What an immensely challenging time this is for all of us in the study abroad field. While we can rely on our experience to get through crises, the COVID-19 crisis has been unprecedented in its scope, length, and impact on the international education community and on IES Abroad.
For months, IES Abroad has monitored news coverage and global health and safety resources for information that changed by the minute as the pandemic unfolded. Like you, we’ve worked through countless nights, talking with students, parents and schools, while coordinating activities at more than 81 locations. It was heartbreaking to watch the experiences of more than 3,500 IES Abroad students get cut short during the spring semester.
After our students’ safety was secured, we focused on ensuring that students could receive as much academic credit as possible. 3,335 students are currently completing their courses online with us. Approved by the Consortium’s elected Academic Council, our academic guidelines have been modified to be consistent with what you are implementing on your campuses.
We recently cancelled our Summer 2020 study abroad, faculty-led and internship programs, but are hard at work developing limited online summer and fall programming options. We continue to prepare for fall programming, based on whatever limitations may still exist for travel at that time. Study abroad is more important than ever, especially now that it feels so threatened.
Throughout the crisis the IES Abroad senior management team has met daily, and our Crisis Management Team meets twice daily. The Executive Committee of the IES Abroad Board of Directors meets weekly, with incoming President Dr. Gregory Hess participating.
With summer programs cancelled and revenues in sharp decline, we had no choice but to make the very difficult decision to reduce our workforce. There was no easy way to do this, but we have offered severance packages and support for our former staff members. The staff reductions have been deep and wide, but they are critical to IES Abroad's survival. Looking ahead, at this time we plan to offer all our existing programs, with the exception of the Summer 2021 internship programs in Hong Kong and New York.
The reduction in our workforce is only part of a series of steps we've taken to reduce costs and to help us weather the coronavirus storm. We have cancelled our Annual Conference and all non-essential spending and travel. In addition, we have significantly increased our fund-raising efforts. These are a fraction of the actions we have taken in order to make certain that IES Abroad is able to deliver on its vital mission in the future.
Board members and senior management team members have been in contact with representatives at the state and federal levels, and with legislative committees that helped draft the stimulus package to advocate in support of the study abroad field. They have maintained contact and will continue to advocate as the bill moves into Phase 4. Overseas, we have applied for government subsidies to support programs that exist in any locations where we operate, in addition to applying for other U.S. federal funding such as SBA funds.
Our cost reductions and special funding initiatives have been implemented to support IES Abroad's short- and long-term financial health and viability. IES Abroad has dedicated itself to surviving this crisis so that we can continue to provide study abroad opportunities for many more years to come.
This has been a time of immense personal and financial sacrifice and loss for many individuals and organizations in our field—IES Abroad included. It is hard to witness the direct impact on our fellow provider organizations, our colleagues, partners, and friends. We are all making extremely difficult and unprecedented decisions in order to make it through this crisis.
As we continue to watch this crisis unfold nationally and internationally, I’m reminded often of our mission to educate global leaders. I still firmly believe that studying abroad is one of the most important and impactful ways to increase empathy and foster the global leadership we need for the future. We know that you feel the same.
For me personally, this is not how I envisioned my last year in the field. However, I’ve never been more proud of my very dedicated colleagues, and the legacy, commitment to academic excellence, and financial health that IES Abroad has built over the decades, enabling it to weather this unprecedented storm. From our kitchen tables and makeshift offices to yours, I’m writing to remind you that we’re in this together and we’re with you. Your IES Abroad College Relations Manager will be in touch, should you have any questions or need any specific support from IES Abroad.
We know that the world will look very different going forward. But we are doing everything we can to ensure that IES Abroad will be there alongside you tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and for many years in the future.
Mary M. Dwyer, Ph.D.
President and CEO