Switching to Via a “No Brainer” for Luther
“On every level, Via sounded better,” says Director Victoria Christman
When Victoria Christman, a longtime professor at Luther College in Iowa, took over as Director of the Center for Global Learning in November 2021, she knew immediately she wanted to get rid of the Center’s complicated software system.
“It was like a foreign language to me,” she says. “It made no sense.”
While she was trying to learn the system, she stumbled across Via. “Via pitched itself as being user friendly and that was all I needed to hear,” she says.
While attending the Forum on Education Abroad annual conference in March 2022, Victoria stopped by the Via booth and was referred to Bob Specking, Via’s Director of Business Development. As soon as she got back to Iowa, she got in touch with Bob and learned all about how Via could help her office.
“On every level, Via sounded better,” she says.
At the time, she recalls, the Center’s contract with its software provider was up for renewal, but the payment structure had changed and the cost was going to increase by 8%. Luther was already paying roughly double the cost of Via, she says.
Switching to Via, she says, was “a no-brainer.”
Via Support Team “Approachable and Responsive”
The change to Via didn’t come at an ideal time, Victoria says. “We sent 320 students away during J-Term (January) and about half of them were in the old system and half of them were in the new system. That definitely complicated things. But even in this quagmire of having applications everywhere, Via was still easier—and easier to navigate.”
And, throughout it all, Via’s customer service was “excellent,” she says. “Even Via’s chatbot—and I hate chatbots—was brilliant.”
Via’s support team is “approachable and responsive,” she says.
“They really have been amazing. They answered all of our questions,” she says. “The training helped us to understand the landscape of how the whole system works.”
Whenever she has questions now, she asks Via’s chatbot—and if she can’t get an answer there, she contacts the support team and usually has an answer the same day.
“Once or twice, we’ve been told, ‘Nobody’s ever asked that before but that’s a great idea and we’ll put it in the hopper and see if we can work on it,’” Victoria adds. “The answer is never ‘no.’ I’ve never experienced customer service like that for anything.”
Victoria also finds Via’s intuitiveness to be in sharp contrast to the old software system. She can quickly perform functions, from finding data for the previous semester to locating students and accessing any communication with them.
“All of that has been a game changer for me,” she says. “Via’s been fantastic.”
Luther 2nd in Nation for Study Abroad Participation
Study abroad is a part of the culture at the private liberal arts college in Decorah, a town of about 7,600 in Northeast Iowa. U.S. News & World Report ranked Luther second for the highest percentage (82%) of 2021 graduating seniors who participated in study abroad programs during their undergraduate years. The majority, Victoria says, go during J-Term.
Victoria, who grew up on the edge of Liverpool in northwestern England, has lived in five different countries and has had many study abroad experiences, which helps her explain the benefits to Luther students.
“I’m still studying abroad,” she says. “I just never went home.”
Embedded in the college’s mission statement is a commitment to “prepare students for life in the larger world as ‘whole persons equipped to understand and confront a changing society’. In 2023, you can’t really be a well-rounded human being if you haven’t experienced a different culture.”
Victoria’s husband is also on the faculty at Luther. The study abroad possibilities were a draw to Luther and a contributing factor to them remaining at the college for nearly 20 years. The couple led several semester-long programs in Germany when their three children were small, Victoria says. They learned the language, and now, her daughter is applying to colleges in Germany and Austria, she adds.
“Those experiences changed our lives,” she says of their time in Germany. “All the reasons that students should study abroad are the reasons that faculty should do it too. It was really good for us.”
Like Victoria Christman at Luther College, 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.