Edited by Ellen Badger

Welcome to the second edition of Advice From the Field, a monthly online column that offers trusted career and professional development advice for international educators at all levels. This month we get helpful tips from two experienced international educators professionals on how to handle some of the common challenges that come along with supervising staff.

Q. I’ve just been promoted within my office, and now I’m supervising someone who used to be my peer. It feels kind of awkward. How can I best do this?

A. Diana Lopez, Retired, University of Tennessee
I was in exactly this situation many years ago. I was working in an office where I reported to the vice chancellor and everyone else in that office reported to the director. I knew nothing about their work, but in less than a year, I was placed in a supervisory position over them. There were two things I did to help ease the situation.

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Last week, NAFSA published a Trends & Insights essay, Welcome to the Era of “Global Competition 2.0,” which described how rankings drive intense competition between research universities pursuing a global institutional model. The authors described several common features of these institutions, including global mission, research intensity, and worldwide recruitment. They also noted that “many strive toward [such] characteristics . . . regardless of the alignment between these features and their original missions (for example, providing quality teaching or service to local populations.)”

That same week, Times Higher Education announced its 2016 list of the most international universities in the world. Such lists always produce the usual range of pride and consternation. While I know the rankings are based on very specific published criteria, in this case, the proportions of international staff, international students, and research papers co-authored by scholars from different countries, they always leave me dissatisfied. Do such criteria truly reflect the values of internationalization?

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Edited by Ellen Badger

Welcome to the first edition of Advice From the Field, a new monthly online column that offers trusted career and professional development advice for international education professionals at all levels. Informed by NAFSA’s Phase II Member Interest Group, each column will explore real questions from NAFSA members in the field looking to further their personal and professional development.

Q. I often hear about opportunities for working in NAFSA in various leadership areas or in general as volunteers. Does such involvement lead to greater professional development and institutional recognition? What are the time demands? I’m hoping for some ideas that I can use in making the case for myself with my institution.

A. Gary Althen, Retired, University of Iowa, NAFSA Life Member

NAFSA leaders and volunteers have opportunities not often available at their place of employment to learn and practice skills such as: organizing projects; motivating people; appreciating alternative perspectives; conducting meetings; participating effectively in meetings; networking; public speaking; using technology; teaching and training; and writing. NAFSA leaders and volunteers can become personally acquainted with knowledgeable and experienced professional colleagues, key government-agency personnel, and staff in relevant international education organizations. They can get ideas from other schools or organizations concerning programs and ways of doing business and then use those ideas in their own operations.

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Ivor EmmanuelBy Ivor Emmanuel

As the chair of the NAFSA Awards Subcommittee these last two years, I have had the privilege of reading nomination statements for a number of noteworthy colleagues. These statements are truly inspiring, and they give us the opportunity to get to know these distinguished individuals through a different lens. These award recommendations also serve as a reminder of the value of our work to the people we serve and the profession at large. There is no better way to write this blog than to share some of the comments included in these nomination statements.

Writing in support of Sara Thurston-González, the 2015 recipient of the Homer Higbee Award, a nominator notes that “Sara’s passion for the field of international education is expressed in her daily life and her commitment to excellence in all she does.” He continues his praise, writing “her commitment and dedication to NAFSA has brought to our campus skills, leadership development, and collaborative solutions gleaned from this professional organization.” The nominator adds, “Thurston-González served on the campuswide Vision 2025 committee, an 18-month planning process involving hundreds of K-Staters, where she campaigned tirelessly (and successfully) to advocate that the needs and desires of our over 2,200 international students and scholars, be incorporated into the strategic direction for Kansas State University.” These comments offer a glimpse into the kind of distinguished service that Thurston-González and other award recipients have dedicated to the field.

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As chair of the NAFSA 2016 Annual Conference & Expo Annual Conference Committee (ACC), I have had the distinct honor of working with ACC content chair Sara Thurston and an outstanding ACC team to develop a rich and diverse range of educational opportunities for NAFSA 2016 that will make this year’s program in Denver, Colorado, one of the best ever.

Collectively the ACC read more than 600 proposals and worked with over 250 reviewers to develop an exciting and exceptional offering for participants.

The theme of the 2016 Annual Conference, Building Capacity for Global Learning, challenges all of us to think about the ways our work facilitates learning and makes the international education field so successful. Deepening global learning for students, scholars, and researchers is, ultimately, the reason we do what we do, whether you are in immigration advising, recruitment, education abroad, administration, teaching, or the service industry. In addition, we attend the NAFSA Annual Conference to learn with and from each other in order to build our individual skills and knowledge that will enhance capacity at our home institutions.

