Very reassuring news

This afternoon I was in a presentation with our Global Programs and Studies (GPS) office, who was showing us a demo of software that Wake uses to track our students studying abroad.  Obviously when there is a situation abroad – be it a natural disaster or a crime situation – we want to make sure that we can account for our students and their safety ASAP. The system demo I saw today was very reassuring in that regard. I won’t be able to do the whole thing justice, but let me hit a few highlights.

When Wake students study abroad (whether on a Wake program or in an affiliate program with another school), their abroad country and city are entered into this software package.  So we will know which students are staying in London vs. Barcelona vs. Paris etc.

The software system has a dashboard that shows a map of the world, and any country where Wake students are will be colored as green/low risk, yellow/medium risk, red/high risk, or black/extreme risk. So at a glance, our GPS staff can see where the global hotspots are where we have students.  A news ticker of incidents also scrolls on top of the dashboard with news.

The company who runs the global software program employs 400ish liaisons worldwide, who provide intelligence on the country/region/city, and can also be on-ground support if needed.  There are also 75 intelligence analysts who constantly study the political climate, crime risks, infrastructure, etc. to provide up to date alerts.  That intelligence is all entered into the back end of the system for internal monitoring.

Before students depart, they must attend a meeting with the GPS staff to be briefed on the abroad experience and to introduce the safety information (which includes an app associated with this software program).

A few days before departure, students get an up-to-date email about their destination country with information on things like the political conditions, security, travel logistics, cultural considerations, and more.

In the event of some sort of crisis or emergency, the global software program and its employees will send a travel alert to students whose abroad programs housed in that country. Students are asked to check in and confirm they are safe.  If they do not respond to the email, they will then be texted and asked to respond.  If there is still no response, there are response call centers who will physically call the students’ phones to confirm their safety.  Our GPS office then gets an email about the status of all our students.  The great thing about this system is that if something happens at 3 am, we are not relying on Wake staff to get to the office and do anything – the system does it for us.

The app that students have access to has an SOS feature that can be used if they run into some major trouble. The SOS system takes a photo with their camera to provide context, and records 30 seconds of the student’s conversation so the software company has some record of the situation in case cell phone service gets cut off. The student’s phone location is also noted via GPS mapping, so we know where the student is.

This was the first time I have seen a real deep dive on how this system works, and I could not be more impressed. If your students are abroad this summer, or will be going abroad this fall, they will be part of this abroad tracking process. I found it very, very reassuring.

Couple of notes: If your student will take side trips/weekend getaways, encourage him/her to make sure that someone else in their program knows their location and where they will be, and when they will return. Because while the software system I just described keeps track of the students’ permanent location for the semester or the summer, it is not designed to track individual trips here and there. For that reason, please do urge your students to reach out to you and let you know they are OK if there is an incident in their country or somewhere they are traveling on a side trip. It will make you and them feel better if they connect with you.



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