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Risk Management

Northwestern is one of the few institutions in the country with an office dedicated to overseeing international health and safety concerns: The Office of Global Safety and Security (OGSS).  The Director also serves a first responder to any emergency abroad involving NU students, faculty or staff on university-sponsored travel. OGSS works in concert with other NU units that administer or support international travel, to monitor, assess and mitigation foreseeable risks associated with university-sponsored travel.

Risk monitoring and assessment

The OGSS is charged with monitoring world events and will, when applicable, work with any sponsoring administrative units to communicate risks and mitigation strategies. We regularly monitor a variety of open-source news reports and U.S. Department of State (U.S. DOS) travel information, such as Travel Advisories and Alerts as well as information provided by our evacuation assistance provider, Crisis24 formerly Drum Cussac. Read more about how we interpret U.S. DOS advisories.

If the information learned above could impact the health or safety of travelers in that location, we may also do one or more of the following in our effort to gather information and assess the situation:

  • Talk with a regional security analyst at the Overseas Security Advisory Council or a Regional Security Officer in the applicable U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
  • Review analysis provided by other security assessment providers.
  • Read open source consular documents produced by other governments, such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
  • Confer with health and safety experts at our peer institutions operating in the same location.
  • Contact the U.S. offices of the study abroad programs or providers located in the affected countries as well as our partner and affiliate universities abroad in addition to any Northwestern faculty or staff involved in the experience (here or abroad).
  • Discuss the situation with Northwestern (or other institution’s) faculty experts on this location.

When conditions warrant programmatic changes with regards to a study abroad program, including the possible modification or suspension of the experience, steps are taken as outlined in Program Modifications or Suspensions due to Health and Safety Concerns.

Furthermore, staff members in the Global Learning Office also regularly and responsibly monitor safety issues in each of NU's undergraduate study abroad program locations. The faculty-led University Study Abroad Committee (USAC) also undertakes regular reviews of all study abroad programs in which safety, security and overall academic quality are measured. Study abroad program that intend to operate in locations of heightened risk (such as those under U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory System) must do so in compliance with the Undergraduate Travel Policy. The International Travel Risk Assessment Committee (ITRAC) is chaired by the Director of OGSS and charged with evaluating the safety of programs and sites in areas of potential heightened risk, and have the ability to recommend program revision or cancellation to address safety and security concerns. Such policies apply to non-credit/non-study abroad undergraduate international travelers as well.

Risk mitigation

All university-sponsored undergraduate travelers, such as study abroad participants and non-credit, non-study abroad travelers, are required to participate in some type of pre-departure orientation or educational program that discusses health and safety. Most sponsors of group travel also provide a country-specific orientation and/or additional print or web-based materials in which heath and safety precautions are outlined.

Furthermore, all students (undergraduate and graduate) are required to obtain an accident and sickness health insurance policy, which includes coverage for medical treatment, evacuation, repatriation and security assistance, unless an exception applies. This coverage is also available to faculty and staff.