The following letter was sent via email to partners on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
The past weeks have felt like months as COVID-19 swept across the globe and our lives. I am certain that, like IFSA, you have been dealing with non-stop crisis management, student returns, academic accommodations, and a multitude of details related to study abroad management and your own campuses. Please know that we are thinking of you, your students, and your families.
The journey to this moment seemed slow and then sudden. In December, we became aware of a concerning new illness in China; weeks later, in late January, we closed our Shanghai programs before students were set to arrive. We suspended our on-the-ground program in Italy one month later, followed by a cascade of suspensions across the rest of the world. Two weeks ago, we closed all remaining programs, in some cases prior to local awareness that urgent action was required. We continue to support returned spring 2020 students with online courses and resources to help them cope with the sudden change in their lived experience.
Throughout this process, we have been reminded of the great kindness and support that exists within our global, professional community. This is a field founded on hope for the future, on our belief that we can enrich students’ lives and global perspectives though immersion in other cultures. Our engagement with each other has been a testament to our collective embodiment of this work and I am personally grateful to all of you for working in such close partnership with the IFSA team to navigate these unprecedented challenges on behalf of the students.
In the aftermath of global closure, our focus shifted to the future and the steps necessary to preserve the mission of IFSA during the greatest period of disruption our field has ever known. We have aggressively reduced expenditures for the coming year including eliminating planned travel and canceling events in an effort to help slow the pandemic. Unfortunately, these actions will not be enough given the projected reduction in student participation, the sole source of IFSA’s revenue. With deep reluctance and deeper regret, today we are announcing an immediate reduction in our domestic and international workforce to align our resources with the reality of future terms. To ease their transition, we have arranged for severance and outplacement services to assist them as they seek new employment. As the situation improves, we sincerely hope there will be an opportunity to reengage with them.
At home and abroad, a core group of IFSA employees will continue to advance our future-focused orientation to study abroad. They will continue to serve as the torchbearers of our mission and organizational commitments to inclusive excellence, individualized learning, intercultural agility, and enduring impact. Over the coming months, we will maintain our focus while seeking new ways to deepen the lifelong impact of education abroad. We will continue to creatively address the challenges inherent to our field and higher education.
Thank you for being valued partners in our journey. We appreciate your support throughout this unique and difficult time, and we look forward to our continued collaboration. Early next week, our team will be in touch regarding your primary contact moving forward. If you have immediate needs, please reach out to Vicky Wolfe Bender, IFSA Vice President for Institutional and Student Engagement.
I wish you all good health.
Heather Barclay Hamir, Ph.D.
IFSA President and CEO