With 10,000 members NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. NAFSA annual conference typically attracts over 8,000 professionals. [This year’s conference will take place in Denver, CO from May 29 to June 3. I’m especially looking forward to it as I earned my PhD from University of Denver.]
Managing an association of this size and scope requires strong strategic planning and implementation in collaboration with members and association staff. NAFSA achieves this very effectively through its staff, board and volunteer leaders.
A large number of NAFSA members volunteer each year to help create and disseminate knowledge, influence public policy, and maintain a strong organization. These leaders serve on committees, knowledge communities, and task forces. At the same time, serving in a leadership capacity for the association offers a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth.
Last week, I was in DC as a part of my volunteer leadership role (yes, that snowstorm week and staff and members did a great job in planning and improvising with all the logistics). I have been attending and presenting at NAFSA for several years and in 2014 I was elected to the member-leader Chair stream of International Education Leadership Knowledge Community ( IEL KC). IEL KC supports aspiring, new and experienced senior international officers who provide the vision and build commitment for comprehensive internationalization. IEL KC plans and delivers a diverse set of sessions, workshops, networking opportunities, and resources for senior leaders, including Hot Trends for SIOs and the Symposium on Leadership. [Here is a piece from International Educator on SIOs]
As I continue into my third year as a part of the Chair stream, I found my experience as a volunteer leader to be very fulfilling. It provided an excellent opportunity of learning from the colleagues who are committed to and passionate about making an impact in the field of international education and bring diverse background and expertise to the team. I would encourage international educators to get involved and lead. Here is a photo from the opening meeting with President Fanta Aw addressing new and returning volunteer leaders for 2016 during the Washington Leadership Meeting.
While there are many resources on NAFSA website, here are two resources I would like to highlight:
- Internationalization strategies increasingly need to be evidence-driven and data-informed. NAFSA Research Connections summarizes new research and provides opportunities for discussion and applications.
- For international students, the uncertainty with STEM OPT is a hot topic. NAFSA page on F-1 STEM optional practical training (OPT) provides regular updates to IEM/ISSS professionals.
Look forward to Denver 2016.
– Dr. Rahul Choudaha