Albright & Powell to Speak at the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference: Say What?

What Were They Thinking?

My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground on which I stand.

The Buddha’s Fifth Remembrance from his Five Remembrances (PDF download)

I’m pretty sure What Were They Thinking? is going to be the subtitle of an article about the morally odious decision to invite Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell to speak at the 2019 annual conference of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which takes place in late May, fittingly, in Washington, D.C.  The last time I used this phrase was when I first wrote about the disastrous appointment of Bob Kerrey as chairman of the Fulbright University Vietnam board of trustees in 2016.  I had the exact same gut reaction to this message, which appeared in my inbox earlier this year.  

Dr. Madeleine K. Albright and General Colin L. Powell to Speak at NAFSA 2019

NAFSA is pleased to announce that Dr. Madeleine K. Albright and General Colin L. Powell (retired) will be the Opening Plenary of the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference & Expo in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, May 28.

unnamedAs one of the world’s most respected diplomats, Dr. Madeleine K. Albright, continues to advocate for democracy and human rights across the world, while also championing the important impact international relations and educational exchanges have on the United States today. In 1997 under President Bill Clinton, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government.

unnamed (1)General Colin L. Powell, USA (retired) has devoted his life to public service having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations. Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State and led the State Department in major efforts to address and solve regional and civil conflicts throughout the world. He also worked at the forefront of American efforts to advance economic and social development worldwide.

Say it ain’t so, NAFSA!  Surely, you can do better than the likes of Albright and Powell.  As one colleague opined, “They’re aiming to impress NAFSA attendees with Albright and Powell’s ‘star power’, lies and callousness notwithstanding.  You can bet your bottom dollar that no questions from the audience that are not pre-screened will be taken.”  Yes, yes, sadly but not surprisingly.  

If you know anything about the background of “one of the world’s most respected diplomats” and someone who “has devoted his life to public service having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations,” you know that I will highlight at least some of the following issues:  

Albright, a nationally televised interview, and 500,000 Iraqi children who died because of US-led sanctions against that country.  Death due to malnutrition and disease falls into the category of “ultimate human rights violation,” doesn’t it?  In the same role, Albright did her utmost to prevent the UN from entering Rwanda to prevent the genocide that occurred in spring 1994.  She is a junior varsity member of Team USA.  

Powell, weapons of mass destruction, Iraq, the UN, and some shocking examples from his time as a high-ranking Army officer in the US war in Viet Nam.   He is a varsity member of Team USA.  

If the truth can hurt, the truth about the two of them, in particular, Colin Powell, is especially painful.  

Two questions to ponder between now and then:  

  1. With a rather large pool of outstanding speakers spanning the globe who are doing cutting-edge work in their fields, why did NAFSA choose Albright and Powell?  
  2. What do these two have to offer to a group of international educators from the US and around the world, aside from what not to say and do, i.e., their status as negative role models?  

Stay tuned! 

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Senior Spotlight: Trang Quỳnh “Tracy” Đào Đỗ Enrolling at Barnard College

Congratulations to Ms. Trang “Tracy” Đào Đỗ for her admission to Barnard College, Columbia University.  Trang is one of many students that my company, Capstone Vietnam, has helped study in the US and other her countries in the past decade.  Below is an announcement that appeared in a recent issue of the Léman Manhattan Preparatory School newsletter.


trang lemanAs President of the Boarding Student Government and the Asian Culture Club, a member of the National Honor Society, a Student Ambassador, and a full IB Diploma Candidate, Tracy has embraced a variety of leadership rolls and activities in her time at Léman. “The most important thing I’ve learned from these rolls is confidence,” she says, “Before I came to Léman, I had difficulty speaking up and expressing myself, but Léman has made me more comfortable in my own skin and I think I’ve grown as a person.”

She is most proud of her achievements as a founding member of the Asian Culture Club. “We wrote a letter asking Mr. Spezzano if we could have chopsticks in the café, and it makes me feel good seeing people use them. It’s a small thing that makes Asian students feel at home. I love teaching and learning from other people about different cultures, which is why I’m grateful to be a part of such an international community,” she says.

She feels that she will continue to grow and learn in the fall when she enrolls at Barnard College, ranked #25 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News and World Report, where she plans to major in Biology. “I grew up in Vietnam, where women aren’t taught to be outspoken and opinionated. I think going to an all-women’s school will help me continue to become more successful,” she says.

One of the main reasons her family chose Léman when they were looking for a school in the US was the International Baccalaureate Programme. “I’m happy with the IB because we focus on collaborative projects and creative writing and it emphasizes critical thinking,” which she feels will be helpful in college.

Although she’s looking forward to graduation, she will miss the Léman community. “Léman is very special because it is such a diverse community,” she says, “Everyone is different but also very open-minded. I feel like I’ve learned something from every person I’ve met here.”

