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### Downsizing Leaves Study Abroad Office with Only One Staff Member

St. Joe’s Center for International Programs (CIP), dedicated to facilitating study abroad initiatives for students, faculty, and staff leaders, is currently managed by a lone staff member.

Tom Kesaris, who has been the CIP director since August 2001, now oversees all operations independently following the resignation of Sara Colón, the former assistant director for study abroad and health & safety, in December 2023. Colón, who had been part of the CIP team since September 2017, remains the designated point of contact for health and safety matters on the CIP’s website.

Colón chose not to provide a statement but directed inquiries to Kesaris, who acknowledged the challenging circumstances as the sole remaining staff member at CIP.

Ann Green, Ph.D., an English professor, leads an annual study tour to Northern Ireland, last conducted in 2019. The 2021 tour was canceled shortly before its scheduled commencement due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, Green organized the China summer program in 2008, which has been inactive since 2015.

Expressing concerns about the current staffing situation, Green remarked, “If there’s only one person in the study abroad office, it doesn’t seem like study abroad is a priority for St. Joe’s.”

The CIP office has faced staffing challenges, with resignations and layoffs dating back to the 2015-16 academic year when the team reduced from seven members to four due to unspecified departures, as reported in a Feb. 24, 2016 article in The Hawk.

When questioned about the unprecedented single-staff scenario during Kesaris’ tenure, Ross Radish, J.D., the vice president of student life and dean of students, emphasized the fluctuating size of the CIP over the years based on student needs and available resources. Radish affirmed the university’s commitment to enriching student experiences through global exploration.

Efforts are underway to recruit an assistant director for the CIP, with a full-time position announcement posted on St. Joe’s Office of Human Resources website.

In spring 2024, St. Joe’s offers 31 semester and year-long programs for undergraduates across 20 countries, along with three summer programs in Italy, Greece, and South Africa, three study tours in Costa Rica and Cuba for undergraduates, one study tour in Peru for graduate students, and two international residency programs in the Netherlands and Italy. These details may be subject to updates.

Participation in study abroad programs at St. Joe’s has fluctuated since the covid-19 pandemic, with 178 students studying abroad from fall 2021 to summer 2022, 158 from fall 2022 to summer 2023, and a projected 181 students from fall 2023 to summer 2024, pending summer program acceptances.

Despite requests, specific data on study abroad participation in 2017, 2018, and 2019 remain undisclosed. However, historical data indicated that an estimated 345 students engaged in study abroad programs during the 2017-18 academic year.

Faculty members are primarily responsible for designing and executing St. Joe’s study tours and summer programs. These initiatives, ranging from 10 to 14 days for study tours to longer durations for summer programs, are intricately linked to academic courses and require meticulous planning and execution.

Given the current staffing constraints, concerns have been raised by faculty members regarding the feasibility of successfully managing multiple programs simultaneously, particularly with impending departures in May.

Faculty facilitators stress the importance of a robust support system from the CIP to ensure student safety and logistical efficiency during international programs. They highlight the necessity of adequate staffing to address emergent situations effectively.

While acknowledging the challenges faced by Kesaris, faculty members advocate for additional staffing in the CIP to uphold the quality and safety standards expected during study abroad programs. They emphasize the significance of providing students with enriching global experiences through well-supported initiatives.

The university’s commitment to enhancing student experiences through study abroad programs necessitates a strategic focus on staffing to ensure operational effectiveness and student well-being.