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Global’s Move to Virtual

Hallie Bodey ’12
Program Manager, Center for Global Law and Policy

Santa Clara enacted its travel ban the day before I was set to travel to Arkansas to market our global programs that would ultimately get cancelled along with all Summer 2020 offerings. I called the hot line, which had not even been set up yet. It directed straight to Campus Safety who told me to talk with my supervisor, who then conferred with the Dean. I was told that it was ultimately my choice. I happily went. That was the last time that I took a full plane. Every other flight after was 50% or less capacity and I have flown many times since for personal essential travel. Arkansas was a disaster for a multitude of reasons, but COVID was not one of them. Their campus was still open. One student did say, “Oh, I didn’t even think about that health issue, but your plans make sense.”

I never returned to campus after that until the summer for a task that could only be done on campus. Moving to virtual itself was not a challenge. I came from an institution where we worked mostly virtually, and came together once per week, so I felt well prepared for our virtual move. While it took others weeks to get used to screen sharing, I was ready.

What was strange was the complete cancellation of our summer offerings and other institutions doing the same. It led to my team from my previous institution being fully laid off. I will always be amazed that Santa Clara has managed to avoid complete lay-offs for anyone working in global education and has minimized furloughing as much as it has.

Here at SCU, the cancellation caused us to offer programs that we have not offered in more than 5 years, and I expect that we will probably not offer ever again. We have also made other offerings of innovative online programs that I suspect the ABA will never let us offer again. I do not know if students appreciate how rare a full term of P/NP is, but I think it is one of the most dire signs I’ve seen in my career. In 7+ years, I had only ever known under 20 students at SCU to have a full sweeping program move to P/NP for a term in response to extreme local protests. The idea that our entire school would go to P/NP for a pandemic has been one of many strange things that I have seen. For global travel cancellations, we have not had this much change in Study Abroad operation since 9/11 (and I was not yet in my career then).

In my own situation, to address the gaps in workload from our cancellations, I began supporting both my existing role and additionally joined a new team. I have told this new team many times that even when we go back to our pre-COVID roles and I am no longer working with them, that I will still insist on meeting them face to face.

The online environment has shown me that while it is truly possible to still make strong connections with folks, as I have with my new team, I feel most sympathetic for the SCU staff that have joined in the middle of the pandemic. Working with a team that you have never occupied the same space with is simply strange. I have many colleagues who have never seen my whole body. For them, I am shoulders and a head. I am still close to them, and care deeply for them, and have seen their passion and commitment to students, but this is strange. I do not know what their whole body looks like either. I do not know how they decorate their desks, their personality is a backdrop of their home office or a limited version that is shared in meetings. I don’t know how to explain this. It’s a bit like someone showing you a photograph of Egypt and telling you about their trip. You’re able to hear and understand their story, you’re even able to appreciate what it has meant to them, but you aren’t there, it is not and never will be the same as going to Egypt yourself.

The other strange thing, that I think will be forgotten, is the fact that folks have not taken vacations. I never appreciated how much vacation meant to me until we got into the pandemic. It resets us, and it resets our colleagues when they go on breaks. They bring new energy, new ideas. Some folks have taken personal time, but overall, I am sure the number is less than usual. This is something that will disappear in the new normal, and so I want to share that balance is very important.

A positive is that the early pandemic allowed me to focus on some things that I would not have been able to focus on for a while. We had a group of students help develop a new logo for us and do a whole marketing assessment. That’s the attached artwork.

The long lasting impact on offering global education cannot be understated, I would say that the next 5—10 years of my career looks very interesting and I am so glad to be at SCU to see where global education goes.

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