Feature

Overcoming Burnout to Spark Innovation

How can international educators find new inspiration?
In many cases, professional fatigue began well before the pandemic, but the effects of COVID-19 exacerbated existing problems. Photo: Shutterstock
 
Karen Doss Bowman

In March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, team members from KIC UnivAssist—an organization that partners with more than 300 universities worldwide to support international engagement efforts—were traveling in South America for a series of in-person recruitment activities. When they were suddenly forced to cancel the events, company leaders knew they would have to find new ways of doing business to recoup the revenue loss. 

They also realized that guarding employees’ emotional health was paramount.

“Our business [would] only [survive] if our employees were mentally well and felt that we understood their concerns about their families, about whether they’d be able to go back into the office, and about the impact on their jobs,” says KIC UnivAssist cofounder and director Swaraj Nandan, MBA. “So, the first thing that we did was we got the team together and told them that whatever we need to do, we will do it together.”

To help everyone stay focused amid the uncertainties of the first weeks of the pandemic, the team brainstormed and decided on four impact projects—one of which was transforming previously planned in-person college fairs into virtual events. The results were unexpectedly positive: The company, which had offered recruitment activities in about 30 countries prior to the pandemic, expanded its reach to include activities in more than 65 countries. Additionally, the virtual format reduced costs for participating universities while offering them stronger market data, and students were exposed to more diverse higher education options.

“We were surprised [by the results], as our

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