Via Empowers Three-Person Bethel Team
“With Via, you don’t feel alone,” says Bethel’s assistant director.
The International and Off-Campus Programs office at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, was a latecomer to using software to manage its workload.
“We were using paper applications until 2017, 2018—very late in the game,” says Bethel Assistant Director Nikki Kang. “We’re a very small, private Christian school so there was never really a need to branch out.”
Still, in 2019, they did sign on with a large study abroad software provider. But it didn’t take long for frustrations to rise. Keeping up with updates proved too challenging and time-consuming for the three-person office.
“To really keep up with all the developments, you needed to almost have a single person for that,” says Associate Dean Virginija Wilcox. “We kept submitting tickets and working with their IT support on any hiccups—and there were many of them.”
“In the end we felt pushed by them to make decisions that were not necessarily the decisions we wanted to make. We felt like with the lack of support, poor customer care, and they also wanted to push a new contract to us—we were really having some ethical issues with this company and felt like we needed to look for something else.”
That “something else” turned out to be Via.
Bethel Switches to Via in Summer 2022
Virginija, who started at Bethel in March 2021, first learned of Via in 2017 while working in study abroad at the University of South Dakota. Nikki was introduced to Via by a former colleague. While at NAFSA, Virginija and Nikki talked with Via’s Bob Specking, director of business development. Once they explored Via more deeply, they knew Via was the software platform they needed. The office began transitioning to Via in late summer 2022.
Program Coordinator Kayleigh Sommerfeldt says Via’s support team, training videos and Knowledge Base made it easy to switch.
“Once we started with Via, I found it so helpful to work with the Via team and get those personalized training sessions. They helped us to set up the application process in Via to specifically meet our needs. Via’s Knowledge Base has been a great tool to search for information. My favorite part is that almost everything has a little video walkthrough and that has been a lifesaver.”
Bethel completed the transition and launched quickly into application cycles. Via was there for them every step of the way, Nikki says.
“It’s been really helpful how quick the Via team is to respond and support us when we can’t troubleshoot ourselves,” she says. “It’s been a good experience overall.”
Via a Hit with Faculty, Students
This spring, the team introduced Via to their faculty leaders. The response has been positive, Virginija says.
“In all the years that faculty used the other software platform, they never really seemed to grasp it. But with Via, even in these few months, they have been able to use the software to review their applicants and select them and let me know who they wanted in their courses. That whole process has gone so smoothly. Faculty have had a very intuitive, user-friendly experience with Via.”
Students have also found Via to be easy to use, Virginija adds. Via’s Program Match tool, which helps travelers find their best-fit options, has been well received.
“I’ve had students reference their match results. They’ll say, ‘Via told me I should go to South Korea.’ It’s fun to say, ‘Oh, you were able to do it yourself. That’s amazing! What autonomy you have.’ Vis is serving in those ways. That’s something we didn’t have with our last software system.”
Daily Troubleshooting ‘Huddles’ a Thing of the Past
Nikki says Via has helped eliminate a lot of administrative tasks. For example, once they’re accepted into a program and want to make a payment to commit, students can do that on their own.
The three-member office used to have daily huddles to troubleshoot issues they were having with their previous software. “With Via, we’re not having those huddles and the stress,” Nikki adds.
“It gives us strength and confidence in ourselves and who we are as an office and as a team overall,” she says. “It gives our students confidence that everything is going to go smoothly for them when they go abroad.”
Historically, they say, Bethel has had a strong study abroad program, from short-term faculty-led programs to robust semester participation. But like many study abroad offices, Bethel was derailed by the pandemic. The office is now seeing an increase in faculty-led programs but a decrease in independent study abroad participation. While they’re still unclear why, they suspect that, along with the pandemic, a change in Bethel’s funding model is to blame. Students can no longer apply institutional aid to study abroad, which presents a challenge for some, Virginija says.
Whatever the future brings, Bethel knows they have a true partner in Via.
“We can really customize with Via,” Kayleigh says. “We’ve been able to update and refresh our applications so that the wording is better for students. Just being able to direct my time to more important tasks than trying to, for example, download a spreadsheet. The software is no longer a daily priority, as it shouldn’t be. The software should be a tool—something to empower an office. Our former software was making itself a priority and taking away from our true priorities. That’s no longer the case.”
Nikki adds: “With Via, you are part of a team that’s larger than your team. You don’t feel alone. That’s amazing for small offices like ours. We feel very supported with Via and like we’re part of something bigger than just the three of us, which is great.”
Like the Bethel University team, 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.