November 19, 2020
Dear OU Community,
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the rhythms of university life in almost every way imaginable. Uncertainties and risks surrounding international travel abound, as pandemic conditions on the ground in different countries vary so greatly. As a result, our study abroad programs – so central to the mission of any public research university, and a special source of pride at the University of Oklahoma – have been hit particularly hard. Like virtually all of our peers, OU brought home students studying overseas when the pandemic hit last March and cancelled all study abroad programs in the summer and fall of this year.
Today, we announce our plans for study abroad for the spring 2021 semester. After much deliberation, we are cancelling all planned study abroad programs except those to South Korea and Taiwan for the spring 2021 semester. This decision was made after an in-depth review of conditions in regions and countries with spring study abroad programs to which students had applied, and after extensive consultation with public health experts and relevant OU committees. The review considered a range of pandemic-related conditions (transmission rates and trends, hospitalization capacities, etc.), at regional, national, and local levels. We also took account of rules allowing or prohibiting travel from the United States to these destinations, and the protocols of our university partners, among other factors.
This was not an easy decision to make. 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. Our immense thanks go to the staff and faculty from across the university – the Education Abroad unit; our Study Centers in Arezzo, Italy, and Puebla, Mexico; and others – who worked tirelessly and creatively over the past few months so that we might be able to launch more of these programs should conditions permit. We are redoubling our planning efforts for summer 2021 programs and beyond, and we aim for study abroad programs to bounce back stronger than ever as we emerge from this difficult time. Facilitating transformational study abroad experiences for OU students is, and always will be, at the core of our university’s purpose of changing lives.
Jill Irvine, Ph.D.
Interim Senior Vice President and Provost, Norman Campus
Jason R. Sanders, M.D., MBA
Senior Vice President and Provost, Health Sciences Center
Scott Fritzen, Ph.D.
Dean, David L. Boren College of International Studies