“Via cares and they care long term,” says Winthrop’s Dr. Leigh Poole
The global experiences Dr. Leigh Poole and Taylor Evans had as undergraduate students led them to their careers in International Education.
“It’s the reason I am in the job and the role that I am in to this day,” says Leigh, director of the International Center at Winthrop University. “I absolutely adore International Education as a field and I have loved it ever since I studied abroad as an undergraduate.”
Leigh, who has been part of the IE community for over two decades, studied in the Dominican Republic as well as Mexico while an undergrad at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. She calls those experiences “transformative” and says they helped her see and define herself as a “citizen of the world.”
Taylor, study abroad advisor at Winthrop, is a newcomer to the International Education field. She jumped at the chance to be the study abroad advisor after she graduated from Winthrop in 2021. Taylor studied outside of Liverpool, England, just before the pandemic hit in Spring 2020.
The desire to study abroad was one of the reasons Taylor chose to attend Winthrop, a public university in Rock Hill, SC, just 20 minutes south of Charlotte, NC.
“Study abroad was never a question in my book,” Taylor says. “It helped me become the person I am today. There’s a joke about the student who studies abroad and then can never shut up about it. Well, I turned it into a career.”
Leigh came to Winthrop in 2013 after a 13-year career in International Education at the University of Georgia at Athens, where she also earned her Ph.D. She brings her passion for education abroad to her interactions with students.
“I’m a huge proponent of meeting students where they are and helping them understand what they want to achieve by an abroad experience—and then matching them to their ideal opportunity,” Leigh says. “And what Taylor said about how you never stop talking about your study abroad experience, that is a multi-generational challenge for study abroad alum. We all do it. We never want to stop talking about our experiences.”
Winthrop Transitions to Via from Free-but-Clunky Platform
When Leigh came to Winthrop in 2013, the study abroad office was still using paper applications. The year before, the study abroad coordinator at the time moved their semester programs onto a free platform.
“We were very behind the times,” Leigh recalls. “The system we were using was fine, but it was clunky. It was older. It wasn’t modern looking and it was cumbersome for the students to use—and for the staff to get the information we needed.”
When they piloted moving the faculty-led program applications to the free platform in 2018, the result proved to be “quite a disaster,” Leigh says. Then when the pandemic hit, more flaws in the free system came to light: Winthrop couldn’t count on the platform to give it accurate reports as to where their students were in the world. That convinced Winthrop leadership that the office needed a different solution—even if they had to pay for it.
Leigh came close to signing with one company, but the price point was out of reach, she says. She found an affordable solution in Via. The office is in the process of onboarding Via and plans to do a launch party during their fall study abroad fair.
“Via has definitely been a blessing and I’m very excited to be fully transferring to Via,” Taylor says. “The old system can be quite a handful.”
Winthrop Values Via’s Responsiveness & Support
Taylor says she likes how intuitive Via is and that she “instinctively” knew what to do during Via trainings. She believes students will like that Via is easy to use—and feels like an “online shopping experience” for study abroad.
Taylor also appreciates Via’s trainers.
“They’re so nice and kind and open to questions. You never feel silly asking questions,” Taylor says. “You never feel like you’re derailing the training because it’s totally personalized with exactly what we need.”
She and Leigh have found Via to be very responsive.
“Our support team instantly responds to any questions that we have,” Taylor says. “We also have access to online resources—videos and articles—that we can look at any time. I find it to be extraordinary.”
While the onboarding process was important to Leigh, she was most concerned about receiving long-term support. While researching Via, her colleagues in the IE community assured her she could count on Via to be responsive. They were right, she says.
“Via cares,” Leigh says. “And they care long term.”
Leigh and Taylor both say they can tell Via was created by international educators for international educators.
“It’s very obvious that people who have been in the field created the system because of what’s in it and how easy it is to use,” Taylor says. “I think it’s a great explanation for why Via has had such success.”
Like Leigh Poole and Taylor Evans at Winthrop 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.