The city lights of Shanghai gleam in the water. Pepperdine decided to close it’s Shanghai study abroad program March 2021 due to operational difficulties and decreased program enrollment. Graphic file photo.
Seaver Dean Michael Feltner shared the news with the Pepperdine community in a March 10 email.
“In the last year, as our international programs have come to an unfortunate pause due to the pandemic, and as we prepare to publish the college’s 2030 strategic plan, we’ve had a unique opportunity to assess the long-term viability of each program,” Feltner wrote. “After months of careful consideration, this process has led us to the difficult decision to permanently close the Shanghai international program effective July 31, 2021.”
Seaver will continue to work with the Shanghai campus through the 2021 academic year to “cease operations […] in a structured and caring manner,” Feltner wrote. The University chose to share the program’s closure now to limit any academic disruptions the closure may have on students.
The University weighed several factors in suspending the program, Feltner wrote, with decreased enrollment and “significant operational challenges” as two of the main considerations.
“The Shanghai international program was suspended in January 2020 — the first time Pepperdine has suspended an international program — and persistent external challenges have regrettably prevented us from having a student cohort present in Shanghai since that time,” Feltner wrote.
Shanghai Director Charlie Engelmann provided an update on the Shanghai campus to the Graphic on Jan. 17. In his email, Englemann wrote that the program saw an incredibly low number of applications for the 2021-2022 academic year, a sign to the University that students did not feel comfortable traveling to Shanghai.
The Shanghai program opened in 2008, making it the youngest of the permanent International Programs campuses and the only academic year offering in Asia.
Looking forward, International Programs will look for new opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months, Feltner wrote. The University still plans to send students to the other six IP locations in the summer of 2021 and for the 2022 academic year.
Engelmann and Program Coordinator Gigi Zhang remain the last employed staff of the Shanghai program. Feltner’s email did not say how this decision will affect Engelmann or Zhang.
“This has been a hard year on so many fronts,” Engelmann wrote in his Jan. 17 email. “I am amazed at the resilience and positivity of our students, but I also know there is plenty of hurt and frustration that we will need to process together as a community. Personally, I am grateful for the people who have reached out to my staff and me to offer their words of support and encouragement. More than ever, we need each other.”
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