NAFSA holds their regional conferences each fall in the months of October and November. We try to attend as many as we can. This year we we were able to send our evaluators to the Tri-Regional (I, II and IV), Region V, Region VIII, and Region XII. We asked our evalutors to share their experience at these conferences.
Jade Jiang Rieger, who attended Region V in Detroit, MI, commented, “As a first time attendee of a NAFSA conference, it was eye-opening for me to learn the different aspects of international education. I found that attendees are mostly interested in international student enrollment and international student services, not so much about credential evaluations. There were only two sessions about credential evaluation, including one of mine. The difference of the number of attendees between my two sessions highly reflected this fact.
“My first session was about how Chinese students choose a US institutions, I was surprised how popular it was. It was a full house (40+ attendees); there were not enough seats for the attendees. I felt bad for those who had to stand in the back or sit on the floor; however, I was also thrilled at the same time that many people were interested in this topic. Attendees asked a lot of interesting questions during the session, and some of them came to me after the session and told me how much they appreciated the helpful information provided at the session.
“While my second session was about secondary credential evaluation from China, the number of attendees reduced by half, although it also went well as there was a lot of interaction and discussion among the attendees.”
Jade also attended several informative sessions, including one about integrating international students with the campus and local community. It was fascinating for her to learn that some institutions are making every effort to make their international students feel welcomed and included, and that there are so many fun and innovative ways to do that.
Tri-Regional (I, II, and IV)
Tatiana McKenna and Martha VanDevender both attended the tri-regional conference for Regions I, II, and IV in Denver, CO. According to Martha, “The tri-regional meant a rather large conference for regionals and you could tell in the sessions. Rooms were full and people were enthusiastic.”
She also noted, “When we promise the chance to play with forensic tools, we always have a good audience. That was certainly the case in Denver.... While we had a lot of good information about documentation practices and school policies, the real highlight was the UV lights, microscopes, and document samples. We could hardly get the crowd back to our slides! But it seemed to be informative and we certainly had fun.”
Tatiana joined four other presenters plus the chair in presenting a session on online verification tools. As she said, “Everyone knows how much I like talking about online verification tools. But it was my pleasure to present along side such a wonderful group of ladies.... I still can’t believe that we finished with time to spare.”
Karen Krug attended Region VIII in Morgantown, WV, and found that just getting there was an adventure. “We flew from Baltimore to Morgantown in a plane that seated 8 (plus the pilot and co-pilot); 5 of the 7 passengers on my flight were going to the NAFSA conference.”
She found out that Region VIII was where the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign originated about a year ago, and it was interesting to hear about how it got started, and how it has spread to include not just universities but other organizations (including ECE!) as well.
As Jade had found in Region V, there weren’t many sessions related to credential evaluation, but Karen was able to attend a very good session on instructional design for trainings that included tips we can use in developing our own trainings, both internal and external. She also appreciated a session on free technology such as Screencast-O-Matic for screen recording and Canva for graphic design.
Zachary Holochwost attended Region XII in Sacramento, CA, and noted that it always seems to have the most attendees for any of the NAFSA regionals---as he said, ”California is big!” He appreciated the great opportunities to network and get to know the region leaders, and found a lot of familiar faces from previous conference attendance.
He was surprised to find no sessions at all that dealt with credential evaluation, when there had been four or five the previous year, including his own. However, he was able to sit in on multiple sessions focusing on F-1 and H-1B visa issues as well as immigration policy and law. These sessions were all chaired by immigration lawyers who provided “a ton of information about the current political climate, refugee bans, and how to find help when navigating immigration law. It was all quite fascinating and informative.”
This conference was the first time he had presented on a purely non-credential evaluation topic: Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees: Emerging Trends in US Higher Education. “Though I was still able to throw in some credential evaluation ideas,” he said. “It was a full house (approx. 30 attendees).... There was a lot of interaction and comments from the attendees and I was able to speak with 5 or 6 afterwards about ECE Aid and other credential topics. All in all, Region XII is always worthwhile to attend for ECE.”