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Eyes on NAFSA: Highlights from the LA Conference

With so many university students going on very short programs these days, it is at least encouraging that there are efforts to make these programs more than just a tour. Many US university students on these short programs are experiencing another country and culture for the very first time, while others with some experience abroad are taking advantage of an interesting trip. Somewhere along the line in the Redefining Global Learning: Essential Outcomes of Liberal Education session, the blog Smart Study Abroad was recommended as a good example of what faculty are trying to do with their short (and longer) term study abroad programs. But most of the session was about bring a global perspective to the overall educational program of the university: a “liberal education” or a “core curriculum” that includes courses from various disciplines, each with its own approach to “global.” I was especially fascinated with the “Global Studies Minor” that a number of campuses are organizing as multidisciplinary programs, notably SUNY Binghamton.

A Thursday morning seminar on Legitimizing Internationalization on Our Campuses Through Research was especially worthwhile, in my view, as it highlighted some of the institutional issues that color research efforts and international education programs on campus. Some interesting research by Ji-Yeung Jang led the program looked at measures of institutional program quality and internationalization. As she pointed out, the broad conclusions she drew need several footnotes and lots of context, but we came away with the feeling that either some of the things we are doing don’t really work, or else we really don’t know how to measure success. A particular quote left a small lump in my throat when Rick  Sutton noted,

“Research is a luxury for most international educators.”  All research in the context of institutions should be designed to influence policy and must be political, strategic, accurate and honest.

Finally, a cultural note about the conference itself. NAFSA’s call for presentations demands that we the presenters engage the audience because “A common thread of engagement and interactivity runs through the ways adults learn most effectively. Your proposal must describe how you will include audience engagement and interaction in your session or workshop. Some ideas for interactive delivery are included in these guidelines.” One of the evaluation questions for each session asks the audience to rate their satisfaction with the amount of interaction and time for questions. So every presenter is somehow bound to ask questions of the audience. Like many others did, at a session on Indicators for Mapping Internationalization,  Uwe Brandenburg and his team gamely asked the audience questions beginning with “How many of you think . . .” and hoped to draw conclusions from this for our enlightenment. But at 8:00 am on the last day of the conference, it seemed that many or most members of the audience were “lurking” and not raising their hands to answer any of the questions. I was one of them because I don’t work for a university and sometimes without enough time to ponder a question, I don’t really know what I think. And with the standard set up of 40-70 chairs facing a panel with a huge powerpoint on a screen to one side, everyone’s eyes tend to go to the jumbotron rather than to the presenter, leaving the poor presenters the awesome responsibility to be more charasmatic than their power points. In fact, Uwe Brandenburg was up to this challenge and is an engaging presenter and the topic was interesting. But I thought it was unfortunate that, in answer to an audience question, the presenters decided to conclude that their European institutions were somehow “behind” US universities in either internationalizing their campuses or measuring it when they clearly had a different approach.

My own sessions:

Cyber-Learning Courses to Enhance Study Abroad: Challenges and Opportunities. In this panel discussion, Michael Paige, Bruce La Brack, Gary Rhodes, and I highlighted some of the planning questions and dimensions to consider when trying to put together online courses to guide study abroad students. 

Poster session on the AFS Long Term Impact Study. Reports from this study and a “fact sheet” are available from http://www.afs.org/research.



1. Eyes on NAFSA Conference for Regions X & XI « Intercultural Eyes - November 6, 2009

[…] Related Post: Eyes on NAFSA […]

2. haris - November 8, 2010

i read your blog post regularly.you write very well.i want to inform if any one want study abroad then very good information.keep posting… regards from

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