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Northwestern’s Approach to Risk Management

The safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff who are involved with or participating in NU study abroad programs is of the highest importance, and all reasonable actions will be taken to manage risks and respond to emergencies while acknowledging that no single plan can address all contingencies. The university recognizes the importance of establishing, in advance, policies and procedures to guide the University's response to crises affecting participants abroad.

As emergencies can occur at any time, the Northwestern University Police Department is prepared to accept calls involving international emergencies at (847) 491-3456. The duty officer will collect information then pass the information on to the most appropriate individual to response to the situation. Medical emergencies are responded to in collaboration with HTH Worldwide. Security evacuations, if necessary, would be managed in collaboration with HTH Worldwide and Drum Cussac. (See Emergencies to report a medical or security incident abroad).  International SOS provides travel assistance for issues such as lost passport and itinerary changes.

The staff of the Study Abroad Office regularly and responsibly monitors safety issues in each of our program locations.  The University Study Abroad Committee (USAC) undertakes regular reviews of all study abroad programs in which safety, security, and overall quality are measured.

  • Northwestern is one of the few study abroad offices in the country to employ a full-time international health and safety specialist responsible for overseeing health and safety concerns and serving as first responder to any emergency abroad involving NU students, faculty or staff involved in study abroad programs.
  • Study abroad programs that intend to operate in locations of heightened risk (including many developing countries or countries with U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings) in compliance with the Undergraduate Travel Policy are evaluated by an independent committee, which reports to the Provost. The Study Abroad Risk Assessment Committee (SARAC) is headed by the Associate Director for International Safety and Security. The committee is responsible for evaluating the safety of programs and sites in areas of potential, heightened risk, and has the ability to recommend program revision or cancelation to address safety and security concerns.
  • All participants are required to participate in some type of pre-departure orientation that stresses safety issues and understanding cultural differences. Most programs also provide a country-specific orientation and/or additional print or web-based materials in which safety precautions are outlined.
  • Emergency procedures are in place, including medical and general emergency evacuation procedures. In any emergency, NU has plans to be in contact with faculty and students abroad.
  • All participants are also required to enroll in our accident and sickness health insurance policy, which includes coverage for medical treatment, evacuation, repatriation and security assistance is included in all program fees. (More on HTH Heath Insurance).

Northwestern University strives to keep students, faculty, and parents informed of conditions and decisions related to student safety and well-being. However, in these changing times, it is necessary that each student take responsibility for his/her own safety by staying informed and conducting him/herself accordingly. (More on Student Preparation).

If you have any questions regarding travel health, safety, or security, please contact Julie Anne Friend, Associate Director for International Safety and Security, julie.friend@northwestern.edu or (847) 467-3175. To report an emergency after regular business hours, DO NOT send email. Call the NUPD 24/7 number at (847) 491-3456.