NAFSA creates multiple opportunities for international educators that provide long-lasting benefits and career growth. Some of our latest NAFSA members already know that firsthand.

One of NAFSA’s newest initiatives, the NAFSA Diversity Impact Program, rewards those working with underserved student populations on a variety of campuses.

At the 2014 Annual Conference & Expo in San Diego, 27 honorees, all working at tribal colleges; historically black colleges and universities; Hispanic-serving institutions; and community colleges and associates colleges, attended workshops, sessions, and luncheons on a variety of international education topics.

After the conference ended, many NAFSA Diversity Impact Program participants found themselves and their work transformed by their experience.

“My attendance at NAFSA has added legitimacy to the development of an Office of Global Studies,” said Cynthia D. Rapp Sandhu, global studies coordinator at San Juan College, on how her attendance in San Diego benefitted her school.

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ashley glennAshley Glenn
It was my first time to the NAFSA annual conference, also my first year in the field, and I traveled to San Diego alone.

Attending NAFSA can be overwhelming in the way family reunions show how far your family name extends and how few people you know. Not knowing anyone, it is tempting to stand at the edge of the room, walking in only for hors d’oeuvres (which I did at one of the receptions).

My first time at NAFSA, I was determined to get involved. For this to happen, I needed a plan, a master list. Many boxes would need to be checked. A few weeks after the conference program arrived, I decided to start the process. This would require an Americano and a few hours of reading through session descriptions, poster topics, volunteer options, and more. Similar to planning a trip, I needed to think strategically to make the most of my time.

This moment of strategy arrived when I saw that the Career Center would be offering a case-study challenge. This was the fulcrum by which to focus my week. I now had a conference conversation starter—”have you heard of the case study challenge?”

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You may have heard that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has shifted course in its efforts to improve the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS).

SEVP has decided to step away from plans to develop a new “SEVIS II” system, and instead explore options that would enhance the existing SEVIS system. The agency will be working to develop alternative approaches to closing what it sees as security vulnerabilities in the system while also enhancing the value of SEVIS to designated school officials and schools.

I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed a principal member of the SEVP’s SEVIS Modernization Analysis of Alternatives Oversight Board and will be involved in the development and consideration of these alternatives. I will be joined by NAFSA Director of Regulatory Practice Liaison Steve Springer, who will serve as an associate member of the board.

The board was recently chartered by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and is made up of senior federal agency officials and several members of the stakeholder community. With your feedback and input, we will provide valuable guidance to the agency as it works to develop and evaluate alternatives for improving SEVIS.

We welcome your ideas for improving SEVIS. Your voice plays a critical role in our liaison and advocacy efforts, and will be a valuable asset as NAFSA participates in this analysis of alternatives process. As always, we invite you to provide your input to NAFSA staff by visiting IssueNet: Report an Issue.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as the board moves forward.

For more on SEVP’s progress in modernizing SEVIS and expectations for the analysis of alternatives process, see the SEVIS: The Way Forward FAQ and SEVP Director Louis M. Farrell’s opening remarks in the July 2014 SEVP-Spotlight. For more information on how the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) generally uses the analysis of alternatives process, see the Analysis of Alternatives Methodologies: Considerations for DHS Acquisition Analysis report.

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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