I’ve been a member of the Association for a long time and at the Houston conference two weeks ago , it was especially exciting to find that of the more than 8,000 attendees, over 2,000 were there for the first time! So while a bit different from my posts to-date, I wanted to say how energized I was from my conversations with several young professionals whom I talked with. NAFSA has created a new structure to foster “formal” mentoring relationships during the conference week.
At a time when the global workforce is so fragile in many fields, I’d say our field is strong. Of course, in the U.S., public higher education has and continues to be at the mercy of weakened state economies. A relatively small number of senior staff at academic institutions -along with representatives of private sector companies providing support to the education abroad community, attend numerous conferences throughout the year. But for newcomers, those just out of grad school or close to completing their studies, international students interested in finding a niche opportunity in their home country’s higher ed community, and professionals transitioning into the education field, attending a major global conference like NAFSA presents a special opportunity. It’s the one meeting in a year that these young professionals look forward to with much anticipation. And because the meeting is so large, they must carefully and purposefully devise a networking strategy to meet individuals and network with institutions and organizations –good practice for their job searches in the “real” world!
As corny as it sounds, NAFSA fosters a feeling of being part of an exciting interactive and generous global community for a week – a kind of professional bubble which supports easy conversation, inter-generational networking and exchange of information and the sharing of best practices in every area of our professional lives.
It’s really an amazing experience to be in a public space that is such a global commons. I came away, at a time when more and more colleagues of a certain generation are now retiring, feeling that the future is bright for the international education community. NAFSA is a great incubator of ideas and is setting the stage for the emergence of new leaders around the world…