In light of COVID-19 forcing travel restrictions and international border closings, Gannon University announced last week that all May and summer GIFT, ABST and T.R.A.V.E.L. trips were canceled.
Doug Oathout, Gannon’s chief marketing & communications officer, said via email that an exception would be the June GIFT course to Yellowstone National Park, since it is a “domestic destination.”
Oathout further said that Gannon would continue to evaluate the situation and would make a final determination on the trip’s fate by May 1.
Gannon’s decision results in the cancellation of four GIFT courses, three ABST trips and 10 T.RA.V.E.L. programs that would have all taken place between May and August.
Students and faculty were informed of the decision and were told program directors would be in communication to discuss refunds and future opportunities.
“We know that this will be a deep disappointment for all involved,” Oathout said in the email.
For students who were looking forward to their spring and summer plans, the announcement brought great disappointment and sadness but also a tinge of understanding.
Meryl Gartland, a sophomore nursing major who was supposed to go on the Japan T.R.A.V.E.L. trip, said she wasn’t surprised and that she fully understood why all trips were canceled.
“I’d prefer traveling to Japan when I know facilities will be open, and I can be indulged in a culture without needing to separate six feet from the people around me,” Gartland said.
Gartland said that she that Gannon had made the right call, believing that sending students around the globe in the midst of a pandemic would be “irresponsible.”
“I wish things were different, but hopefully in the future I’ll have another chance to travel to Japan,” Gartland said.
Alesha Griffo, a sophomore physician assistant major who was planning to travel to Hawaii with the Lead X team, echoed the opinion that the decision to cancel was the right call.
“It obviously makes me sad, not being a part of that opportunity,” Griffo said, “but I put my full trust in the university to make the best decisions for the students and faculty.”
Devin Williams, a sophomore pre-med biochemistry and mathematics major, who was also planning on traveling to Hawaii for Lead X, said that the decision to cancel trips was well thought out, and he is glad his family will not be at risk.
“I think the state we are in right now, traveling is not a great option,” Williams said. “I am disappointed, but honestly, me and my family’s health outweighs this experience that I can always go on another year.”
Faculty like Jessica Mando, an access services librarian at Nash Library and a facilitator for the Japan T.R.A.V.E.L. trip, said the hardest part was seeing all of the work and team bonding that was done go to waste.
“We had been preparing for six months for this trip with weekly meetings, fundraising, research and presentations,” Mando said. “Within that time we started to become close as a group and truly cared about each other.”
Mando also said it is heartbreaking to realize some other students won’t have this opportunity again.
“Not every student who signed up to travel in 2020 will be able to travel in 2021, and that is the hardest part of the cancelation,” she said.
Yet, Mando said she understood why the decision was made.
“While I was saddened by the cancelation, I absolutely think it was the right call,” she said.
Mando said the benefit of canceling the trips would be first and foremost keeping Gannon students and faculty safe, allowing those involved to recoup funds already spent, and allowing time to begin preparing for 2021.
Jeff Bloodworth, Ph.D., an associate professor of history who leads a yearly student trip to Poland, said while he personally was disappointed, he agrees it was the right thing.
“Gannon made the only decision possible,” Bloodworth said. “It is heartbreaking to cancel a trip, but the CDC guidelines call for each of us to stay at home and only leave when it is absolutely necessary; we simply had to cancel the trip.”
Bloodworth said that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this was also a learning experience for his students.
“The entire reason for the GIFT classes was to promote courses that enable students to learn hands-on about a globalized world,” Bloodworth said. “COVID-19 is further proof that we do not live in a hermetically sealed world far removed from a global community.”
More information will be provided by Gannon as the situation unfolds.