E-Net News

Council on International Educational Exchange hosts health, safety and security workshop at Elon

Study abroad and risk management practitioners took on a fictional international crisis during an exercise at Elon to learn from experts and to consider their emergency preparedness.

As Bill Bull and Blake Kehler with the Council on International Education walked through a hypothetical situation with a room full of college and university officials recently gathered at Elon, the scenario went from bad to worse. It would eventually intensify into a full-blown international crisis through a series of compounding factors. 

Bill Bull speaks to the nature of high-risk and high-impact in study abroad.

Bull, CIEE vice president of health, safety and security, and Kehler, CIEE manager of health, safety and security, guided these officials through an exercise that challenged them to simulate quick and critical decisions in reaction to environmental, health, and infrastructure concerns in a study abroad context. Using risk and preparedness matrices, the 38 participants reflected on reacting to the various incidents and preparing for additional complications during the workshop offered by CIEE in partnership with Elon University.

Workshop attendees consider response options in the crisis simulation.

The workshop is one in a series hosted by CIEE and drew professionals from 17 institutions across the region, including Duke University and Wake Forest University. “It’s the highest turnout we’ve seen so far,” said Eric Tarbell, CIEE Manager of Institutional Relations. “We’re continuing to hold more regional workshops and are also looking to host workshops for other topics, such as faculty development and intercultural learning.”

The table-top "stress simulation" forced attendees to make rapid decisions as complications escalated.

Bull kicked off the workshop by addressing perceptions of risk. According to Bull, students generally have a higher tolerance for risk. While it may seem counterintuitive, this is a good thing as healthy risk leads to growth and learning.

“Young people can embrace new experiences and take risks differently, and we want them to,” said Bull. “But we want them to assess risk and reward simultaneously.”

The workshop empowered attendees to think critically about this balance and how it shapes risk preparedness and response.

“I feel better prepared for the issues that may arise, said Taylor Armstrong, administrative assistant for the Study Abroad Office at University of South Carolina Columbia. “I feel as though while the simulation today was a somewhat extreme situation, it wasn’t out of the realm of things we might experience and should think about. I also feel better linked into the field. It’s a little more relatable and applicable.”

While the crisis simulation forced attendees into a worst-case scenario, it also demonstrated that risk management is not all grim.

“Ultimately, risk management is about helping students make the best decisions possible so they can have the best experiences possible,” said Amanda Zamzes, business and data manager for global education at Elon.

For Bull, like Zamzes, risk management is about planning for the worst in order to foster the best experiences possible. “Emergency preparedness helps us all,” said Bull. “A school’s ability to prepare for crises and emergencies lessens the impact on our student population and allows for the critical work of creating a world community to continue.”

Shanna Van Beek,
8/7/2018 4:50 PM