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Information for Faculty

Leading a study abroad program at the Steger Center for International Scholarship gives you the opportunity to offer an experiential-based study abroad opportunity to students from Virginia Tech’s European center in Riva San Vitale.

The beautiful Villa Maderni, your home base while in Switzerland, houses classrooms, a student residence, a dining facility, and faculty offices in addition to common spaces for students and faculty. Because of its small size and the nature of a close-knit community, the Steger Center offers a space to reimagine teaching and mentoring in ways that are not typical in Blacksburg.

For faculty interested in increasing cross-cultural engagement, the Steger Center partners with the local community in Riva San Vitale as well as with the university community in Ticino to provide a host of opportunities for both students and faculty. In addition, the coordinated travel weeks, scheduled twice within the regular semester, offer the possibility for faculty to travel with students as an integrated academic experience that offers unique opportunities for field study.

At the Steger Center, faculty can count on the support of on-site staff as well as support from the Global Education Office and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech in the development and execution of their programs. 

An aerial view of the Steger Center

Program Development

See the Global Education Office website for information on how to propose a faculty-led study abroad program for the semester or for the summer. The FAQ on the GEO page is especially helpful, and all the information applies to the Steger Center.

We recommend that you begin the planning and development process 18 months in advance of the intended start date. That sounds like a long time, but the on-campus approval process as well as the Swiss visa process for both faculty and students can be time consuming, so we recommend getting a head start. Be sure to talk with your department chair and college administrator in charge of global initiatives as part of this important process.

Approval Process

Once you have decided that the Steger Center is the right place for your semester or summer program, please reach out to Sara Steinert Borella, executive director, or you can write to at any time. Dr. Steinert Borella will be happy to review program development, logistics, and availability with you.

Once you have confirmed that the Steger Center can accommodate your program, then you should begin the Global Education Approval Committee (GEAC) approval process, outlined on the Global Education website. Martha Jensen, GEO Faculty Support Associate, will be happy to help guide you through the process.

Please note, the Steger Center is an especially popular venue for summer programs and it may be difficult to accommodate everyone. Because the Steger Center encourages faculty to provide an immersive experience for their students while abroad, preference will be given to short-term programs planning on staying for five nights or more and engaging students in the local community. 


Developing a budget is an important step in running a successful program. The Global Education Office can assist you in building your program budget. A budget template for programs at the Steger Center can be found here.

For general budgeting information, please see the Global Education website or reach out to Linda Tanko, GEO fiscal technician. Below are some considerations specific to programs at the Steger Center:

  • The Steger Center currently covers costs for faculty lodging for semester-long programs and Swiss costs for faculty visas/work permits for faculty.
  • The Global Education Office will bill students a $600 nonrefundable Steger Center deposit after they are accepted. This fee is applied to the cost of room and board.
  • The University Bursar sets Steger Center Room & Board costs for semester-long programs. To review the most up-to-date fees, visit the Tuition & Fee Rates section of the Bursar’s website. Under the current academic year rates, there is a Special Rates and Fees section with costs pertaining to the Steger Center.
  • For summer programs, the standard room & full board rate is $120/day for students and faculty Monday through Friday. For weekends, the rate includes room & half-board at a rate of $100/day. These rates are typically built into program fees. For questions about rates and availability for accompanying spouses or family, please contact the executive director.
  • We encourage faculty members to practice good stewardship of student program funds. When considering the local per diem, please be advised that meals at the Steger Center are priced at 35 CHF per day. Faculty are welcome to eat in the dining room, but they also have kitchen facilities in their apartments.


Program recruitment typically falls to the organizing faculty member. We recommend involving colleagues who have participated in Steger Center programming as well as Steger Center ambassadors, students who have returned from a semester in Riva San Vitale. These students are willing to meet with prospective students and talk about their experience here in Switzerland.

Questions about whom you might contact? Just reach out to Sara Steinert Borella. She and the student life coordinator at the Steger Center are happy to put you in touch with student ambassadors, organize Zoom sessions, and help get the word out.


Program excursions both bring classroom teaching to life and take advantage of Switzerland’s location in the heart of Europe. Excellent public transportation and the country’s proximity to western and central Europe make experiential learning a natural partner to classroom lessons. Past and current excursions include travel to Paris, Naples, Brussels, Athens, and Istanbul and a trek through the Alps, to name just a few destinations. 

Make sure your excursion location complements the course content and allows for student learning opportunities in the traditional academic sense as well as in terms of intercultural learning. You may want to develop special activities, invite guest speakers, and connect to the local community. The executive director at the Steger Center can work with you on determining the best options for travel given your course and program parameters and can arrange for connections in Riva and Ticino.

The Steger Center closes for two separate weeks during the semester to accommodate coordinated program travel. While you may choose to conduct more than two group excursions or to lengthen an excursion, keep in mind that additional excursions may make the program cost prohibitive. Likewise, experience has taught us that students encounter more health issues upon return when the travel periods extend beyond seven days.  


In order to engage in the community and experiential-learning opportunities, students enrolled in semester-long programs at the Steger Center should plan to take the appropriate-level Italian course. If possible, students should enroll in ITAL 1105 prior to departure for the Steger Center. Questions? Contact Sara Steinert Borella, executive director.


Faculty members stay in apartments in Riva San Vitale, typically a short walk from the Villa Maderni. The apartments are furnished and include amenities such as a kitchen and Wi-Fi.

The Steger Center currently covers the cost of housing faculty in apartments during semester-long programs. Faculty who wish to bring their spouses or families should inquire with the executive director about feasibility.

Health and Safety

Switzerland is a safe country with health services comparable to the United States.

You play an important role, together with the Global Education Office and the Steger Center on-site staff, in ensuring the health and safety of your students.

Prior to departure, you will:

  • Research and understand the health and safety risks of Switzerland and program excursion locations.
  • Attend program leader training (provided by GEO).
  • Receive emergency contact cards from the GEO/Steger Center (both digital and hard copies).
  • Receive important health information from the student voluntary health disclosure form (provided by the GEO).
  • Conduct pre-departure meetings to prepare students to study abroad (in conjunction with the GEO and the Steger Center).
  • Be enrolled in required CISI travel medical insurance by the GEO.
  • Submit a travel Pre-Approval through the Controller’s Office.
  • Coordinate an international communication plan with your cell phone provider or department.
  • Complete all requirements to comply with Virginia Tech Global Travel Policy 1070.

While you are abroad, the on-site staff is available to support you and the students in case of any health or safety emergencies. For more information about health and safety, see this link or contact the assistant director for Global Safety and Risk Management.

Passports, Visas, and Work Permits

All faculty leaders must have a passport valid at least six months beyond the program’s end date. Information about applying for or renewing a U.S. passport can be found here.

Faculty members who will stay in Switzerland for more than eight days are required to obtain a Swiss visa. If a visa and work permit are required, you will work directly with Michèle Taffine, administrative assistant at the Steger Center. This process should begin at least four months in advance of your intended arrival in Switzerland.

Keep in mind that an open line of communication with Michèle is essential for the smooth running of the visa process. You should plan to answer any communication regarding visas at the Steger Center within 24 hours of receipt because the visa process is time-sensitive.