Search for “Simple Solution” Leads R-MC OIE to Via
The Office of International Education (OIE) at Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) had two basic needs when it went looking for a new software solution in 2017 to replace the one they had been using for about five years.
“We knew we were not a perfect fit for that software. It was too massive. We just wanted something very simple,” says Mayumi Nakamura, Director of International Education at Randolph-Macon. “We just needed a simple solution to create programs and, ultimately, our goal was to move all the forms electronically.”
R-MC OIE also wanted their new system to be user-friendly and visually attractive, particularly for students, she adds. They found what they were looking for in Via TRM.
“The international educators on the Via team knew the complexity of our work and understood that we just wanted a simple solution,” she recalls.
Nakamura says there was some hesitancy around making the switch because they had been using their previous software system for so long. “It was not easy to make that decision, but we knew we needed to,” she says. “We were paying for something that we were not fully utilizing. There was the urge to switch.”
Students Find Independence Through Via
The Via system was in place when Lauren Devan began working at Randolph-Macon as the study abroad program coordinator in March 2020. Devan says both the admin team and students appreciate how easy Via is to use—and how nice it looks.
“Students today have everything at their fingertips and I think they can get quite confused and overloaded very easily,” Devan says. “Students don’t feel that way with Via. They don’t get information overload with the software because it has clean, nice features. It takes them through the process quite easily.”
Located in Ashland, Virginia, R-MC is a small school of nearly 1,600 undergraduate students. A big reason students choose R-MC is because of the supportive nature of the college, Devan says.
“It’s very much a close-knit campus,” she says. “While that’s wonderful, one of the challenges, especially for study abroad students, is preparing them to be more independent.”
Devan believes the easy time students have navigating Via helps students to feel more independent. That helps make Devan’s job easier.
“They can find information on their own and that makes the process smoother, easier and faster,” she says. “Students don’t have to ask the same questions again and again. They can find and access the information themselves.”
The fact that Via was founded by international educators for international educators shows, Devan says.
“Having that experience and knowledge of knowing the type of work we’re doing better informs the type of software Via’s making,” she says. “There aren’t all those unnecessary bells and whistles that we don’t want. It also makes the Via team very responsive to suggestions. They really take our feedback to heart. We’ve seen a lot of those updates being made to make our work easier. With Via, it feels like we have another member on board, another support.”
Devan says she particularly likes Via’s events feature and the messaging platform.
“Students know when they see an email from Via TRM that it’s directly related to their study abroad application or form. They pay special attention to it.”
Nakamura says it’s been “a blessing” that the OIE staff can all use the same software and have a central space for study abroad programs, applications and forms. She also likes that they can give faculty direct access to Via for faculty-led programs. That’s been particularly helpful during the pandemic, she says.
The biggest difference between Via and their previous software is the training time, she adds. “It’s so intuitive,” Nakamura says.
Like most in the international education community, Nakamura and Devan were inspired to work in IE because of their own global experiences. Devan studied in France for a semester while a French major at West Chester University near Philadelphia, Penn. After graduating, she taught English in South Korea. Devan earned a master’s degree at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey before starting at R-MC.
“I have been very supported by this wonderful team,” she says. “Our work environment is really, really great. I love it here.”
Nakamura, who was born and raised in Japan, came to the U.S. to study. After graduating from college, she took a gap year, but never forgot her experience as an exchange student. It was her deep desire to help international students that led her to Randolph-Macon after earning her master’s degree from the SIT Graduate Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Global experiences, Devan says, “can show you the way the world can be. It can connect you to people who are faced with similar but different challenges that you’re experiencing and give you the courage and the skills and the tools to come back and make a difference where you live.”
Nakamura says studying abroad gave her greater appreciation for her own culture.
“Stepping back and looking at the things that I was taking for granted was eye-opening,” she says. “I bring that to my work when I talk with students who are struggling—reminding them to take a step back and recognize and appreciate and to look at things from a different perspective.”
Like Mayumi Nakamura and Lauren Devan, 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’re looking for a true education abroad partner, turn to Via.