Via Helps Harper Grow Study Abroad

Via gives students the power to navigate options, says program assistant.

In February 2022, Angelica Rackow was promoted to program assistant in the Office of International Education at Harper College, where she’s worked since 2016. With her new job came a new software system to learn: Via.

“We were coming from a post-pandemic environment where we didn’t have a person to train me on Via,” Angelica recalls. “With the tools that were given to me and the patience of Via’s customer service team, I managed to get going.”

To get up to speed on Via and serve Harper students who were ready to resume global travel, Angelica relied on Via’s training videos.

Angelica Rackow, Program Assistant in the Office of International Education at Harper College

“I learn from actively doing,” she says. “The way I learned the Via system was by watching the training modules and, as I learned, creating a program, creating a brochure, and so on. I found it fairly easy with that guidance.”

If she got stuck, Angelica used Via’s chatbot option and would then receive a follow-up email from Via’s support team.

“Your customer service has been really good to me,” Angelica says. “Every time I needed support it was really prompt to follow up with me.”

Located in Palatine, Illinois, Harper College is one of the nation’s largest community colleges, serving approximately 30,000 credit and non-credit students annually in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. Angelica works in the Office of International Education, which was established in 2014 to help the college in its mission to “educate students for leadership in an increasingly complex global society.”

In her role, Angelica works with Nellie Khalil, a faculty member in the biology department who took over the director role in the Office of International Education in 2022. She replaced Richard Johnson, another Harper faculty member, who coordinated international education on campus for 20 years and served as the inaugural director of the Office for the last 7 years.

While Nellie’s focus is primarily on programming and working with faculty, Angelica is “on the ground” with Harper students. The college is diverse in many ways, including income, Angelica says.

“We have students that have the funds and means to go (abroad) already, and we also serve a population of students that are not traditionally the students that go abroad,” she says. “Some of those students don’t even know what we offer and those that do don’t seek (study abroad opportunities) because they don’t think it fits their reality. We’ve been trying to divide our time and serve those students that are ready to go (abroad) and create opportunities for those students that are not.”

Harper students taking a boat ride in Panama.

Harper, she adds, has been “heavily invested” in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, which she credits to the leadership of Harper President Dr. Avis Proctor. Last year, Harper was named a semifinalist for the Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s signature recognition for America’s community colleges. Among other key areas, the Aspen Prize honors colleges with outstanding achievement in equity for students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

The Office of International Education has always found “a lot of ways to connect with DEI initiatives to highlight how international education is an extension of global DEI,” Angelica says.

“At the end of the day, intercultural exchange is intercultural education and, overall, is a way for you to understand the other person, understand the world beyond yourself and have that awareness,” she says.

To offer Harper students global experiences without leaving campus, some faculty members host virtual exchanges as part of their classes. For example, students in the dental hygiene program did comparative studies and gave presentations on dental health in other countries. Through those virtual experiences students may then want to take advantage of on-the-ground global experiences.

 

Angelica Knows Firsthand the Power of Global Experiences

Born and raised in Brazil, Angelica is a product of international education. In college, she was an intern in a study abroad organization.

“I was doing promotion for them because that was my degree—I was in marketing. I started reading about the destinations in their materials and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I started seeing the world beyond my borders.”

The first time she came to the United States, she lived in Florida. As a graduate student, she also traveled to Greece. All of those global experiences, she says, helps her “tremendously” in her work with Harper College students.

“I feel like that gives me a broader perspective,” she says. “I can relate so much to their excitement, expectations and fear.”

She relies on Via to help their two-person office open the door to global experiences for Harper students.

Harper Students hiking trails in Cuba.

“If we didn’t have Via, our lives would be much more difficult,” she says. “Because of the volume of students that we have, the Via platform helps me. When students reach out and I don’t have the bandwidth to help them, Via gives them the power to navigate options.”

She calls Via’s program matching quiz a “very helpful tool.”

“Since I am the first point of contact for students seeking Study Abroad information while also having other responsibilities in the office, sometimes I have difficulty following up or connecting with students right away. The Via platform allows students to explore some of the programs we offer and have some ideas of the length of programs, destinations, and even some costs. That is very helpful. It helps to keep students moving forward until I can work with them one by one.”

In that way, she says, Via is helping Harper increase study abroad participation.

“As soon as they complete the form in Via, we have that data. If they have interest, that’s something we can work with in terms of reaching back and really learning well what the students are looking for. That definitely increases our participation because we have a way to track the students that are interested so we can better serve them.”

 

Let’s Connect

Like Angelica Rackow at Harper 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.

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