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that questioned whether everyone in a state’s congressional district has a right to representation, or if only eligible voters in that district do. Following the civil rights struggle for equal representation, and up until now, the principle of “one person one vote” has been understood to mean everyone in a district—including children and immigrants –is entitled to the representation by that district’s elected officials. Districts are thus determined on the basis of population, with the goal being roughly equal numbers of people within each district.

The challengers in Evenwel v. Abbott question that premise and argue that instead, only eligible voters should count when creating voting districts. This raises important questions about what kind of democracy we want to be: one that represents all people equally, or only those who register to vote (keeping in mind that huge percentages of citizens never register to vote). It is antithetical to our goal of creating a more welcoming United States to tell residents of a district, including children, immigrants who are here legally, aspiring Americans, and others that elected officials do not represent them. If we value the contributions of those who are not eligible to vote in our schools, colleges and universities, our homes and our workplaces, we cannot discount them when it comes time to be represented in our State Houses.

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End of Year Campaign

By Fanta Aw

Last week, we blogged about the importance of NAFSA’s Diversity Impact Program. Today, I want to reinforce that message.

We know that tribal colleges and universities; historically black colleges and universities; Hispanic-serving institutions; and community colleges and associates’ colleges are underrepresented in international education. Often representatives of these organizations find it difficult to get the training, networking opportunities, and resources they need to build or grow their international programs.

This is where the Diversity Impact Program plays such an important role. We live in a time when access to global education is key to student success. The Diversity Impact Program allows the outstanding individuals at these institutions to receive peer-to-peer support with the ultimate goal of expanding capacity, increasing student exchange, and improving students’ global competencies. Let’s join together and support this important program.

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The January issue of the journal Teaching Theology & Religion aligns the topic of study abroad with the discipline of religious studies. There are many interesting essays in the collection, including one by Elijah Siegler which explores the ways in which the framing of research in the discipline of religious studies can help mitigate some of the problematic aspects of study abroad. In “Working through the Problems of Study Abroad Using the Methodologies of Religious Studies,” Siegler incorporates vignettes of students’—and his own—experiences and reflections to demonstrate how issues such as the essentialization of the “other” and the colonialist baggage of study abroad can be examined through approaches used in the academic study of religion. The four applicable approaches that he identifies include: (1) a move from the study of text to the study of “the embodied” place, (2) a move from looking at religion as something “timeless” to something historical, (3) a move away from looking for something “authentic” in religion (i.e., rather than searching for the beliefs, artifacts, rituals, behaviors, etc. that could be identified as the pristine version of the religion, current trends in religious studies question the notion that such elements of religion exist), and (4) a move toward self-reflection. Siegler suggests that all of these approaches can help students as they make sense of their experiences abroad. Siegler shows how these techniques can be applied to international education through the use of examples from a study abroad trip he led to China. Along the way, he presents situations that demonstrate student learning and student awareness, as well as offers some guidance to study abroad leaders.

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#GivingTuesday 2015

By Fanta Aw

NAFSA remains an inclusive and diverse association committed to hearing and acting on the many dialogues that are part of our association. Being committed to inclusion and openness requires that we are vigilant about engaging with others and intentional about hearing their voices. That is why I am asking for your support of NAFSA’s Diversity Impact Program through today’s #GivingTuesday online giving campaign.

The NAFSA Diversity Impact Program aims to increase access to our field and profession by underrepresented institutions and, in so doing, broaden the perspective, understanding, and inclusiveness of the NAFSA community. As a member of that broader, welcoming community, I urge you to join me in supporting the Diversity Impact Program through #GivingTuesday, today, December 1.

Celebrate NAFSA on Giving Tuesday with your gift to the NAFSA Diversity Impact Program. Donate Now.

By Diana Carlin

NAFSA 2016 offers a full slate of outstanding plenary speakers. But one in particular is of special interest to me for both personal and professional reasons. When I read the introduction to Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, describing the first time she arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan, I immediately identified with the sights, sounds, smells, and experience of wearing and keeping on a headscarf along with the anxiety of getting through the arrival process.

Over a four-year period, I visited Kabul five times to work on an NGO project with university students. Lemmon’s lively and detailed writing style brought back memories, but what affected me more was how she captured the spirit of the Afghan people and especially the women in this country who have known war for over 30 years. I too also met women who survived the Taliban years and who engaged in similar entrepreneurial activities as the book describes. I purchased beautiful clothing from a cooperative where women sell their creations to support their families. I know that Lemmon will bring all of her experiences to life for the NAFSA audience as she has for her readers.

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