OU administrators announced Thursday all planned OU study abroad trips will be canceled for the spring 2021 semester, except those to South Korea and Taiwan.
According to an email from Norman Campus interim Senior Vice President and Provost Jill Irvine, Health Sciences Center Senior Vice President and Provost Jason Sanders and College of International Studies Dean Scott Fritzen, the decision was made after “much deliberation.”
Administrators factored in an “in-depth review” of conditions in regions and countries where students had enrolled in spring study abroad programs, as well as “extensive consultation” with public health experts and relevant OU committees. The review included a range of pandemic-related factors — like transmission rates and trends and hospital capacities — at regional, national and local levels, according to the email.
“This was not an easy decision to make,” the administrators said in the email. “We share the disappointment of those students and faculty whose plans are negatively affected by this decision. Together we are motivated to prioritize the overriding importance of the health and well-being of our community members.”
Irvine, Sanders and Fritzen thanked those across the university who worked “tirelessly and creatively” over recent months to allow for expansion of those programs, if conditions allow — the Education Abroad unit and study centers in Arezzo, Italy, and Puebla, Mexico. In Italy, a second wave of COVID-19 is straining hospital staff nationwide, while Mexico recently surpassed 1 million cases and is approaching 100,000 deaths.
According to the email, administrators are redoubling planning efforts for summer 2021 and beyond, and they plan for study abroad programs to return “stronger than ever” as the OU community recovers from the pandemic.
“Facilitating transformational study abroad experiences for OU students is, and always will be, at the core of our university’s purpose of changing lives,” Irvine, Sanders and Fritzen wrote in the email.