In August Serena Spitalieri from Centro Informazioni Mobilità Equivalenze Accademiche (CIMEA) in Italy came to our office in Milwaukee for three weeks of credential evaluation training. We asked her to share her experience.
A mobility experience in credential evaluation: a recognition of excellence
Reflecting on my study visit at ECE (Educational Credential Evaluators) in Milwaukee - three weeks of sheer osmosis in Wisconsin, in this place with its unique and unmistakable accent - the first word my thoughts stick on is the word "experience."
The ancient Greeks understood immediately that it is a word that slips away, it is a concept that you can define only through the eyes and the heart, because experience – real experience - is something that implies a total knowledge of reality, a knowledge in which all your humanity is involved, it is an openness towards reality, to circumstances, with no defenses, without holding back anything, ready to welcome all that comes from that experience. It is only in this way - by not censoring anything about yourself and what you have in front of you, about what you encounter and who accompanies you on that piece of road - that experience becomes knowledge. And it makes you better, makes you grow.
And so you come back to Rome, you come home, discovering that now your "home" is bigger, because new faces are now part of it.
And so you get back to work and discover a new you, because you find in your actions, your ideas, your proposals to colleagues, in managing - that is, supporting - the work of others, everything you have seen, learned, felt, lived - and therefore "understood" – all thanks to your colleagues/friends at ECE.
The work of a Credential Evaluator is permeated by the word “experience”: in order to evaluate, you are forced to understand, a knowledge wide open to reality is requested of you, observation that takes into account all factors without prejudice. Knowledge that by its very nature opens us up to the whole world, involves us in the lives of those we meet, makes us more sensitive to the fate of people and entire countries. It makes us question, deepen, search, compare, share knowledge, discoveries, intuitions, and ideas without secrecy. It pushes us together to build, to find solutions, to go further, and to pursue an ideal as one.
It makes us friends. It brings together the stories of places and lives that we would never otherwise have encountered.
All this happened - and it overwhelmed me like a river in flood - in the three weeks that our ECE colleagues opened the doors of their Milwaukee office, thanks to the proposal of my Director (Luca Lantero, CIMEA Director, Italian ENIC-NARIC Center), and the enthusiasm with which Margit Schatzman (President at ECE) agreed to give me this unique opportunity to work side-by-side with such experienced international credential evaluators.
In these three weeks nothing was left to chance, and thanks to Margit, together with Meg (Margaret Wenger, Senior Director of Evaluation), who both introduced me to the "ECE Community," I was able to enjoy days full of meetings and training on the most disparate themes: country profiles (India, Congo, Cameroon, Sudan, Latin America, etc.), transnational education, evaluation of secondary school qualifications, professional education, digitalization, and so on.
I was able to closely observe the daily work of ECE colleagues. I deepened my study of their methodology, exchanged opinions, and refined assessments on particular cases. I also used the huge number of resources available to them, collected in 40 years of history, since its foundation in 1980 by James S. Frey. It was thanks to Michele's kindness (Michele Bohlmann, Information Resource Specialist) that I was able to find my way around the maze of the immense library!
I found the type of training that is provided to each new credential evaluator fascinating. The aspect of qualified training and professional development is also of absolute importance within the ENIC-NARIC network, and it was invaluable to be able to observe the solutions they adopted and how nothing is left to chance during the training course.
Amy (Amy Kawa, Evaluator Supervisor) was my personal mentor for the whole three weeks and had the daunting task of making me respect the timing of the very dense agenda she had carefully prepared for me. I would have talked for hours and hours after every meeting! Amy took care of a vital aspect for any Italian who would like to be awake and productive in the States at a distance of more than seven time zones: ESPRESSO PLEASE!
Amy was also my faithful companion in the visits to the campuses of the main universities of Milwaukee, Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I was able to learn about their national and international student admission policies and share the Italian and European perspective. What was more important, however, is to have fully understood the true "religion" that lies behind every university in the USA... sports! I could not therefore avoid becoming a fierce fan of the Marquette Golden Eagles, the men's basketball team at Marquette University.
In addition to the larger campuses, Milwaukee is host to other high-level educational institutions. At Alverno College I met a rare educational reality - a primarily female college, which supports and enhances the education of female students by increasing awareness of themselves and their role in society and in the world.
MSOE (Milwaukee School of Engineering) is outstanding in the field of engineering, with avant-garde projects delivered by the students themselves in collaboration with the largest companies in the world. I must say I had an exceptional guide - Eric, Majka's son (Majka Drewitz, Research & Evaluator Supervisor), a final year student at MSOE, gave us a truly privileged visit around the campus!
Thanks to Majka I also had the privilege to study in-depth Fraud & Forensic training, a unique opportunity to learn from her vast knowledge on the subject. With microscope and UV light in hand, I was able to study and analyze all the material that ECE shared with me during my weeks of residence. The knowledge of aspects related to forensics - learning to recognize the different types of security features that documents can incorporate, understanding how to place each of them in the different phases of printing a document - I believe is a necessary skill for a credential evaluator. Att ECE it is an essential part of the training not only of every new credential evaluator but also for those working in the Scanning Department who come into contact with dozens of qualifications every day.
That's how it is at ECE: you come across a trail of enthusiasm that starts in the office and extends to the whole of Wisconsin!
And it was the Wisconsin traditions that Tim (Timothy Kell, Senior Evaluator) introduced me to, and in just three weeks he managed to turn me into a true Midwestern woman! Tim is one of those people who has a unique and passionate ability to involve you, with enthusiasm, in everything he loves. Thanks to him, Milwaukee immediately became "home." He introduced me to his passion for work but, above all, to the greatest passions of a Wisconsinite: beer, Bloody Marys, cheese, and... the Green Bay PACKERS!
Being able to watch a PACKERS game at the Green Bay stadium is perhaps one of the biggest thrills for those who, in Italy, have always seen American football matches only on TV.
I admit that I didn't really understand the rules of the game ... but this is an excellent reason to come back!
I also tried to keep up with the "culinary" training my colleagues exposed me to: lunch at the food trucks every Tuesday, wine tasting in Door County, tour of the famous Milwaukee breweries, sausages, even corn on the cob lying in a park listening to one of the many concerts that are organized in Milwaukee in the summer season.
How could I forget the India Fest and the unforgettable company of Marybeth (Marybeth Gruenewald, Director of Global Initiatives)?
For my part, I tried to reproduce those antique Roman traditions: spaghetti carbonara and spritz! Who knows how they were received…
The last day in Milwaukee was like a party, a day filled with gratitude and even nostalgia. In the office colleagues said goodbye with an ice cream party and lunch together. In the evening there was still time for the last moments to be shared and to salute Milwaukee, which had so warmly welcomed me: dinner, clubbing, and... bowling!
Now is the time to think about how to make Rome the most welcoming place for those who will come to reciprocate the study visit, which I hope will happen very soon!
Thank you, Serena, for visiting us! We learned a lot from you, too! And don't worry - the carbonara and spritz were delicious! Hoping we see you in Rome soon!