A new international travel policy, created by a task force dedicated to safety and security, is scheduled to be implemented over the next 12 months, stepping up Virginia Tech’s commitment to the welfare of its faculty and students traveling overseas for study, engagement activities, or research.
Students who participate in study abroad programs would be the first in the university community to be addressed, along with faculty members who lead the programs.
Two actions are scheduled for early in 2015.
First, the Global Education Office will register all student-related travel in a single, comprehensive database, making it easier and faster to identify where all Virginia Tech students are studying abroad at any given time.
Second, a committee of faculty and administrators from across the university will be established to review and approve all new study abroad programs being sponsored by Virginia Tech.
Once the new procedures have been implemented regarding study abroad, additional requirements will be introduced to govern other university-sponsored travel including, for example, faculty members attending international conferences.
A central policy brings benefits such as unifying the types of medical insurance offered to students, faculty, and staff. Currently, a party of travelers on the same trip might be covered by widely different benefits, depending on the insurer, and they might be subjected to differing treatment during an illness or incident that requires evacuation from a country.
Other advantages would include the ability to quickly inform potential travelers of threats to health or safety in countries outside the United States.
Ultimately, a Global Travel Oversight Committee would be established.
“This group would be tasked with implementing procedures for the safety and security of anyone on university-sponsored travel,” said Guru Ghosh, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs.
For example, the committee would hear petitions from individuals wishing to travel to countries that are on the U.S. Department of State travel-warnings list.
Two new staff members are expected be added to the university late in early in 2015, one to the Global Education Office and one to VT Engage. A global risk and safety manager in the Global Education Office would be responsible for implementing a new global travel registry.
An associate director for global engagement, housed within VT Engage, would play a similar role regarding international service-learning projects.
In his October 2014 installation speech, Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands spoke to global leadership, naming four world challenges – security, resilience, health and sustainability – that he said the university would address. In addition, he predicted that Virginia Tech “will become a top-100 global research institution” by 2022.
According to Ghosh, the travel policy is a foundation of the university’s effort to strengthen its international presence.