Skip to main content

Study Away Risk Assessment Committee

The Study Away Risk Assessment Committee (SARAC) is responsible for authorizing university-sponsored educational or service opportunities involving travel to high risk locations where there is a significant health or safety concern.

A designation of high risk travel will be given to locations which currently have a Reconsider Travel (Level 3) or Do Not Travel (Level 4) advisory rating from the U.S. Department of State. This may be a country-wide advisory or a region-specific advisory if the proposed travel falls within that region. A high risk designation may also be given to countries or regions with a rating of a 4 or 5 (on a scale of 1-5) by Vanderbilt’s travel security provider. Additionally, the University may apply the designation of high risk to locations that pose a specific health, safety, or security concern as indicated by the CDC, the World Health Organization, insurers, third party travel security providers, in collaboration with the Global Safety and Security Manager.

SARAC is also responsible for deciding whether to suspend an educational opportunity away from campus when health or safety concerns emerge shortly before a program begins or while it is in progress. The Committee is expected to balance the educational and/or research merits of the travel opportunity with its associated risk, with an emphasis on risk mitigation.

Do I need to apply for authorization?

  • Are you going to a location currently under a State Department Travel Advisory level 3 or 4?
  • Are you going to a location currently under a CDC Warning Level 3?

If you answer “yes” to one or both of these questions, contact SARAC.

How to apply for a Request for Exception to Travel

Students (or faculty/staff leading a group of students) who wish to travel to a high risk location must submit a “Request for Exception to Travel” to the Study Away Risk Assessment Committee for review. SARAC is responsible for deciding whether to permit an education away opportunity in a high risk country/ destination or to suspend an education away opportunity when health or safety concerns emerge shortly before a program starts or while it is in progress.

Contact SARAC at

  • Request forms can be found here: individual or student group or faculty-led. Forms should be completed as soon as possible, and no later than sixty days prior to travel.
  • SARAC may determine that a high risk travel destination does not require a “Request for Exception to Travel” if that destination has recently been reviewed by SARAC and there have been no major changes in safety or security since the approval. SARAC may reinstate the requirements for a “Request for Exception to Travel” at any time.

Approved Requests for Exception

  • If travel is approved, the student will continue to receive support from the University, including financial aid, course credit, or other assistance, as applicable.
  • In addition to the waiver signed by all students traveling abroad, the applicant will be asked to sign an additional waiver acknowledging that he or she has read and understands the risks associated with travel to a country/destination under a travel warning, or other warnings, as applicable.
  • SARAC reserves the right to place conditions on approval (i.e. prohibit certain aspects of the proposed itinerary or require additional safety or security measures).
  • Vanderbilt reserves the right to suspend or cancel travel at any time, should SARAC determine that the situation in a country/destination deteriorates to a level that is no longer acceptable. In such cases, the applicant understands that the university is not responsible for reimbursement for expenses related to withdrawal.
  • Complete action steps listed in the Basic Safety and Security Checklist.

Denied Requests for Exception

  • If a request for exception is denied by SARAC, university support for travel will be withdrawn, including course credit, financial aid, Vanderbilt international health insurance, and logistical support.
  • Student organizations may not make use of funding from AcFees, tax-receipted donations, or fundraising events held or disbursed in their organization’s agency fund to support travel that has been denied after a review of a request for exception.
  • If the applicant moves forward with travel, he or she does so with the understanding that the travel is in no way supported or sponsored by Vanderbilt University.
  • The use of Vanderbilt University logos, websites, or other use of the Vanderbilt name associated with the proposed travel will be prohibited.

SARAC Committee Membership

Title Voting? First Name Last Name
Director of Risk & Insurance Yes Melissa Ahler
Associate Provost and Dean of Students Yes Mark Bandas
Associate Provost for Academic Initiatives Yes Dawn Turton
Global Safety & Security Manager Yes Andrea Bordeau
VUPD Yes Ricky Burr
School of Medicine Assoc. Director for Education & Training Yes Douglas Heimburger
Manager of Compliance and University Compliance Officer Yes Ruth Nagareda
Vice Provost for Research Yes Padma Raghavan
Deputy General Counsel Yes Ruby Shellaway
School of Nursing Representative Yes Carol Ziegler
Vice Chancellor for Communications Informational Steve Ertel
Travel Program Manager Informational Sabrina Kronk
VUPD Informational August Washington
Audit Manager for Internal Audit Informational Bruce Weisman

Criteria for Suspension or Cancellation of Educational Programs

The Committee is also responsible for deciding whether to suspend an education opportunity away from campus when health or safety concerns emerge shortly before a program starts or while it is in progress. Suspension or cancellation of a program will be considered should one or more of the following events occur:

  • Declaration of war between the US against the host country or an adjacent neighbor
  • Declaration of war involving a third country and the country of the program’s location
  • Protracted or indefinite closure of the university where the program is located
  • Inability of the local staff to organize and carry out an academic program outside of the university
  • Disruption of public utilities and/or services
  • Declaration of martial law in the program city or country
  • Significant terrorist activity in the program city or country
  • Wide-spread civil unrest, violence, criminal activity and/or rioting
  • Recommendation for suspension/cancellation by the institution program staff in the host country
  • Travel warning and/or specific directive by the US State Department and/or US Embassy
  • Recommended evacuation by local officials
  • Widespread disease or epidemic
  • Severe weather advisory such as hurricane warnings

The decision to suspend or cancel will be based on information from:

  • The program staff in the host country
  • University officials at the overseas partner university
  • US Embassy officials in the host country
  • Vanderbilt’s
  • Other officials from US agencies and/or NGOs, as well as the appropriate US State Department Country Desk Officer(s)

In the case of students studying with a partner organization, Vanderbilt University will generally follow our partner’s procedures, but reserves the right to make an independent decision.