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Archive for the ‘Regional Conferences’ Category

By Lesley Robinson

I have nine NAFSA Annual Conferences under my belt, and only now do I feel like I have my post-conference routine down. For me, the NAFSA Annual Conference is always an exhilarating whirlwind of thought-provoking sessions, reception invitations, exhibit hall strategizing, business card collecting, and extreme networking.

With NAFSA’s Regional Conference in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned for maximizing professional networking both during the conference and when you are in the “post-conference glow.” You know what the “post-conference glow” is, right? It’s that feeling after a great event where your follow-up checklist is long and your energy and enthusiasm is sustained by all those great “ah ha” moments and new connections.

During the Conference

1. Make it a game to give away at least five business cards

Business cards have no value if you don’t pass them out – or collect them. I consider myself a high-functioning extrovert, and yet 50 plus conferences later, I still consider it one of the hardest things in the world to walk into a room of strangers, make small talk, and then try to not only give, but take business cards from contacts you’ve only just met. I challenge myself to try to connect with at least five people throughout the conference. Conference card pick-up lines can include: “Have you been to any memorable sessions?” or “How far did you travel to get here?”

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By Vincent C. Schaff
If you have a passion for your work, advocacy becomes second nature. My wife likes to tell the story of my “Cracker Barrel presentation.” We were on vacation sitting next to a large family group of about 12 people having breakfast. In the course of their meal, a conversation started regarding study abroad and Semester at Sea. I went out to my car, grabbed some materials and handed them out to the group and answered their questions. You can’t pass up those opportunities.

On the final day of our Region XI Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire last month, I was at our registration table when one of our team members informed us he had just met Newt Gingrich in the hotel lobby. Curious, I headed down the hallway and found the Gingrich party had set up in one of the rooms we had used for the conference.

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During the month of November, New Hampshire often receives attention for being one of the first states to hold presidential primaries, but this month international educators focused their attention on the city of Manchester as host to the 2011 Region XI Conference. Boasting more than 530 attendees (one of the largest conferences for the region on record), Manchester welcomed participants to the conference with scintillating sessions, timely training, notable networking, and warm weather.

Exhibitors weren’t deterred by having their tables in a renovated “armory,” and discussions were held over wonderful food and beverage. John Diezel, a 2011 Region XI award winner, along with advocacy-focused colleagues including current Region XI Chair Vince Schaff, presented sessions on region-based advocacy efforts and provided many opportunities for Region XI professionals to learn grassroots skills to take back to their campuses. Region XI’s leadership team has demonstrated a strong commitment to advocacy efforts;  it will be a region to watch as it develops funding models for individuals in the field as well as resources and networks for information sharing. There was also a very well attended session on social media with a “how to” approach. Tweets were tweeted, blogs were written and followed, and “to friend or not to friend” was discussed. Perhaps even I learned a nugget or two about my “social” presence.

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With nearly 375 attendees, Region IV’s conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, November 12-15, bested its previous attendance record of 250 by nearly 100 participants. Cedar Rapids’ central location in the Midwest region drew not only a large drive-in NAFSA crowd, but also nearly 20 percent nonmembers and a large numbers of students from international education programs at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Minnesota.

Region IV Chair John Wilkerson credits both location and the program with this increase in numbers. “We had a large number of session proposals, which allowed us to construct a truly substantive program. In addition, we added poster sessions, which allowed more people to present at our conference.”

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I had the pleasure of spending the past week at the biregional I/XII conference in Reno/Sparks, Nevada. What better way to visit Nevada for the first time than with nearly 600 other NAFSAns?

The program was chock full of important information, new ideas, knowledge-sharing opportunities, and varied perspectives. The hospitality committee provided wonderful networking opportunities and time just to get to know each other, including a restaurant hop, a social mixer, karaoke night, and a pub crawl. Wednesday’s karaoke was a hit not only with NAFSAns, but also with some of the other hotel and casino guests. Many hidden talents came to light that night!

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Imagine a conference in a wooded setting on a lake, with opportunities not only to engage with others through workshops, sessions, and exhibitor offerings, but also to enjoy S’mores around a fire pit and reflect on ways to make a real difference in the world.