Congratulations, Tracy! We know you’ll be successful at Barnard and beyond!

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“Ethical agents should support direct student admissions”

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Students occasionally ask one co-author, who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005, whether or not they can apply directly. The answer is an enthusiastic ‘Yes’, if they feel sufficiently confident.

The original working title, Imagine a World Without Agents, We Wonder If You Can – with a grateful nod to John Lennon – was probably too long, which is why the editor changed it to Ethical agents should support direct student admissions.  (Yes, Imagine was intended to be provocative but not clickbait. :-)) 

Actually, Eddie West and I are referring not only to agents but to everyone involved in international student recruitment.  While direct application is not for everyone, as we point out, it is a positive trend we see in Viet Nam and elsewhere among certain types of students.

This article is the third in a trilogy about what we identify as the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment.  The other two – in descending chronological order – are as follows:

International recruitment – Are education agents welcome? (8.3.19)

An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment (26.10.18)

We’ll be discussing these issues at NAFSA at two events, the first an unofficial seminar and the second a general session.  Follow this link for more information, including online registration for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Mark Ashwill @ NAFSA 2019

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Dear Friends & Colleagues,

I’m excited to inform you that I’ll be participating in four (4) events at the NAFSA 2019 annual conference in late May in Washington, D.C., listed below in descending chronological order.  Note:  Online registration is required for the two seminars.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA


4th Annual Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar at NAFSA 2019 (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27th from 1-3 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

The Viet Nam Recruitment Seminar consists of a comprehensive overview of current market conditions, recruitment tools and techniques, and different types of recruitment strategies, plus plenty of time for Q&A.  These are challenging times for international student recruitment, including in Viet Nam, with a rapidly changing market and more competition than ever. While more Vietnamese students are opting to study overseas, a perfect storm has been brewing for some host countries, combined with a growing list of positives and pull factors for others.

The reason I began offering this free seminar starting in 2016 in Denver was that I noticed that Viet Nam, a strategically important country, was underrepresented, if represented at all, at NAFSA annual conferences.  This year is no exception.  Enter “Vietnam” in a keyword search in the conference schedule and let me know what you find.  

Please follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Ethical Commissions-Based Recruitment: The Need for a New Way (unofficial, pre-conference event on Monday, May 27 from 3:30-5 p.m. in Washington, D.C.)

Join me, Eddie West, assistant dean, UC Berkeley Extension, and executive director, international programs, and former director of international initiatives at the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), and Lindsay Addington, director of global engagement at NACAC, for a brief presentation and collective exploration of ways to improve upon the current flawed model of agency-based international student recruitment. 

The raison d’être for this seminar is a statement Eddie and I made in an October 2018 University World News article entitled An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment

The fatal flaw in commissioned recruitment is that most agents prioritise their partner schools’ interests over those of the students and parents they advise. This means that most guide or, in many cases, drive students to their partner schools because of the gold (commission) at the end of the rainbow (enrolment process). 

The purpose is not to debate the merits of commissions-based recruitment but to bring together colleagues who are interested in exploring ways in which it can be made more ethical to the benefit of international students and their parents, in addition to admitting institutions and education agents. 

Follow this link for more information and online registration.  A heartfelt thanks to Study in the USA for its sponsorship.  


Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?  (Wednesday, May 29 from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)

AC19_Email_Sigs_PresenterJoin me, Eddie West, session chair and executive director, international programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, director, international programs, California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  
 
Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract and the learning objectives.  This is a condensed version of the Monday seminar.  


Vietnamese Student Recruitment in Challenging Times  (Wednesday, May 29 from 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Model Practices in International Enrollment Management Poster Fair)

Here’s the password-protected session page with resources.  It will be made available to those who stop by.

Abstract

Gain knowledge and insights from a foreign international educator and education entrepreneur who has lived and worked in Viet Nam since 2005. This poster session will focus on how to create and implement a proactive recruitment strategy that includes commission-based recruitment, armchair tools and techniques, and in country activities.

Poster Content: Takeaways

1) an update on the status of young Vietnamese studying overseas, including information changes in country preference;
2) an inventory and description of various non-commission-based recruitment tools and techniques; and
3) some information and caveats about commissions-based recruitment.

Learning Objectives

1) Learn about recent facts, figures, and trends related to Vietnamese students studying overseas at both the secondary and postsecondary levels;
2) learn about a wide variety of recruitment tools and techniques, most unrelated to the use of education agents;
3) be well-positioned to either improve fine-tune an existing recruitment strategy or create a new one.  

Commissions-Based International Student Recruitment Agents: Is There a Better Way?

Wednesday, May 29, 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

 

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If you’re planning to attend the 2019 annual conference of NAFSA:  Association of International Educators in Washington, D.C. and you’re interested in this topic, mark your conference calendar!  

