As I am writing this, eleven NAFSA members across the country are hard at work embodying the phrase “all politics is local.” I met with all of them for the first time in June, when they came to NAFSA headquarters in Washington, DC for a one-day training session to develop and fine-tune their advocacy skills – this was the official inaugural kick-off of NAFSA’s Grassroots Leadership Program.

We started this program in response to the growing need for training and resources to help international educators address public policy challenges they face in their states and communities. The eleven members of the inaugural cohort have developed work plans with local and state-wide objectives on issues such as how to internationalize their campuses and local communities, expand opportunities for study abroad (specifically to underrepresented populations like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM students), and to increase foreign language learning and study abroad opportunities in K-12 schools. Next summer, after the participants have completed the program, these toolkits will be available for download on Connecting Our World.

Over the coming months, you will be able to follow everyone’s progress as they share their experiences here on the NAFSA blog. You’ll hear from the following 11 members of the 2011-2012 Grassroots Leadership Program cohort:

I hope you enjoy their stories and that we can learn from each other as we all strive to be better advocates for international education. First off will be Lisa Nutt, from Robert Morris University, who participated in an interfaith event at the White House yesterday that was related to her work plan. Check back here next week for her exciting story!