Study Away Director Michael Rainaldi Transitions Away from Oberlin

Students are preparing for study away during the fall 2021 semester despite uncertainty created by COVID-19 and administrative turnover.

Yvonne Ga

Students are preparing for study away during the fall 2021 semester despite uncertainty created by COVID-19 and administrative turnover.

Director of International Programs and Study Away Michael Rainaldi is leaving Oberlin effective today to take a position at the School for International Training as a Regional Manager for Student Health, Safety, and Wellbeing. Rainaldi has worked at Oberlin for the past four years, advising students in picking the best study away programs for their needs, navigating the financial ramifications of going abroad, and coordinating the logistics of transferring credits back to Oberlin. In 2020, Rainaldi won the Yeworkwha Belachew Staff Award which is given each year to a staff member at Oberlin who has gone “above and beyond” in their job at the College.

“Across the past four years at Oberlin I’ve been exceptionally lucky to work with an engaging, intelligent, and inspirational group of students,” Rainaldi wrote in an email to the Review. “And I’ve worked along side some wonderful colleagues from whom I have learned a great deal. I am proud of the work I’ve done at Oberlin and grateful to have been part of a community that so deeply values global learning.”

According to Dean of College of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka, the College has launched a national search for the next Director of International Programs and Study Away. 

“[We] look forward to identifying the next director, who will build on excellent work in this area, as soon as possible,” Kamitsuka wrote in an email to the Review

While the College conducts its hiring search to fill Rainaldi’s position, other staff will help fulfill his role, supporting the approximately 50–55 students who are already scheduled to study away this fall and advising any students who are considering spring abroad experiences.

“Deanna Bergdorf, winter term director, has expanded her portfolio to include Global Learning,” Kamitsuka wrote. “In this capacity she will support students during the transition between Study Away program directors, and will offer ongoing support for on- and off-campus domestic and international experiential learning.”

In fall 2020 and spring 2021, the College’s International Risk Committee made blanket decisions to prohibit students from going abroad due to COVID-19. The summer term marks the first time that Oberlin students were able to go abroad since spring 2020, and many students are hopeful that they will be able to attend various study away programs in the fall. 

However, according to Rainaldi, there are still fewer students who plan to study abroad in the fall than there would be in a typical, pre-COVID-19 semester. Rainaldi attributes this to the fact that many programs were canceled independently of Oberlin’s policies. While some of these cancelations had to do with the new Delta variant of COVID-19, Rainaldi is hopeful that the students who have planned to go abroad in the fall will be able to successfully.

According to Campus Health Coordinator Katie Gravens, the College is continually observing the global health circumstances. 

“The College is meeting with the Lorain Health Department to discuss fall [COVID-19] policies, particularly in light of the Delta variant and increased number of [COVID-19] cases,” Gravens wrote in an email to the Review. “The International Program [and] Study Abroad office is monitoring the global situation and confers with health officials to guide decisions that maximize the safety of students. An International Risk Committee evaluates multiple aspects related to [COVID-19] safety and makes a recommendation to Oberlin’s Senior Staff. Any decisions will be shared with students who plan to study abroad.”