International Programs (IP) canceled every study abroad program at Harding meant to occur in the fall semester of 2020 by June 30, making it the first fall semester no student has studied abroad with Harding since Harding University in Florence (HUF) began in 1980.
Despite the lack of students studying abroad, the Executive Director of IP Audra Pleasant said this semester is not too different than semesters under normal circumstances would be.
“Things aren’t less certain than usual, we’re just more aware of it,” Pleasant said. “We are always shuffling something around in our office because there is so many people and countries and places.”
Four programs were planned for this fall: Harding University in England (HUE), Harding University in Australasia (HUA), Harding University in Zambia (HIZ), Harding University in Greece and Florence (HUG-HUF).
Pleasant said they typically work eight to 12 months ahead in the IP office, so a lot of what they are doing has not changed.
“We are still working on all of the classes and faculty and all of the travel arrangements and logistical side of things,” Pleasant said. “We can still proceed with hope, but also with the knowledge and flexibility that will be needed.”
Pleasant said a week before registration in November is their decision deadline for the spring programs. She said their priority this semester has been helping students who were enrolled in summer or fall 2020 programs find alternate opportunities to still study abroad if they choose to do so and if their schedules allow.
Sophomore Landon Jones was previously signed up for HUG-HUF this fall. After he found out the program had been cancelled, Jones said he went to the IP office when he got to campus and solidified his transfer to HUF Spring 2021.
Out of the 69 total students who were signed up for fall programs, Pleasant said a majority of the students transferred over to a different program, and anyone who did not, received a full refund.
The IP staff has implemented changes to their application process, such as extending the date to receive an application fee refund. Pleasant said this should help ease students’ fears when committing to a decision that could be subject to change.
“We have made enough changes that I think people have enough confidence in signing up now than they might have in the past under similar circumstances,” Pleasant said.
Without students on abroad campuses, directors also had to adjust. Pleasant said HUF Directors Robbie and Mona Shackelford are working on a video project about HUF to create content for students to remember their time there, as well as to recruit new students.
HIZ Director Jessica Gardner started working on the main campus teaching in the college of nursing. HIZ Director David Gardner said he is taking a graduate class at Harding School of Theology andstaying home with his and Jessica’s three kids.
HUE Director Lauren Bryan Knight said plans at HUE have shifted from traveling with students to cancelling and rescheduling arrangements.
HUG Directors Daniel and Meagan Adams moved back to Searcy, Daniel to teach printmaking in the art department, and Meagan to assist in the financial aid office.
While Daniel Adams is in Searcy teaching one class instead of his usual three, Pleasant asked him to create an assessment for an organized mission for all IP programs. Adams said this semester gave him time to do something that will benefit IP in the future.
“We have not been idle all this time,” Adams said.