Rick Spencer

Leading an Exchange Program Redesign

In 2020, I took responsibility for requesting visa eligibility documents for South Korean applicants to a twelve-year international exchange program in a university graduate department. As I was learning the application process, COVID-19 was grinding international exchange to a halt. After months of triaging management errors, administrative hurdles, and a shifting working environment, a surprise forced the program’s closure. We learned that our applicants better fit a different exchange subcategory altogether.

Seeing opportunity in a crisis, I began soliciting federal and institutional requirements from stakeholders. I liaised between them and the program’s director—who has limited English ability. I collaborated with departmental leadership on proposals and authored key directives between departments and the program as we pivoted from crisis to creating. I encouraged the program director to collaborate with faculty on curriculum plans. We replaced one program with two.

Our new offerings better align program, department, and applicant goals with federal and university regulations. Streamlined administration reduced overhead and helped retain $50,000 in tuition opportunity in 2020. Most importantly we widened a valuable path for international students from to come to America.