Cultural Classroom is an initiative aimed at providing opportunities for Southeast Missouri educators and increasing cultural education in local classrooms. In light of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and the changes associated with remote education, we wanted to highlight the experiences of a few local educators during this time.
Dr. Peter Gordon is a marketing professor at Southeast Missouri State University. Over the course of his research, Dr. Gordon has had over 40 articles published, and has also served as President of the Marketing Management Association, Association of Collegiate Marketing Education, and the founding President of the North American Management Society. Dr. Gordon also served for over 20 years as the university Director of International Business Programs and still leads groups of students on International study tours. In addition, he has been involved in developing semester-long study and internship opportunities for Southeast students in numerous countries.
Can you share your experiences with any other global events that have had a similarly significant impact on international travel?
In recent times, September 11 was the other significant crisis which hit international travel. It led to an instantaneous grounding of planes, and a gradual return to “normal” over the following few months. The current coronavirus situation grew relatively slowly. Over the course of weeks, international travel shut down. The return to “normal” is likely to be slower, too. Unlike the September 11 aftermath, there were some destinations (domestic and international) which were considered “safe”. With the coronavirus, no destination is considered safe. Tourist travel, especially international, is likely to be slow in recovering as people may be apprehensive. Business travel is likely to be down as businesses need to cut costs to make up for losses during the shut-down, plus more people have become comfortable with Zoom meetings. For international education, recovery will be slow, as parents might discourage their children from studying overseas. Backlogs in obtaining student visas probably means that study abroad numbers may not even begin to return to “normal” until 2021.
In what ways has the virus impacted the world of higher education so far?
Universities globally have transitioned from face-to-face format to alternate formats. As more students become comfortable with distance-learning, it is likely to have a long-term impact on the number of face-to-face classes being offered. For some disciplines/classes the transition is easy, but for others, much more difficult.
The combination of restrained state budgets and the expected drop in international students will have a dramatic effect on university budgets, leading to possible elimination of course and program offerings. In addition, family budgets may result in some students curtailing their enrollment. Taken together, the coming academic year looks rather bleak for universities.
Internationalization activities will decline significantly over the next 12 months.
Creative approaches to classes will emerge. HyFlex is the new buzz-word. Offering classes via a combination of “traditional” distance-learning, web-classes, Zoom classes, virtual one-on-one interaction, etc.
Has this situation changed any perspectives for you?
Not knowing what the immediate future might hold makes planning difficult. Will the virus make a comeback in the fall? Will various countries impose restrictions on incoming tourism? Will the US require quarantine for returning travelers? Personally, I hope to take advantage of low airfares and travel some before the end of the year.
What will be the biggest obstacles coming out of the pandemic as an educator?
Convincing students (and their parents) that travel is safe. Specific destinations might be more impacted than others. For example, in Europe, Germany has handled the situation quite well, but Italy and Spain have been more heavily impacted. I think less urban destinations might hold more appeal – easier to maintain social distance if you don’t get jammed on a metro!
What do you believe will be the biggest effects from the pandemic on our community and the world?
International travel will be less appealing for many. There will be political pressure to return production of critical items to the US and decrease dependency on foreign countries, particularly China. Of course, domestic production costs are likely to be higher than for imported items. There are likely to be shortages of some products and higher prices for many more, leading to inflationary pressures. The massive deficits that have resulted from various government bail-outs, here and abroad, may result in increased taxes.
Are there important takeaways that we can glean from this as an exchange community?
It will become more important to make potential exchange students feel comfortable with their decision to travel abroad. Pairing students from different countries (i.e. host and home countries) early in the process would be one step that may help.
Any words of encouragement for discouraged travelers and/or students right now?
By 2021 there should be treatments available and a vaccine should be on the immediate horizon. Things will slowly return to normal. In the meantime, there are many low-cost travel opportunities. Take advantage of them. After all, practicing social distancing can be as effective anywhere.
What’s the first thing you’re excited to do once things get back to normal?
Wineries and Margaritas! Eating out and socializing with friends is already long overdue.
Here at Cenet, we couldn’t agree more. Thank you to Dr. Gordon for taking the time to provide his insight into this global crisis. For more interviews, please visit the Cenet Journal home page.