Workshop Preview: Current Trends in Education Abroad Alumni Programming

April 28, 2016

By Kara Johnson

Over the past three weeks, I have been able to share some critical insight into a few select Current Topics Workshops (CTWs) that will take place in Denver at this year’s NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo. Through this 2016 Annual Conference Committee workshop preview series, we have explored the impact of experiential learning to facilitate intercultural understanding and the institutional benefits of building an international student and scholar crisis management plan.

The final post in this series features Chelsea Kindred, director of alumni development and research at Academic Programs International (API) and lead trainer for the can’t-miss preconference workshop Current Trends in Education Abroad Alumni Programming. Chelsea is ready to lead this year’s workshop participants through various models of returnee engagement and demonstrate how returned education abroad students help to achieve larger institutional internationalization goals.

Why is this CTW critical to international educators at this time?

Kindred: As education abroad (EA) professionals, we agree that a student’s return from their international experience is a critical period. The opportunity to continue to engage the student in developmental learning - exploring exactly how and why their international experience offered them opportunities for growth - is a special one. It is also a time to help formulate a student’s vocabulary for their international experience - one that is applicable to career integration as well as advocacy for international experience in our country.

Many universities and international education organizations have innovative strategies for attracting and engaging students during this critical learning period. We want to share these practices in the hope that our workshop participants will identify strategies that work well on their home campus or within their organization for successful returnee programming.

On a macro level, we want to ensure our returned students are advocating in the best way possible for the outcomes international engagement imparts: intercultural skill development; an awareness of one’s place in the global community; an understanding of the personal and social responsibility that comes alongside this experience that fewer than 10 percent of American undergraduates have; and the application and integration of this experience into their professional career goals.

What will a participant in your CTW walk away with that will enhance the work they do in their jobs?

Kindred: Participants in our workshop will gain an in-depth understanding of the successful curricular and co-curricular models in place for engaging returned study abroad students. Participants will develop a ”returnee plan” for their home institution or organization, identify goals for this programming and examine how returnee programming aligns with existing strategic internationalization goals in place on their campus. Participants will walk away enthused and ready to work with this passionate group of students, armed with strategies to appeal to them and to enhance the opportunities their office offers for these students.

What are you most excited about in delivering this workshop at the 2016 NAFSA Annual Conference?

Kindred: Reentry for education abroad students has been a hot topic for a long time. Institutions and organizations have worked to develop programming to meet the needs of these students and we are excited to share these practices with institutions who are just beginning this conversation or who have programming in place that they wish to strengthen. We are excited to offer the inaugural workshop on this conversation and the opportunity to highlight what great work our colleagues in the field are doing in terms of reentry. We are eager to see what new ideas and programming will happen as a result of this workshop and the connections our participants will make both with the material and the institutions that created this programming.

Of course, we are also excited to be in a room with other passionate EA colleagues fueled by candy and creativity to explore these best practices for enhancing opportunities for students. We love this topic and can’t wait to share the good work our field is doing in terms of education abroad alumni programming.

If you had to give a one sentence pitch for your CTW, what would it be?

Kindred: Students who return from an international experience are the future of our field (and our nation) and the CTW Current Trends in Education Abroad Alumni Programming will provide concrete strategies and replicable curricular and co-curricular models for innovative engagement of this critical population.

Learn more about the 2016 NAFSA Annual Conference Preconference Workshops at www.nafsa.org/ac16workshops.


Kara Johnson is assistant director of the International Center at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the 2016 Annual Conference Committee Workshop Coordinator.


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