It’s National Volunteer Week! This week, April 17–23, we’re celebrating and honoring our vibrant volunteer community.
Any visitor to the NAFSA office (our physical Washington, D.C. office or the virtual one) wouldn’t have to wait long to hear a staff member singing the praises of the leaders and other volunteers that they work with. It’s pretty simple: Without volunteers, the work doesn’t get done. Volunteers are absolutely integral to the resources NAFSA produces for the field, the events we host, our advocacy efforts, and everything else that is outlined in the association’s strategic plan and mission statement.
NAFSA has a staff of around 50 and a volunteer community of more than 1,000. The symbiotic relationship between staff and volunteers is vital and highly productive, and nothing gets done without this partnership. We asked several staff members—you may recognize their names if you’ve volunteered with NAFSA!—who work closely with leaders and other volunteers to talk about why volunteers are important to NAFSA’s work. Here’s what they had to say:
Senior Director, Conference Program
“Planning for the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo would not be possible without our fantastic volunteers. The annual gathering of our community depends on hundreds of volunteers from across the field who serve on the Annual Conference Committee, the Local Arrangements Team, and as presenters, reviewers, and poster fair organizers. Their wisdom and support ensure that that our flagship event is timely, relevant, inspiring, and engaging. This partnership with our volunteers is the highlight of my work at NAFSA.”
Program Manager, Conference Program
“Volunteers are the reason the NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo exists in the way that it does. Their support is invaluable in helping create the conference, one of the many global cornerstone events for international education professionals. We have hundreds of volunteers that make the event possible: the Annual Conference Committee, Local Arrangements Team, poster fair organizers, proposal reviewers (for sessions, workshops, and posters!), presenters, and the on-site support team. I'm so grateful for all interactions that help me learn more about the field, myself, and the world.”
Program Manager, Education Abroad Services and Volunteer Engagement
“Volunteers are the keystone of NAFSA. My work with the 100+ Member Interest Group leaders and the Member Engagement Committee over the years has shown me just how important volunteer contributions are to NAFSA’s success. Our volunteers dedicate their time and effort to NAFSA projects while simultaneously juggling many other duties in their day to day work—I am constantly in awe of this and am extremely grateful to have such a dedicated and passionate community of volunteers here at NAFSA. Thank you!”
Director, Programs and Training
“I am so lucky to be able to work with such passionate and creative volunteers! The perspectives, ideas, and innovative presenting and training approaches I have been able to see come out of true professional collaborations from volunteers in all areas of the field have raised the standards of training and professional development for our field!
I think that is important to remember that when we talk about NAFSA, we are always referring to an active and engaged community of professionals. The tremendous impact that NAFSA has had on shaping and driving the field of international education forward is 100 percent the result of the collective effort coming from within this community! The vision and commitment of volunteers continue to strengthen the work we all do and will continue carrying us forward in shaping the future of the field.”
Associate Director, Professional Learning Services
“Neither of the programs I administer, the NAFSA Academy for International Education and the Management Development Program (MDP), would be possible at all without the care, contributions, and time of the volunteer leaders I work with. Academy coaches and chairs are integral to the success of the new professionals that participate, guiding them as they achieve learning goals, sharing their expertise and networks, and encouraging them every step of the way! MDP trainers not only facilitate live group sessions, but they contribute their own management expertise, influence the direction of the course curriculum, and serve as resources to the MDP participants. Neither of these programs could operate at all without the stellar group of volunteer leaders who support them!
None of the programs, products, or services NAFSA offers would be possible without our volunteer leaders. They serve as subject-matter experts when we’re developing a new program or updating an existing one, they help us spread the word about opportunities to their peer networks, and with many of our workshops and programs they are the ones actually delivering the content! NAFSA volunteer leaders are the backbone of our organization and I’m proud to work personally with so many amazing leaders every day! NAFSA resources are only possible through the dedication of our volunteer leaders. Thank you!”
Associate Director, International Student and Scholar Services
“Volunteer leaders are critical to my work with the Knowledge Community for International Student and Scholar Services (KC ISSS)and the International Enrollment Management Knowledge Community (IEM KC). Without them, the work would not be possible! KC ISSS and IEM KC leaders are the life force of our learning communities, especially at times between conferences when we rely on virtual communications to accomplish KC objectives. Their input represents broad and diverse perspectives from the field and ensures a comprehensive approach to each work plan discussion. KC ISSS and IEM KC leaders also enhance and guide conversations on their Network.NAFSA spaces, providing thoughtful responses and encouraging participation from other members of the field. I'm grateful for the opportunity to work closely with them!
Volunteers represent the voices from the field that inform and shape NAFSA resources. From annual conference sessions to Government Connections to Collegial Conversations and Network.NAFSA posts, volunteers’ contributions feature prominently in international education discussions on a daily basis at all times of the year. Volunteers also guide the future of the field in their roles as perceptive listeners and connectors, translating ideas into powerful calls for action on campus and during NAFSA conferences.”
Director, Regional Affairs
“As part of the Regional Affairs team, I work with many regional volunteer leaders (258 in total!) throughout the United States, most closely with the core executive leadership teams. I'm continuously inspired by the work of our regional volunteer leaders, especially by their leadership and acumen, given the high level of responsibility their roles require. Regional volunteers create annual budgets, generate revenue, create grant programs, and offer needed professional development and training year-round to the international education communities at the regional and local levels.
Each year, regional volunteers envision, design, and manage a regional conference that takes place in the fall. Regional conferences provide a critical accessibility pipeline to the international education community. The content regional volunteers curate and disseminate throughout their regional conferences inspire international educators and provides timely professional development in locations all across the United States. Simply put, regional volunteers are the grassroots engine that drives NAFSA’s local professional development and training. It's deeply humbling to work with them on a daily basis!”
Associate Director, Regional Affairs
“NAFSA regions are powered by truly amazing teams of volunteers. Without their dedication and efforts, strong grassroots engagement of NAFSA’s 11 geographic regions across the United States would be impossible. Volunteers make so many things happen for their region each year—fall conferences, webinars, mentorship programs, advocacy efforts, networking, and more. They do incredible work to build community within each NAFSA region. Regional volunteers’ commitment to supporting and engaging their colleagues on a local level is critical to NAFSA’s mission and values.”
Associate Director, Research and Scholarship
“NAFSA has a small (albeit mighty) staff. Given the breadth of work that we do, the association depends on volunteer leaders to get a lot of it done. NAFSA programming and resources are made better, more relevant, and more engaging due to the time, effort, and contributions from the volunteers who work in the field.
I am very thankful to work with volunteers on a wide variety of topics relevant across the field. Volunteers are crucial to so much of what I do—from collaborating with TLS KC member-leaders to deliver programs and produce resources to working with authors of Trends & Insights and other publications that inform and guide current trends in the field. Volunteers provide their valuable time, knowledge, and expertise and contribute to the innovative and insightful work that NAFSA does every day.”
Caroline Donovan White
Senior Director, Education Abroad Services and Volunteer Engagement
“Volunteers ensure that NAFSA’s programs and service are connected to the issues and challenges of our field, providing helping perspectives, and occasionally needed reality checks. Working with our volunteers is the most rewarding and personally satisfying part of my work. I can think of no other role in international education where I would have the opportunity to meet such a geographically and professionally diverse groups of leaders and experts. Each summer, as my family drives cross-country to visit relatives and we pass through many cities and towns, my kids grow weary of hearing me say 'and I know people who work at this college. ... And amazing people work at this university. ... Did I tell you kids that a NAFSA leader runs the study abroad office at this institution?' I am fortunate that my work brings me into connection with so many talented individuals.”