Reflections on NAFSA 2017

July 17, 2017

This May, API attended the annual NAFSA conference in Los Angeles, California. NAFSA the Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. NAFSA boasts 10,000 members who are located at more than 3,500 institutions worldwide, in over 150 countries.

We interviewed API attendees about their most memorable highlights, observations, and impressions of NAFSA 2017. This year is especially important to API as we are celebrating our 20th birthday. To honor this, API hosted a reception celebrating the ever-changing and inspirational industry of international education that has provided a continuous outlet for transformation and self-discovery all around the globe!

“After hearing about NAFSA for many years, I was very excited to have the opportunity to experience it for myself this year as a first-time attendee. It was truly an impressive event, with thousands of individuals from all over the world connecting, communicating, and collaborating in the name of international education. I was able to gain a broader understanding of the field at large and further appreciate how the work we do at API plays such a significant role in an even greater mission. Attending NAFSA in API’s 20th anniversary year was especially meaningful to me as well. I enjoyed celebrating the profound work we do and how far we’ve come in changing the world in our own unique way. It was a special time with colleagues and friends who all share a common passion for transformative experiences through international education.” -Paige Clark, Director of Student Services

Paige Clark, Director of Student Services

“I look forward to attending NAFSA every year! It’s an incredible opportunity to network with domestic and international partners. I am always inspired by the number of people that come from around the world (nearly 10,000!) to share experiences, to give advice, to inspire, and to connect. From new professionals to seasoned veterans in the field– the conference is full of knowledge and passion. This year was particularly special because API was celebrating our 20th anniversary! We hosted a beautiful reception in downtown LA to honor our affiliate partners who continue to support API’s vision and desire to transform lives through international experiences. It was an experience I will never forget!” – Ilene Tillman, Senior Director of University Relations and Outreach

Ilene Tillman, Senior Director of University Relations and Outreach

“NAFSA is one of my favorite times of year- the exhilaration of being in the midst of 10,000 colleagues who each share a personal connection to the transformative experience of living and learning in another culture isn’t replicated on this scale anywhere else in the world. As a NAFSA member leader currently serving on the EAKC leadership team, I’ve had the privilege to serve the field that’s given me so much by listening intently to the needs and challenges of the education abroad membership and connecting those needs to resources and talents of colleagues in the field. Our field is about connection- connecting participants to life transforming experiences, connecting faculty and administration to the learning outcomes of international engagement and experience, and connecting colleagues to professional development opportunities and ways to access resources to share their diverse voices and stories. I found connections at every turn during this conference. Whether it was in the EAKC leadership meetings prior to the start of NAFSA, the meetings with the NAFSA Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee that I work with closely, the meetings with our institutional partners across the US or the workshops and sessions I presented, I enjoyed learning from colleagues at every opportunity.

I served as the lead trainer for the Current Topic Workshop, Current Trends in Education Abroad Alumni Programming, a 4-hour dive into the world of supporting our returned education abroad students on campus. As some of our institutional partners struggle with returnee engagement and others are capitalizing on their specific student profile and established values and goals for the student learning experience, this workshop served as a bridge and learning opportunity for those interested in investing in returned students. In case you missed the workshop, you can catch it at the Region III conference in the fall (in San Antonio, TX) AND you can keep an eye out for NAFSA’s updated “Back In The USA” publication that I am co-authoring which will be released sometime in 2018. I served as a panelist on the session, Using Social Media To Support Participant Learning Abroad, an opportunity for colleagues to explore multiple models of potential engagement with students through digital learning opportunities and structured engagement with social media. I shared details of API’s new Learning and Engagement Digital Badge program as well as how our blog manager, Alyssa Neville, works intentionally with API participants to shape their voice and refine their stories to publish on our award-winning API blog. I shared how API looks beyond marketing and promotional opportunities when it comes to online environments and how we frame intentional learning opportunities in this digital space (one our participants know well) to reaffirm API’s mission and core values of investing in participant learning and guiding that experience overseas.” – Chelsea Kindred, Director of Alumni Development and Research

Chelsea Kindred, Director of Alumni Development and Research

“The highlight of the week for me was definitely the API reception, and the celebration of our 20 years as an organization. It was great being able to network with so many of our affiliate institutions. It’s thanks to them and their support that we will continue to be around for another 20 years, so it was a wonderful way to say thank you. I also attended a session conducted by Emelee Volden from UW-La Crosse that was really interesting. It was about how to start an office from the ground up, and how to build a culture for study abroad on your campus. She and the other presenters provided some really great information, and I am sure that especially for newer professionals in the field it was very helpful. Overall I’d have to say that this was one of my favorite NAFSAs.” – Jason Kouba, Senior Regional Director for University Relations and Outreach

Jason Kouba, Senior Regional Director for University Relations and Outreach

“As a first timer at the Annual NAFSA conference in LA I was blown away– it was incredible the amount of passion and drive that rang through the Expo Hall. The week was full of re-energizing conversations, creative ideas and many laughs with close new friends, close colleagues and my API family. NAFSA is exhausting, but it is a week to celebrate everything that was done this year and start the great plans for next year!” – Hannah Olevson,University Relations and Outreach Coordinator

Hannah Olevson,University Relations and Outreach Coordinator


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