to handle the staffing and what proposals look like that address the safety and security, and what kind of criteria we are going to use to examine the travel.”
Students wishing to intern abroad must work with an established organization and have parental approval. Both of these stipulations are meant to increase safety for students.
Additionally, Cleveland and Leavitt hope to establish a position within the SEC to help students procure both domestic and international internships.
International research opportunities will also be considered, though nothing has been formally established. Travel expenses can be rather high for students doing thesis research abroad, so looking into those opportunities could fill an important niche.
Senior Henry Gales, who did thesis research in Mexico City, supports expanding research opportunities.
“In my case it coincided with a personal trip, but I’m definitely of the opinion that Whitman should be funding these. I can imagine that students want to do research other places but aren’t able to because of money,” he said.
Cleveland said that a program for funding research abroad hasn’t been formally established, but future talks among administrators will address the possibility.
Cleveland, Leavitt and Behroozian were all very excited about this monumental shift in college policy.
“I think it is such an extraordinary opening up of the college for all kinds of opportunities for students to enter the world. I’m personally really excited,” said Leavitt. “I attribute this to ASWC for pushing us and to the college leadership for really looking hard about ways we can address this and open up the world to students.”
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