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By Chad Goeden

Leading international education researcher and author Rajika Bhandari helped open NAFSA’s 2014 Online Conference by challenging participants to think critically about how “big data” can positively impact their work as international educators.

In her plenary address, “’Big Data’: The 21st Century Game-Changer in Global International Student Recruitment,” Bhandari illustrated the wealth of information that “big data” can provide by asking participants, “Did you know that [international] students from Kuwait, Bangladesh, and Venezuela have been increasing rapidly? Did you know that South Korean students are very interested in the fine and applied arts? And that Nigerian students favor the health sciences?”

Bhandari, who is deputy vice president of research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education (IIE), and director of IIE’s Center for Academic Mobility Research, brought to life the ways that institutions and campuses can successfully strategize about their decisionmaking processes by understanding and incorporating “big data” into conversations about context, benchmarking, and campus advocacy.

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Reports of death have been greatly exaggerated at least since 1897, when Mark Twain told the New York Journal that contrary to reports, he was in fact alive. So it is with immigration reform which, these days, is the subject of repeated obituaries. You only die once—unless, apparently, you’re immigration reform, which dies in our newspapers and on our TV screens with monotonous regularity.

One reason these frequent death reports are getting boring is that we always know the culprit—there isn’t even any suspense. In the case of immigration reform’s most recent demise, a hitherto unknown politician named David Brat holds the bloody dagger. His defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the Virginia seventh district primary supposedly proves that the tea party is again ascendant and that all hope for immigration reform is gone.

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In 1862, during the darkest days for the Union, President Lincoln faced a momentous decision. He wanted to issue a proclamation freeing the slaves in the Confederate states. Many counseled against it, fearing that the time was not right: It would prolong the war, fracture Lincoln’s coalition in Congress, and have other adverse consequences. It was far from clear that the “team of rivals” that comprised the president’s Cabinet would support such an action. But Lincoln was convinced, in his own mind, that emancipation was not only the right thing to do, but would in fact have positive strategic consequences for the war effort. Late that year, buoyed by victories on the battlefield, Lincoln informed—not consulted, but informed—his Cabinet of his decision, and the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1, 1863.

President Barack Obama now confronts his “Lincoln moment”: Will he emulate this greatest of American presidents? Will he take bold executive action to address an injustice of his administration: the record deportations of undocumented immigrants? That this would be the right thing to do is unquestionable. The administration is more concerned about the politics: Would it be strategic, or would it actually work against immigration reform? If we think clearly about these issues, as Lincoln did in the case of emancipation, we will see that executive action on deportations is not detrimental to immigration reform, but would, if anything, actually help reform. Why is this the case?

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Fanta Aw, NAFSA president and chair, recognized representatives from Simon Fraser (British Columbia, Canada) and Zheijang (Hangzhou, China) universities for their winning entry in NAFSA’s 2014 Celebrating International Education Video Contest last Wednesday morning at the Annual Business Meeting in San Diego. Katya Kirsh was on hand to accept an award, and representatives from the runners up, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (Washington, D.C.) and RMIT (Melbourne, Australia), also attended. Congratulations to Simon Fraser and Zhejiang for winning the 2014 Celebrating International Education Video Contest and to all of the institutions for their participation.

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Dream Big

Kakenya Ntaiya did not learn that female genital mutilation was illegal in her home country of Kenya until she came to the United States as an international student. She did not know that women were allowed to own property or that girls were entitled to an education until she read it in a book while completing a research project at Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“Through that, I learned about my country and home more than I could ever have imagined,” said Ntaiya at the Thursday plenary address in San Diego.

Ntaiya, a 2013 CNN Hero, is the founder of the Kakenya Center of Excellence in her hometown of Enoosean, Kenya. The school offers young girls in her community the opportunity receive an education and escape the future that awaited her: female circumcision and early marriage. “I started losing my friends to marriage in the fourth grade,” said Ntaiya.

Although she was subjected to genital mutilation once she reached puberty, she convinced her father to delay her arranged marriage to let her finish her education, and eventually, Ntaiya was able to travel to the United States to attend college.

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Sheila Schulte, NAFSA senior director of international enrollment management and international student and scholar services, today joined Rahul Choudaha, PhD, chief knowledge officer for World Education Services, for a special session unveiling the results of a new national survey examining why international undergraduate students in the U.S. leave their institutions of first enrollment before completing their degree.

One of the key findings of the report is that “poor retention is a function of the mismatch between expectations of students prior to enrollment and the actual experience of students once they are on campus,” said Choudaha, who served as lead researcher on the project.

The report found that educational professionals identified reputation (67 percent), finances (64 percent), and academics (62 percent) as the top reasons for which international undergraduate students leave their institutions before completing their degree. In contrast, the top reasons for dissatisfaction reported by students relate only to financial dimensions: access to jobs or internships (37 percent), affordability (36 percent), and availability of scholarships (34 percent).

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International educators are united by a passion for bringing people closer and turning the foreign into the familiar. Many of them also connect through their awkward moments and misunderstandings in international exchange that later turn into humorous stories. As the opening plenary speaker for the NAFSA 2014 Annual Conference and Expo, award-winning actress Anna Deavere Smith read excerpts from interviews with international educators, telling tales of surprise weddings in Thailand and confusing bathrooms in Korea. These lighter experiences make it easy to examine differences and find commonalities across cultures, but Deavere Smith later presented some darker themes to show that unity and humanity can be found in unlikely places.

For her one-woman show Let Me Down Easy, Deavere Smith conducted more than 300 interviews on three continents, including conversations with Rwandans recovering and rebuilding from the genocide. She also mentioned the Truth and Reconciliation Commission established in South Africa after the fall of apartheid. Both countries established formal systems to bring atrocities to light, allowing those who had been wronged the opportunity to forgive the perpetrators and those who had committed crimes the chance to apologize. In order to rebuild their societies, these countries needed to develop a way for the people to move on and work together.

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Mitch GordonBy Mitch Gordon

Let’s set the stage: You have received an e-mail/phone call inviting you to interview with the international education organization of your dreams. While an accomplishment, the most important part is yet to come. You’re feeling understandably nervous; you want to prepare for the interview and put your best foot forward. While not a comprehensive list by any means, I hope the advice below will inspire you to be your best self and ace your interview. Good luck!

Ask Good Questions During Your Interview
Asking good questions is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression. The right questions demonstrate that you understand the business and reflect an ability to think critically. What, you may be asking, qualifies as a good question? That’s a good question in and of itself! I’d place interview questions into two broad categories. First, questions you can prepare for. Second, questions that arise from the interview itself. In the first category, ask questions that show you understand the position you’re applying for and that provide insight into long-term business goals.

For example: “What do you hope the person in this position will achieve over the next two years?” The best thing you can do is research the organization in a genuine, interested way. As you research, ask yourself what it would take to do amazingly well at the job you’re applying for. Excellent questions will naturally emerge from that type of introspection.

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By Ellen H. Badger and Shawna Szabo

Did you miss our earlier blog post, “How to Use Networking and Informational Interviews to Start a Career, Further a Career, or Change a Career?” You’ll find it here .

As we mentioned in that post, informational interviews can lead to a “foot in the door” when it comes to starting or advancing a career in international education. Now we reveal five tips for a successful informational interview.

  • Do your research regarding the person with whom you’ll meet. A quick Google search can give you some great conversation starters about their past publications or presentations in the field.
  • Dress to impress. This may not be a formal job interview but you want to be sure to make a good impression.
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