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AIEA 2024 Reflections: Tend to the Roots

AIEA 2024 Reflections


I’ll be honest with you, the AIEA 2024 conference produced a tremendous number of insights from so many leaders in our field. It has been a challenge reducing, selecting, and summarizing those I think will be most valuable for you. But sharing great ideas is central to why we publish this blog, so today I’m narrowing down a set of seemingly disparate ideas and tying them together, so they are valuable, actionable, and transferrable to you.  

Hey, use the comments below to let me know if I succeeded. 

For the observant, there is SO very much to take back to your desk from these gatherings. And since we had three Intead staff present and presenting at AIEA 2024, we came away with a lot.  

Events you won’t want to miss:

“Shattering Accessibility Limits in Digital Learning,” a Chronicle of Higher Ed-hosted webinar, featuring Gallaudet President Roberta Cordano and ansrsource CEO Rajiv Narayana. Register here. (All registrants will receive the recording even if they cannot attend. ASL interpreters will be present.)

The AIRC Spring Symposium on April 30. This one-day, in-person event in beautiful Niagara, Canada, will explore best practices in developing, managing, assessing, and sustaining the many partnerships that are foundational to international enrollment success. While there, be sure to attend Intead's session all about student recruitment marketing budgets – we've got some great new insights to share. Register today!

Many of the conversations we took part in or led at AIEA 2024 centered around fighting for and justifying internationalization budgets. One important notion (credit to David DiMaria, SIO, UMBC, (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) comes from the Japanese concept of Nemawashi (根回し). The term means “turning or taking care of the roots” and suggests that growth comes from taking good care of the foundation. There’s a lot of truth in this. 

As you seek to initiate a new project or grow something already in place, take time to meet with the many stakeholders individually and understand their points of view and concerns before the power brokers or full committee meets to take a vote on your plans and budget requests. Lay the groundwork so that you know the outcome before that decision point arrives. 

This is just one of the many ideas we’ve been ruminating on since our trip to AIEA. Read on for our selection of key actionable takeaways and our slides on data, AI in enrollment, and entrepreneurship in higher ed. 

The Future That’s Right in Front of Us 

A clear opportunity for growth: STEM/OPT tops the list of student draw [check out our recent post “The Changing International Enrollment Realities”] and universities’ efforts to tie curricula to the jobs employers need to fill. All a great idea so long as faculty are engaged in the effort. So many SIOs find faculty and administration resistant to the work of making those career connections. They often talk a great game of being student-centric, but making changes that are applicable to the real-world…well maybe not so much.  

Dr. Michael Wilhelm, Associate Provost for Global Partnerships and International Education at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Dr. Khald Aboalayon, Academic Program Director, MS Data Analytics, SPS at Clark University, and Iliana Joaquin, Intead’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager got to the heart of the matter in their well-attended presentation: “The View as a Data Analyst: International Enrollment Realities.” Useful stuff discussed. Next best thing to being there: Download their presentation slides here.

Take Home Tools 

The AIEA strategy sessions were fantastic, but it’s also nice to walk away with actionable ideas your team can use right away. Two concrete tools we were reminded of at AIEA that we think are worth re-sharing: 

  • NAFSA Economic Indicator Tool This interactive page provides both national and state-specific analysis of the impact international students studying in the US have on the economy. It’s a really useful tool for anyone advocating for internationalization. Dive in and take a look at your state and district.
  • EdUSA Consular Officer Departure Orientations are available to your admitted students. They provide information and resources on cultural differences, academic systems, and expectations, housing, coping in a new cultural setting, among other topics important to your incoming students. You can offer this free resource to your international admitted students. Learn more here.

Real Prospects: International Community College Transfer Students 

Striking reality: Per NACAC research, only 16% of all transfer students moving from 2- to 4-year degree programs complete the 4-year degree. Yet, when talking to Dr. Jing Luan, Provost Emeritus from San Mateo Colleges of Silicon Valley, his evaluation of the graduation rate among international students who transfer from community college to 4-year institutions is 95%. Dr. Luan's experience represents just one data point, but the contrast is dramatic.  

More research on international student graduation rates would be helpful, but the immediate takeaway for your institution: do more to help international students from 2-year institutions transfer smoothly. The time and effort will be valuable to everyone involved. And if you are good at it, the social media word of mouth marketing will also benefit all involved.  

The AI - Enrollment Management Interplay 

The media portrays AI as being drastically transformative. And in some ways, it really is. But the narratives of immediate loss of jobs and vast gains in efficiencies are often overblown. Iliana and I joined Sean Cochran from UC Long Beach and consultant and recent author Anna Esaki-Smith to share real-world perspectives on how AI developments are impacting enrollment management teams now and our expectations for the near future. We shared recommendations on how our sector can manage associated risks and consider future applications that are emerging. Download the session slides here.

Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Mindset in a Bureaucratic System 

I had the great honor of presenting with Dr. Paulo Zagalo-Melo, Associate Provost at Western Michigan University, and Dr. Vivian Wang, Vice Provost of Global Engagement at the University of Tulsa, on how to drive and sustain innovation in the dynamic yet bureaucratic higher edu environment. We tackled overcoming budgetary constraints, managing expectations up and down the ladder, and implementing incremental approaches to fostering dramatic change. Download this presentation slides here. 

The Power of Play 

Two pre-conference workshops, one presented by AIRC and the other by two SIOs (Dr. David DiMaria, at UMBC and Dr. Samba Dieng, at Louisiana State University) addressed the practical applications of the internationalization strategic thinking that is available to all of us.  

The AIRC Workshop took us through several group work scenarios to discuss how we would utilize our budget and our powers of persuasion when facing a range of internal and external threats to our international student recruitment efforts. Highly useful: AIRC's Enrollment Standards documentation.

Gotta share: in the strategy workshop with Dr. DiMaria and Dr. Dieng, they had us engage in a powerful role play including a provost, an SIO, and a pathway provider pitching immediate help to double our international enrollment numbers within one year. The exercise started with an intentional lack of transparency as different sides of the negotiations held key information that the others did not have. Would the person acting as provost approve the pathway provider contract? The discussion that followed was invaluable.  

All so very entertaining and fun. And not just these excellent group exercises. The conference was chock-full of good learning and networking. So glad we were able to take part. Hope to see you at AIEA 2025. Drop us a line (info@intead.com) if you’ll be at the AIRC Symposium, ICEF North America, or NAFSA. We’d love to connect. 

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