St. Louis: Hosting NAFSA Annual Conference and Attracting Immigrant Talent

St. Louis, Missouri, a city with a population of nearly 315,000 will see an influx of 10,000 international education professionals from across the world in the last week of May. The event is annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators. It brings together professionals working with universities and related organizations and offers them networking and educational opportunities under several tracks including International Education Leadership, International Enrollment Management, International Student & Scholar Services, Teaching Learning and Scholarship and Education Abroad.

I will be attending the conference and chairing two sessions on Wednesday the 29th. Here are the details:

1. Transnational Education: Models and Measures of Success
This session offers compare perspectives from the US, the UK, and Australia on models of delivering transnational education and how they define and measure success. Co-presenters are :

  • Joe Chicharo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (International), University of Wollongong
  • Christopher Hill, Director of Research Training and Academic Development Knowledge Without Borders Network, Convenor Academic Director PGCHE University of Nottingham, Malaysia
  • Grant Chapman, AVP Academic Affairs/Director of International Programs, Webster University (again headquartered in St. Louis)

2. International Recruitment: Strategic Choices for Delivering Results
This session compares international student recruitment from Australia, Germany, the UK, and the US on making those tough strategic choices that deliver results within constraints. Co-presenters are :

  • Martin Bickl, Director of the International Office, Goethe University Frankfurt
  • Andrew Disbury, Director of the International Office, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Sharyn Maskell, Director, International & Marketing Services at Queensland University of Technology
St. Louis is also in news for another reason related to international education–Immigration and Innovation Initiative which aims to “Significantly growing our population of foreign-born residents is an economic imperative for the St. Louis.” A recent report  entitled “The Economic Impact of Immigration on St. Louis” highlighted following facts:
  • “The region’s relative scarcity of immigrants largely explains our poor economic growth, and the St. Louis metro’s fall from the 10th largest MSA in 1970 in the U.S. to 18 in population and 20 in economic output in 2010.
  • If St. Louis had experienced inflows of immigrants similar to other large metros, income growth would have been 4-7% greater, and the region’s income would be 7-11% larger.
  • Encouraging an inflow of foreign-born to match other large metros would increase job growth 4-5%; thus, the region’s lack of immigration explains in large part its poor job creation engine.
  • Immigrants are 60% more likely to be entrepreneurs in the region, and therefore, the relative lack of immigrants is a major factor in explaining the region’s shortage of new business startups.”

A related article in the Wall Street Journal noted that the Rust Belt, a region historically strong in manufacturing which was also a leading destination for immigrants a century ago is “betting that attracting foreign-born residents can spur business creation and revive neighborhoods.”  It adds that “Between 2000 and 2011, the Rust Belt…was home to 18 of the 25 fastest-shrinking cities in the U.S. Their proportion of foreign-born residents, moreover, lagged well behind the national average of about 13%, with less than 5% in some cities.”

The developments in the Rust Belt in general and the St. Louis in particular align with the debate on the comprehensive immigration reform in the US,  which also plans to encourage high skill migration by attracting, retaining and integrating global talent.

Next week will surely be exciting for St. Louis with NAFSA conference, however, it would also be interesting to see if city’s Immigrant & Innovation Initiative can make it a model for other states in the US.

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