The Region X conference, which took place November 6-8 at The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, New York, was just that. Hundreds of participants from New Jersey and New York, including exhibitors from across the United States as well as Europe, Australia, and Nicaragua, came together to focus on Global Reflections, Local ConneXtions. The 2011 conference brought together international educators 10 years after the devastating events of 9/11 that had a particularly strong impact on Region X.

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Region VI ConferenceBy Frank J. Merendino
Region VI State Rep for Ohio

As usual, this year’s Region VI conference, held in Louisville, was a whirlwind of sessions, networking opportunities, luncheons, guest speakers, and, of course, the chance to connect with fellow international educators. It is incredibly rewarding to share stories with colleagues you haven’t seen in a year, have a discussion with others who understand the many acronyms we use, or play the “where do I know you from?” game. I always return to the office after the regional conference with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm.

This year was especially invigorating for a number of reasons. We had an incredible turnout at the Newcomer’s Orientation Breakfast this year, which I think is a testament to the increased interest and professionalism in the field. As always, there were many packed sessions that were standing room only. The members of Trainer Corps need to be recognized for all that they do administering the preconference workshops. Similarly, the conference wouldn’t run as smoothly as it did without the army of volunteers that helped out with conference evaluations, greeting conference attendees, and doing whatever else was asked of them.

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Region II ConferenceThe Region V team made a number of changes to the conference program that proved to be quite popular with conference attendees this year. By extending the day slightly and shortening breaks, they were able to add two additional timeslots to the program resulting in 16 additional sessions. They also offered three special events which allowed attendees to bond outside of sessions and added a nice cross cultural tie-in for those that participated. Attendees were able to select from a Vietnamese cooking class, dinner and discussion with a local Amish family, and a wine tasting. One attendee who participated in the Amish dinner described the food as “beyond good” and reported that the conversation was so insightful that the event ran over by 45 minutes.

Conference attendance surpassed last year’s numbers with approximately 12% of the attendees attending for the first-time. When regional chair, Jim Crawley asked how many of the first-timers had entered the field within the past year, the vast majority of first-timers raised their hands. The exciting news is that many of those that raised their hands touched base with members of the regional team and other NAFSA leaders asking how they could get further involved in NAFSA. At the conference luncheon, Jim Hammerschmidt from the University of Illinois at Chicago received this year’s Patti Jones Award.

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By Maria Sulima and Michael Feighner
Philadelphia hosted NAFSA’s Region VIII conference last week, and over 500 people registered for the event which took place at the Loews Hotel. We enjoyed talking to all of the members that visited our booth, but being relatively new to NAFSA ourselves, we got a kick out of seeing all of the purple “First Timer” ribbons on attendees’ badges. It was great talking to new NAFSAns about what they came to see at the conference and what they hope to get out of their membership.

The newcomers’ sessions got high praise for giving first-time attendees a glimpse into all of NAFSA’s networks and resources. Hopefully they weren’t too confused by all of the NAFSA acronyms (confession: we don’t have them memorized yet either). With all of the exhibitors, networking opportunities, informative sessions, and other events, Region VIII did a great job introducing new members into the community and giving them the tools to succeed in the field of international education.

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By Gail Hochhauser
Reaching Higher: Elevating Internationalization in Education alludes to the skyscraper towering over Oklahoma City as well as the vision of Glenn Freeman, the Region III chair who passed away suddenly on June 5. The Region III team drew together—especially under the leadership of chair-stream Samanthia Slaight, Claudia Graves, and Olga Grieco, and conference planner Brenda Robati—to put on a wonderful conference, a tribute to Glenn, October 24-27, in Oklahoma City.

More than 400 attendees, many of them newcomers, attended sessions and workshops and enjoyed western hospitality, including an evening at the Oklahoma History Museum (did you know that Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state and that Will Rogers was Native American?). An exciting Balloon Pop, sponsored by The Language Company, raised nearly $800 for the new Glenn Freeman first-time Travel Scholarships.

Read more updates from the 2011 regional conferences.


Gail Hochhauser is the senior director for Fundraising and Foundation Relations.

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