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SOLO developments enhance student travel preparation

Student participants of Impact Abroad Bolivia posing at their lab.
Photo: SOLO aggregates many off-campus opportunities, including Impact Abroad offered by the Haas Center for Public Service. Impact Abroad is one of more than 500 full-time, quarter-long Cardinal Quarter service opportunities offered by more than 35 campus centers and programs as part of Cardinal Service. This photo features Uche Amakiri and Jorge Mercado who participated in Impact Abroad in Bolivia.

SOLO (Stanford Off-campus Learning Opportunities), a partnership between OIA and 20+ academic units on the Stanford campus, aggregates internships, research fellowships, public service trips, study tours, and other Stanford opportunities for students to go off-campus and enrich their academic experience. The website can be used by administrators to post opportunities, collect and review applications, and to help prepare awardees for their off-campus travel.

In response to critical changes in the University’s travel policy earlier this year, SOLO was rapidly iterated to meet the needs of administrators who had to manage and coordinate new pre-departure requirements for students. In January 2018, the U.S. Department of State adopted a new travel advisory system to assess the threat level of countries and regions around the world. To reflect these new changes, Stanford’s Office of the Provost revised the University’s International Travel Policy that affects faculty, students and staff who travel internationally for university research and business.

The change in the U.S. Department of State rating system and the revision of Stanford’s International Travel Policy - combined with its timing right before opportunities are typically awarded in the academic year - brought up questions and concerns from many academic units, who wanted to ensure that travelers were aware of the new policy’s impact on travel plans and would prepare accordingly. In response, OIA worked with SOLO’s development team to create a way for any administrator with an account on SOLO to assign a list of pre-travel steps to any student with an account on SOLO. This allowed for administrators who were not even using SOLO to post opportunities or collect applications to still utilize the website to assign and track students’ travel preparation.

This update was finalized in April, 2018, and it has already allowed six units who were not using SOLO before to take advantage of the website and prepare students for travel.  Stanford’s Department of Anthropology has been a collaborator with OIA for years, however the department has not used SOLO to publicize opportunities nor to collect applications. When news of the SOLO updates reached the department administrators in February, they were one of the first to create accounts on SOLO and create pre-travel steps for their graduate student researchers. The department has said that the ability to assign checklists to travelers and track their progress on the website has saved hours of individual tracking through in-person meetings and emails. Thanks to SOLO Pre-Travel Steps, Anthropology can feel confident that their graduate students are ready for their overseas summer travel.

The recent update has also allowed more flexibility for the units who were already using other functionalities on SOLO.  For example, the Stanford Center at Peking University (SCPKU) offers summer fellowships and seminars to Stanford students. While they took advantage of SOLO to publicize their opportunities this year, they decided to use a different system to collect and review applications. Before OIA’s recent development, it would not have been possible for SCPKU to assign pre-travel steps to travelers since they were not collecting applications on SOLO. With the update, SCPKU was able to take advantage of the Pre-Travel Step functionality in SOLO to effectively prepare their travelers for summer opportunities.

Through collaboration with units across campus and the iterative work of OIA’s development team, SOLO's flexibility empowers administrators to use the website's multiple functionalities according to their needs. It has also become a medium that sparks interaction and learning across the Stanford community on how to better empower students to gain valuable experience off the Farm.

If you are interested in using SOLO, please contact Katie Kuruc (kkuruc@stanford.edu).