Join me, Eddie West, session chair and Executive Director, International Programs, University of California-Berkeley Extension, and Mayumi Kowta, Director, International Programs California State University Channel Islands, for a lively discussion about how the “fatal flaw” in commissions-based recruitment can be addressed.  For more information about this, check out a 10-18 article that Eddie and I wrote, An ethical approach to commissions-based recruitment.  

Follow this link to see the official conference description of our session, including the abstract (also below) and the learning objectives.  

More colleges and universities are contracting with commissions-based student recruitment agents than ever before. This development is great news for agents, and mostly good news for their partner schools. But for students being advised by agents the experience encompasses the good, the bad, and the ugly. Can we do better?

Shalom (שלום), MAA

 

“The shift of Vietnamese students to Canada marches on”

20190320083629583_5Here is my latest essay for University World News.  If you like the teaser below, follow this link to read the article in its entirety.  This is a follow-up to an April 2018 article I wrote entitled Vietnamese students look at the US and head north (editor’s title).  

I placed a gentleman’s bet with myself that the number of young Vietnamese studying in Canada would top 20,000 last year. Based on the latest statistics for 2018 released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, it looks like I won, much to the dismay of Canada’s main friendly competitor for Vietnamese students, the United States of America. 

Shalom (שלום), MAA

“International education ‘number one priority’ for US bureau”

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At the February IIE Summit 2019, Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), US State Department, told her audience that international education is the #1 priority for ECA.  Her deputy, Caroline Casagrande, confirmed that “additional resources” have been obtained to promote outbound and inbound study abroad.  What “additional resources,” I wonder? 

In terms of inbound students, I’m afraid the horse has left the barn and that whatever support the US State Department has to offer is too little, too late.  The elephant in the room of the IIE Summit was, of course, Donald Trump and MAGA, who really don’t care about international students, at best.  Naturally, no one at IIE can say that because one of the golden rules in the NGO world is “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”  Since IIE received 78.2% of its 2017 revenue from “government grants,” that’s a lot of food!  (That percentage was once heading south in the interest of diversification, i.e., don’t put too many of your budgetary eggs in one basket – to the credit of IIE – but I guess some things are not meant to be.)  

In fact, the view of the vocal nativist minority may shift from not caring to wanting to fewer international students to study in the US following in the footsteps of a recent survey in Australia in which 54% of the respondents, admittedly barely a simple majority, thought that international student numbers should not be increased.  

If international education is going to be the “number one priority” for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), it is probably in word only.  As usual, US educational institutions are on their own and, in fact, are saddled with the additional burden of having to work against the negatives that have piled up during the Trump administration in- and outside the Beltway.  

Following a point/counterpoint format, here are some additional observations:

“We face growing international competition to attract the world’s globally mobile students. While we are already making great strides to respond to these new challenges, we must step up our game.”  What are the “great strides” ECA is making, pray tell?

“At ECA our goals are clear,” said Royce, underlining that US government is committed to both outbound and inbound exchanges – and explaining that president Donald Trump began penning letters to all US Department of State exchange participants in 2018.  A symbolic act that, in Trump’s case, only means he likes to see his name appear in as many documents as possible.

ECA also “actively supports” America’s competitive education advantage through its Education USA network, which operates in 180 countries, with 435 centres and 550 advisors to promote American colleges and universities abroad, she reminded.  While EducationUSA is useful, it is hardly a competitive advantage.  On a related issue, I hope ECA thinks long and hard about its decision to work with education agents, embraced by the pro-agent crowd but not by EducationUSA in the field.    

However, cost is a “leading reason that students decide not to pursue US study” Royce said, and ECA “wants to raise awareness abroad that there are study options at many price points”.  Cost is one of many factors contributing to the steady decline of international students choosing the USA as an overseas study destination.  Others include gun violence, the widespread perception that the US is not as open and welcoming as it once was and, in the case of countries, Trump himself, who has insulted a long and growing list of peoples and countries.    

The fact that IIE awarded ECA the first centennial medal is yet another example of that organization kissing the hand that feeds, given how much of IIE’s budget still comes from the US State Department.  

Finally, as with the rhetorical open arms embrace of education agents, announced by the same two ECA political appointees last December, we’ll have to wait and see if they’re planning to walk the walk.  If so, what will the impact be, if any?  I won’t hold my breath.  The latest is that EducationUSA may provide training to education agents.  That could be a good thing if it’s done in the right way and agents are probibited from using text or images from such events in an attempt at honor by association.  As mentioned in a recent co-authored article, the devil is in the details.  

Postscript:  Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond, the UK government has published a new International Education Strategy that outlines “plans to increase students numbers and income generated from international education.”  While I’d prefer less emphasis be placed on the revenue benefit of hosting large numbers of international students, I understand that’s the key selling point for most policymakers.  Having said that, the UK and other governments that value international students have something that the US government does not currently have – a STRATEGY.  

Shalom (שלום), MAA