Office of the Provost – October 2015
The University of Michigan provides the following guidance for program leaders and staff members of education abroad experiences that are organized by the University of Michigan. A program leader is a faculty, staff, or student (graduate or undergraduate) who travels with and has overall (even if not sole) responsibility for an education abroad experience organized or managed by the U-M. Programs may also have program staff members: faculty, staff, or students traveling with the group who have more specific responsibilities for delivering particular elements of the experience (e.g., instructing in a course). This document provides some guidance for cases where program leaders or staff members are accompanied by companions or dependents who do not have a role or responsibility in delivering the program.
Clarity of Responsibilities
As an institution, we recognize that it is important:
Program Leader Responsibility
The primary duty of a program leader is to appropriately manage the education abroad program. This includes assuming responsibility throughout the education abroad experience for both program quality and the health and safety of all participants. Specific responsibilities might include: organizing coursework and related activities; arranging accommodations; coordinating travel arrangements; identifying and mitigating risks; accompanying program participants during program activities and excursions, or ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place; and responding to emergencies. A program leader must be available to provide emergency support to participants on a 24/7 basis.
Program Staff Responsibility
The primary duty of a program staff member should be clearly defined as part of the process of selecting the staff member for the role. It is generally to deliver a specific part of the program while abroad (e.g., teach a specific course; manage logistics; provide translation, etc.). This is a role with specific responsibility over parts of a program rather than over its entirety.
Special Considerations Related to Accompanying Dependents or Companions
Sometimes a program leader or program staff member has compelling reasons for a dependent or companion to accompany them on an education abroad experience. A program leader’s dependent is defined as their spouse, other qualifying adult, and/or child as defined by U-M Human Resources. A companion is another adult accompanying the program leader on the education abroad trip.
Because a program leader’s primary responsibility is to the quality, safety, and success of the student experience, the presence of such dependents or companions should be carefully considered and disclosed to the education abroad office organizing the program. Likewise, the presence of dependents or companions should not affect a program staff member’s ability to carry out their defined responsibilities. Some issues to consider relative to accompanying companions or dependents include:
Supervision of Minors or other Care:
Program leaders and program staff members must remain fully aware of their responsibilities to the program and be able to manage those responsibilities while also addressing the needs of their companions or dependents. The University of Michigan recognizes that having family members or companions in-country may be desirable for a program leader or program staff member. This decision must be balanced against the challenges that can arise in managing a program abroad, sometimes in complex, challenging, or risky environments.
The unit leadership (deans or their designees) or education abroad offices must make final decisions regarding program leaders and staff members and are responsible for assessing the impact of companions or dependents on education abroad programs. If this assessment indicates that the presence of companions or dependents is disruptive to the education abroad program, unit leadership may ask that the companions or dependents do not accompany the program, or they may elect to send different program leaders or staff members.