“Via is a really good ally,” says Averett’s director of study abroad
Since Averett University’s study abroad program switched to Via last spring, Catherine “Katy” Clark, Ph.D., feels less stressed.
“It’s so much easier to process applications and keep track of them,” says Katy, Averett’s Director of Study Abroad and an Associate Professor of French and English. “Having student profiles where everything is in one place, that’s something I didn’t have before. With Via, I’m a lot more comfortable and a lot less stressed about things falling through the cracks.”
As a one-person office, Katy had long been dissatisfied with the platform Averett had been using.
“It wasn’t super user friendly, either from the admin side or the student side, and there was no response to problems. It wasn’t working and it wasn’t being maintained.”
Katy began exploring other software systems. She considered a provider she knew others in the study abroad community were using but determined it wasn’t a good fit for Averett, a private university in Danville, Virginia, with about 1,500 students.
“I was going to be charged for stuff that I didn’t need and that I wasn’t going to use,” Katy says. “And I was going to be charged for the number of applications instead of for the number of actual students traveling. It was a lot of cost for things that might be very good for a larger university with a larger staff but were not very helpful for me.”
She found a good fit with Via.
“Via is very affordable and user friendly,” Katy says. “There’s a little bit of a gamified aspect to it. It’s really attractive and easy for the students to navigate. It does some of the advising work for me that, as a one-person office, is really helpful.”
Making the transition to Via was easy, Katy says.
“With the program I was using before, I literally had to put in code sometimes to make it look the way I wanted. Via is so much better. I can just click a button and things happen. I don’t have to code anything. I didn’t even need my last training session.”
Katy Started Averett’s Study Abroad Program in 2012
Katy was born in Texas, moved to New Jersey and spent most of her middle and high school years living in West Virginia. Her passion for global experiences grew while pursuing her doctoral degree in comparative literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to studying abroad, she also worked with UNC’s study abroad office, including at the university’s Paris location.
As a graduate student, Katy taught at UNC for about eight years. She came to Averett in 2010 as an assistant professor of French and English and, two years later, was asked to start the study abroad program. Before that, “Students just kind of found their own programs or found faculty members leading programs,” Katy says.
“The first few years were spent standardizing it, networking among offices and program providers, and making contacts.”
In summer 2021, Katy led the first study abroad trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. She took five students and one alumna to France.
Numbers are historically low for Averett students choosing to study abroad, but Katy believes Via will help change that. For one, she can connect travelers to events within Via instead of creating events on social media platforms.
Two big events at Averett are the annual Study Abroad Fair in the fall and the Passport Drive in the spring. During the Passport Drive, students are able to get assistance with everything from a free passport photo to filling out paperwork. The drive removes one hurdle to studying abroad for Averett students, many of whom are first generation students, Katy notes.
Via Helps Averett Engage with Students
Katy is always looking for creative ways to engage students in study abroad.
“My background is interdisciplinary so I’m eager to work across disciplines with faculty in other departments. I’m excited to share ideas and to reach out to students from all different fields.”
Katy also works to integrate study abroad into other Averett programming, such as service-learning, honors, internships, and career development. She urges students to bring their global experiences back to campus and share how they’re relevant.
Katy also leads by example.
“I love to travel,” says Katy, who has traveled all over Europe. She’s also been to Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and has spent time regularly in Québec, a predominantly French-speaking province in eastern Canada.
North Africa and India are on her bucket list.
“There’s something both humbling and exhilarating about being a foreigner in somebody else’s culture,” she says. “We don’t realize until we leave our own culture that the way we do things is not the only way things are done. Global experiences can be a bit scary and intimidating, but ultimately, they’re exciting and make us better.”
While it’s not difficult to sell Averett students on the value of global experiences, Katy does have to spend a lot of time educating students on what all is involved.
“It’s not enough to say, ‘Here are the programs we have available. Here’s the paperwork you need.’ It’s really talking them through it in a way that makes them comfortable.”
Since students can create profiles and explore study abroad options in Via, Katy believes the number of Averett students studying abroad will increase thanks to Via.
“Via is a really good ally,” she says. “Via helps me meaningfully advise the students more quickly without having to manually go through preliminary busywork. Via gives you control without taking up a lot of your time.”
Like Catherine “Katy” Clark at Averett University, Via believes global experiences will change our world. That’s why we created traveler relationship management and travel risk management software, which helps universities and study abroad program providers to empower global experiences. If you want a true education abroad partner, turn to Via.