My name is Leah Newell. 2015 begins the second year of my serving as chair of the NAFSA Membership Committee.

Wait! Don’t leave! I know you are busy and probably have NO interest in the exciting topic of “The Role of the Membership Committee.” However, give me 5 minutes of your time and I promise you will gain some valuable information. Remember, if you know more, you can do more! So here we go.

Who we are
NAFSA’s Membership Committee is a group of NAFSA professional international educator members from a wide range of regions, focus areas, experience levels, and backgrounds. All of which help us do what we do.

What we are responsible for
Basically, the Membership Committee helps NAFSA’s national staff know what the membership is thinking, doing, and wanting to see. We also give information about trends, problems, needs and what’s going on in the world of our members. We make recommendations about policies, procedures, and structures for membership in NAFSA to the vice president for Professional Development and Engagement.

More specifically, we are responsible for:

  • Recognizing the changing and sustained diversity of our membership through recruitment and retention and ensuring their specific needs are highlighted and examined;
  • Promoting and supporting the work and availability of the Member Interest Groups (MIGs);
  • Illuminating the varying challenges and contributions of the members and conference participants based outside the United States;
  • Examining needs of potential new members;
  • Recognizing the work of our members through facilitating the promotion and growth of national awards;
  • Encouraging the use and knowledge of NAFSA’s statement of ethical principles;
  • Ensuring a regional voice and involvement in the evolving membership needs and changes
  • Informing staff of recent trends and resource needs for the career center.

Most importantly, we are here to represent you and to reach out to member communities.

We are interested in the current members and potential ones as we understand that if NAFSA is to remain a formidable force in the field of international education, we must be aware of the composition, challenges, and contributions of the field as a whole. However, as a team, the Membership Committee is committed to ensuring the value of your membership. We utilize this combined knowledge, in partnership with the NAFSA Membership Department in Washington, D.C., and additional knowledge gained from other member leaders and organized groups of international educators, such as regions, MIGs, and knowledge communities, to promote change.

Although we endeavor to be your eyes, ears, and voice, passing on information or advocating for important changes to our association, we are only as strong as we are informed. This is where you come in. It is important for you to understand and believe that you play a pivotal role in the advancement of the association. A personal commitment to sharing that idea, voicing that concern, communicating that challenge with the Membership Committee equips us with the knowledge and information we need to initiate potential transformative changes.

Know that, you are NAFSA, we are NAFSA, and the national staff in Washington is NAFSA. We must all work together to ensure the face of NAFSA that we project to the world reflects all of us and who we all are. This can only happen if you are equally committed to sharing your thoughts, accomplishments, etc. with us. We WANT to hear from you. We NEED to hear from you.

As mentioned earlier, we are tasked with a broad portfolio; however, if you are unsure if we are the right group to contact with your question or comment, contact us anyway. We will make sure your message is either addressed by us or passed on to the appropriate individual. Please contact [email protected]. We work directly with the Senior Director of Membership, Ms. Leslie Taylor, who will share your message with us or contact me directly at [email protected]. I am happy to hear your thoughts.

One last thing. Not that this is a test or anything, but I do hope you now know, if you didn’t already, “The Role of the Membership Committee.” So…what do we do?

The Membership Committee serves as a team to represent the NAFSA member’s and potential members’ challenges, interests, accomplishments, and more toward building a stronger association and ultimately a sound international education field.


Leah Newell is chair of NAFSA’s Membership Committee and a private consultant offering professional solutions for international education organizational needs.