“We definitely could not live without Via,” study abroad director says.
Wesleyan University’s Emily Gorlewski, Ed.D., is passionate about making education abroad accessible to all students. She relies on Via to help her two-person study abroad office do just that.
“We couldn’t make that happen without Via,” says Emily, director of the Office of Study Abroad within the Fries Center for Global Studies at Wesleyan in Middletown, Connecticut.
This semester, 245 students applied to participate in study abroad—the most ever in one semester, Emily says. Without Via, “we would have to scale down.”
When Emily arrived at the private liberal arts university in January 2015, the study abroad office was using a “homegrown” software system developed by an employee in their IT department.
“It was actually really good, and he was very skilled at building it—but he was so good he was one of the most sought-after people on campus,” Emily recalls. “If we had anything we wanted to tweak or change, he couldn’t fix it right away. It wasn’t sustainable because he was always in demand.”
In 2017, Emily knew her office had to make a change and put out a request for proposals. Wesleyan considered three bids, including one from a large study abroad software provider Emily had worked with at Western Illinois University in Macomb, where she worked for over five years before coming to Wesleyan. While she didn’t like the company’s software, Emily was open to considering it.
“Nothing unexpected came up when they did their proposal, but it was more expensive, and I had remembered the work involved in building it out and adopting it. I had a much bigger office at Western Illinois. I have a small office (at Wesleyan) and I was like, ‘how the hell are we going to do this?’ We’re not going to be able to.”
In the end, Wesleyan chose Via, a company Emily had been keeping her eye on for some time.
Via’s “Improving All the Time”
Emily recalls learning about Via in its infancy, when it was known as Project Travel. The SaaS Traveler Relationship Management platform had evolved significantly when Wesleyan switched to Via in Spring 2018.
“Via got more and more built out and it was more targeted toward study abroad specifically. I really liked it,” Emily says. “The interface was more what students are used to—with it being mobile friendly and the design of it was more modern.”
As one of the early adopters of Via, Emily says there were some bumps along the way, “but overall, we’ve been really happy, especially with Via’s responsiveness.”
“That’s what we were looking for after our poor IT guy couldn’t do all that we needed, and that other software company (at Western Illinois) might as well have been on a different planet when we needed help. Via has really delivered in terms of responsiveness.”
She’s also enjoyed—and benefited—from Via’s evolution.
“It’s improving all the time,” Emily says of Via. “That’s not what I saw with the other software company.”
Via also listens to Wesleyan’s suggestions—and acts on them, she adds. For example, when students voiced concerns over seeing their legal names versus their chosen names in Via, Emily contacted Via’s support team to see if a change could be made.
“They said they’d look into it,” Emily says. “Via thought it was so important that they changed it right away. That’s just a good example of Via’s responsiveness. The customizability of Via is more than it was in the past. Via’s just been constantly improving, and it’s been awesome. They care about us as customers.”
When her office contacts Via, “they get back to us so quickly. It’s not always solved within 24 hours, but we always hear back.”
Wesleyan’s Small Office Relies on Via
Last fall, Emily had a graduate student intern, but now the Wesleyan Office of Study Abroad is staffed only by Emily and a study abroad advisor. The two rely heavily on Via, particularly with the large group of global travelers this semester, she says.
“We’re in Via all the time,” she says. “It’s open on my screen right now. We definitely could not live without Via. We couldn’t do all that we need to do.
“Keeping track of forms and making sure that students have forms—all of that used to take us a really long time. Now, it’s way easier for the two of us to make sure everybody’s on track. We wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing unless we had this tool to keep everything in one place.”
Emily has worked in the study abroad field since 2005, when she was the outreach and programming coordinator at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. Outside of her work at Wesleyan, she’s also active in the Education Abroad community. Emily has served as a Forum Council member since July 2020. She’s also been active with NAFSA, serving as a research and scholarship network leader from January 2016 to December 2018 and as chair of NAFSA Region V in 2014.
“I really feel passionately that International Education is a way for people to learn about differences and it’s a way for people’s horizons to open up,” Emily says. “I want education abroad to be accessible to everyone. I want everybody to see the value of education abroad and I want it to be more social justice-focused than it has been in the past—maybe less elitist and more for everyone.”
Together with Via, Emily is making inroads at Wesleyan.
“Via is definitely helping us provide global learning to Wesleyan students,” Emily says.
Like Emily Gorlewski at Wesleyan 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.