Kelly Zuniga, IEM ’15

NAFSA Region XII Conference

March 21, 2015

It became very clear to me after attending the NAFSA Region XII conference in Portland, Oregon the extent to which our faculty is preparing us to be experts in the International Education field. The sessions I attended at the conference were informative, but I discovered that I had already been exposed to most of the topics and issues through lectures or coursework. In some cases, I felt as if I could have co-presented on the topic myself. As a result, I was able to engage in meaningful discussions with professionals albeit my shorter work experience, and foster a positive image of the IEM program and MIIS.

One session, in particular, had a large impact. I attended a discussion on advocacy in the area of international education. Previously, I had considered my interest in immigration reform as a separate component from my professional interests – it had never occurred to me, though obvious now, that international educators are directly affected by immigration legislation. This elusive, obvious fact became clear to me after hearing Roger Fong’s presentation. Mr. Fong described how he connected with his local representative and senators in Hawaii to lobby for more favorable legislation to attract and retain talented international students and scholars. After the presentation, I spoke to Mr. Fong about my interests and he recommended that I attend NAFSA Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. I am grateful for his recommendation, because I attended the conference this past week and was able to network with international educators across the country and speak to my California representatives on Capitol Hill.

As I alluded to in the previous paragraph, the networking value of the conference was incredible. First off, international education professionals are one of the kindest groups of people I have ever met. Many offered their help, agreed to an informational interview, or connected me with others in the field. I am still in touch with some of the people I met, and I will reach out to others as I search for a practicum. Though there are many other examples, one of my IEM colleagues connected with the director of international student services at the University of California San Diego. She is currently working with them on a client project and was offered a practicum in the fall.

I was thrilled to attend the regional conference in Portland, Oregon, and I am deeply grateful for the support from Student Services and the Student Council that made this opportunity possible. Thanks to the conference, I am more aware of the value of the IEM program, I feel more informed about the trends in the international education field, and I have built relationships with others in the field.

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