Print This Post

Administrators make hard decision in Athens

Posted on 11.06.2013

A general feeling of shock and sadness followed the announcement last April 24th that the University of Indianapolis would end undergraduate programs at its Athens campus. According to Executive Vice President for Campus Affairs and Enrollment Services Mark Weigand, administrators struggled with the decision but ultimately had to make the tough decision to end the majority of Athens programs.
Weigand said  that one of the primary causes  was the Greek economy. Weigand said that based on predictions UIndy Athens did not seem like it could stay open without affecting students in Indianapolis.
“One of the difficulties of the decision was weighing the impact of students in Athens, but also the potential impact on all the students here,” Weigand said. “If you’re coming here to study and your tuition has to increase to cover expenses in another country, I think that would be difficult for our students.”
Weigand said that ending the programs was a difficult decision that had legal and moral ramifications. Administrators had to jump through many hoops from the accreditor and the Greek government to close the programs. Administrators started looking into financial solvency seriously in fall 2012. Initially they had planned to simply tweak the programming, but it became clear that the situation was not getting better.
Weigand said that administrators were always concerned about the welfare of faculty and students and tried to make the right decisions for the situation.
“We looked at all of the available options in the financial situation,”  Weigand said. “And [we] had to make the difficult decision that the appropriate response would be to, in the effect, limit the programs.”
When the administration announced that the programs would be eliminated, administrators already had developed a plan to help students finish their educations. Weigand said they tried to develop plans for students so they would have ready answers and a simple transition.
Weigand said that Director of the International Division Mimi Chase and Associate Provost for Academic Systems Mary Beth Bagg, as well as other UIndy faculty, helped the transition. There were also transfer counsellors in Greece to help students choose the right options for finishing their degrees.
“The real unsung heroes are our staff in Athens, who are  [still] even there right now. The transitional counselors are the ones that worked so hard to help each individual student,” Chase said. “They looked at each case to see what was best to help each student finish their degree. Those advisors are still working with students here at UIndy and those who chose other options.”
The options for students were to transfer to the main campus, to transfer to another school in Europe or to take online courses. Many students were able to avoid having to transfer by pushing through their final requirements in the summer session. Because of this rush, UIndy Athens had a class of 94 graduate as the final undergraduate class.
Forty-seven students chose to transfer to another university, and 20 of those students came to finish their degrees at UIndy’s main campus. Those 20 students are a diverse group and hail from several different countries, including the Philippines, Greece and Georgia.
A common complaint among the Athens transfer students is the short notice that they had to prepare for the transition. However, Weigand assures students that administrators made a decision as quickly as they could.
“If you are trying to make things work, you can’t announce that you are closing or eliminating their program,”  Weigand said. “For a long time, we were trying to make it work. Even when we found out, there were a lot of steps that you have to follow before you can get approval to announce. It did take a little time, but when we did, we were ready.”
Not only did students get help in Athens with the transition, Chase and the international division were an integral part of getting students situated in Indianapolis. Chase made information sheets for the students in Greek and gave them all the information they would need to transfer. Information about culture and finances were a big part of this.
According to Weigand, the administration made special efforts to make coming to the main campus affordable for students. Students received special aid packages that made the tuition roughly equal to what they would have paid at Athens. Students also had to pay for airfare, books and U.S.  living expenses.
Once students arrived in the United States, Chase and others on campus ensured that the students were settled into UIndy. She met the students at the airport and helped them move into their living spaces. According to senior communication and international relations major Cyrille Barairo, one group of students who arrived before their rooms in Campus Apartments were ready were even welcomed into a faculty member’s home.
Chase said she and the international division are always glad to help international students, and Barairo witnessed this firsthand in the help and advice the division provided during the transition.
“It was really nice coming to a place where we didn’t know anyone to know that someone is there, telling you stuff about Indiana,” Barairo said.
Chase said that the Athens transfers have received a little extra help because of the circumstances of their transfer. She is used to dealing with students who plan for quite a while before they have to make the final transition; however, these students were left few choices. Despite the tough circumstances, Chase, the transitional counselors and many others have made the transition less painful than it potentially could have been.
Senior international relations and political science major Eugerta Najeraz said that she has had a relatively easy transition and has found plenty of help along the way.
“I am very satisfied. I think that our whole transition has been really organized,” Najeraz said. “People are willing to help us with anything.”
Despite the news of the Athens program ending and the stress of the quick transition, senior marketing major Christian Valdez said that he has gained something from this experience and feels more mature and stronger in his culture since moving to the U.S.
“I feel more attached to my culture and where I come from,” Valdez said. “Before when I was there [I] didn’t know: I am Greek, am I Filipino? Now that I’m here I have a better understanding of who I am. ”
Najeraz said she has been able to put her negative feelings of having to complete her education at another institution behind her and is now focused on her future. She is now in similar boat to all seniors whether transfer student or not.
“The whole thing belongs to the past,” Najeraz said. “All I am interested in right now is graduating.”


RSS Feed  Follow Us on Twitter  Facebook Profile