Chelsea Lavallee, MAIEM/MPA ’17

The Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), Montreal

Conference Going for the IEM Student

March 1, 2016

Montreal 2016

Part of every student’s journey to graduation here at MIIS includes professional development, and what better way to prepare ourselves for our future careers, than to participate in a professional conference?  Well, that’s exactly what many IEM students were up to this past year! I had a chance to sit down with the following IEM students individually and we shared our conference-going experiences with each other:

Gabriella Forster NAFSA Region XII Annual Conference October 24 – November 1, 2015 Honolulu, HI
Alcide “Three” Guillory III NAFSA Region XII Northern District Conference March 20 – 21, 2016 Napa, CA
Rianna Robertson Diversity Abroad Conference April 3 – 5, 2016 Atlanta, GA
Ayako Yamada Monterey Bay Foreign Language Education Symposium (FLEDS) April 23, 2016 Monterey, CA
Chelsea Lavallee Association of International Education Administrators February 21 – 24, 2016 Montreal, Canada

It was remarkable to see both how valuable conference going was to everyone’s professional development and how well we all felt our IEM degree from MIIS was preparing us to enter the workforce and stay knowledgeable about current trends.

Gabriella and Three both attended NAFSA conferences. The conference Gabriella attended in Hawaii was for the entirety of NAFSA Region XII: California, Hawaii, the Pacific Islands and Nevada. Whereas the conference Three attended in Napa was for the Northern California District.  Interestingly, both Three and Gabriella discussed the benefits of attending a smaller conference. No where near the size of the NAFSA national conference, which attracts thousands, these two conferences are perfect opportunities to meet professionals in the geographic area surrounding MIIS.  Because the conference is more intimate, Gabriella said it was easy to talk to new people.  She was able to connect with practitioners who had surprising and interesting career paths: for example, she met the female director of the study abroad program at California Lutheran College who had her Ed.D and who also taught French courses on campus. Hearing about this expands the horizons of what we think is possible in our own careers.

In Napa, Three had the chance to get to know some of his “second-degree” connections, you know, those people with whom you have a mutual contact in common (or, those people you always want to “connect” with on LinkedIn). Napa’s opening night reception was a great chance to network with these individuals in a relaxed setting, that way, Three says, “you meet more people than only the people you came to the conference with, and you’re no longer in a room full of strangers when you attend the sessions.”  Also, there were a lot of MIIS IEM alumni there, and “they are happy to connect with you and share how they’re doing in the field.”

Rianna also attended and volunteered at a smaller conference, Diversity Abroad, in Atlanta, Georgia.  Not only is volunteering a great way to cut down on the expenses involved in attending a conference, but it helps you get to know the inner workings of the organization.  “If you are interested in diversity, best practices and how to facilitate the experiences of diverse student groups going abroad, this is an excellent conference to attend,” says Rianna, “it’s better than NAFSA if [diversity] is your focus because you are surrounded by practitioners who know and care about that idea.”  It’s grad student friendly but practitioner-focused and there is a Global Leadership Summit for high school students returning from abroad.  Plus, the founder of Diversity Abroad, Andrew Gordon, was on campus in the spring semester to present at the Education Abroad Management class.

Ayako and I had different roles in conference going; we had been the organizers behind the event.  Ayako became involved with FLEDS at the beginning of the year when she attended an information session about the conference led by the GSTILE faculty advisors. She was interested in language program administration and took an introductory TESOL/TFL course. “Organizing is great for newcomers,” she says, “they will learn a lot about organizing events and will have a different perspective…you get to see the other side of the conference.” IEM students can keep abreast of how topics such as digital learning tools and ICC contents are discussed in a context of language education and work closely with the students and professors from the GSTILE department on campus.

My experience with AIEA began in November when I applied to a posting on Zocalo for a conference intern position in Montreal.  From there I was interviewed and selected for the position, which entailed completing ICC training to better interact with conference attendees from all over the world, help with publicity, plan logistics and participate in weekly conference calls with the other interns and the organization team.  Being able to attend the AIEA conference was unique in that AIEA is a membership organization for mid to upper-level education administrators.  The sessions were full of practitioners who were essential in crafting and influencing the policies at their institutions surrounding internationalization, international student recruitment and international partnership building. Needless to say, it was fascinating to see my coursework come alive before my eyes,  and I would encourage anyone who is interested in policy and campus internationalization to intern or volunteer with AIEA next year in Washington DC.

Finally, no posting about conference going would be complete without a few practical tips from the IEM attendees about what to actually DO when you’re at the conference:

  • Gabriella: “DO NOT order more than 100 business cards, but have them! Have copies of your resume too, people are looking to hire, but don`t force your resume on someone either.  Additionally, make an effort to attend as many sessions as you are able to. You never know what ideas you might generate from attending a session!”
  • Three: “Just be human at them. We get so worked up about finding a job or how many business cards or resumes do I need? You can get overwhelmed. But it’s important to remember that the people at the conference are humans too, and what do you do with them? You engage them in conversation. So prepare the kind of topics you are interested in, not necessarily the kind of job you want from them.”
  • Rianna: “The conference posts the list of those attending online. Look up people to see who they are. Reach out beforehand and ask if they can meet with you. If they say no, at least you will be on their radar and you will see the universities out there that have [diversity] on their radar.”
  • Ayako: “Submit a proposal! The deadline is around the end of January. It’s good practice and could be about a Design and Assessment project or based on past experience or even marketing class.”
  • Me: Know why you’re there and be able to articulate that to others.  So many times people would ask me specifically what I was interested in. I think I responded differently every time, and that was OK, especially because I was learning about so many new and interesting things while I was there. But in the future, I would like to hit on my specific interests in education policy and ethics in internationalization and learn how other people in the field are viewing those issues.

Thanks everyone for sharing your conference going stories! And thank you to the MIIS Conference Fund and Immersive Learning Fund for providing the means for many of us to make these experiences a reality.

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