During the fall, as virtual regional events were in full swing and volunteer positions were being filled, we asked six leaders across different regions to tell us about their pathway to leadership. The first part of the series features interviews with Namiko Bagirimvano of Region I, Karin Brown of Region V, and Adilia Ross of Region XII.

Namiko Bagirimvano, MA

Tacoma Community College
Region I
Chair-Elect for Region I 
Previously: Local Arrangement Coordinator for Region I (2019); Poster Chairs for Annual Conference Committee (ACC) (2018, 2019, and 2020 Annual Conferences) 

How did you first get involved with regions? What was your entry point?

My first involvement with Region I was in 2019 as one of the Local Arrangement Coordinators for the regional conference in Tacoma, Washington. When I learned that the upcoming conference was going to be held in Tacoma, where my institution is located, I wanted to offer hospitality and be part of the team to welcome conference attendees to the city. The conference week was busy but definitely fulfilling. After having discussions with the chair at that time, Michelle Walters from American Institute for Foreign Study (AIFS), I decided to apply and serve in the chair stream for Region I. 

How has your leadership experience shaped you as an international educator?

I hope to become a well-rounded international education professional who will be able to understand experiences in various knowledge community (KC) areas. It’s also critical to stay updated with the current information and policies and to be familiar with cutting-edge programming, ideas, and research as an international educator. I believe NAFSA’s volunteer and leadership opportunities have allowed me to be in the best learning environment to get closer to these goals. 

One of the great things about volunteering for NAFSA is being able to meet with professionals across KCs. It’s uplifting and inspiring to know there are professionals who dedicate their time and efforts to advance the field of international education through NAFSA’s work. Each opportunity made me want to learn more about the field from a different perspective (based on CliftonStrengths assessment, I have Learner and this makes sense!) and I hope to continue to be a life-long learner through NAFSA. 

How did your regional leadership experience prepare you for NAFSA leadership at the national level? How do the two experiences differ, if at all?

I personally think you can start a position at either national, regional, or state level if your interests and skill sets are matched with the position that you are looking at. Before helping Region I, I served as the poster chair in the Annual Conference Committee (ACC). Prior to the position, I had presented at the poster fairs a few times and volunteered as a poster fair organizer for a few years. 

My passion for poster presentations and interest in being more involved with NAFSA led me to apply for the poster chair position in the fall of 2016, which was one of my best decisions in my international education journey. The learning curve at the beginning was steep, but NAFSA staff was always there and the ACC had talented team members to work with. 

One of many benefits of being involved at the national level is the connection with wonderful, dedicated, passionate colleagues and mentors that you meet  across the country and world, which is rewarding. The same thing goes for the regional experiences, too! I really like the close-knit, supportive feelings that regional teams have! 

What’s your recommendation for people who haven’t been involved in their region or in their region’s leadership? Where can they start?

Sign up for a regional newsletter and connect with the region through social media. Network.NAFSA is an additional resource to receive a lot  of information. As a first step, explore the positions that are typically available in your state or region. NAFSA Path can be helpful in assessing your current skills and how you would like to build your career and develop your professional skills. 

Go ahead and talk to leaders and ask what their experiences have been like in the region. The best timing to reach out to the regional leaders may be over the summer since each region normally starts to gear up for the detailed logistics of their regional conferences as soon as the new academic year starts. Also, regional teams usually try to fill their leadership positions during the fall to form a new team (even though some regional positions may be available throughout the year). So, having conversations with the team at the right time may be the key for you to find the right fit. 

What has been the most important skill or experience you’ve gained as a result of your leadership in your region?

Through the ACC position, I was able to learn more about NAFSA as an organization, its strategic planning, the importance of advocacy work, and the trending topics in different KCs while thinking of conference attendees’ experiences and learning. With my current regional position, I am experiencing a lot of important hands-on matters to move the team forward, including communication, financial matters, and concrete logistics of conference planning, while learning to be a better influencer. Knowing the unique needs of organizations and institutions in the region’s states is important as well. I am trying to soak up everything from the current chair, Sarah Reed from Oregon State University, and other wonderful team members at the moment and I am thankful that Region I has a great history of strong leadership and  knowledge-sharing. 

What’s your favorite memory or experience from a NAFSA event or conference?

Oh this is hard—there have been so many good memories at many conferences and Washington Leadership Meeting (WLM)! I’m sure many NAFSAns will say the same thing, but it is the people that make NAFSA special. I am forever grateful for the professors from SIT Graduate Institute, my alma mater, and I always look forward to reconnecting with them and other SIT alumni and friends at NAFSA events. It is also special to meet with friends, coworkers, and my boss from the previous institution where I started my international education career as an F-1 OPT student. NAFSA events remind me of my original passion and spirit for the journey in the international education field. Those reunions and meetings with both old and new colleagues motivate me to go back to my office with fresh ideas and more energy! 

Lastly, I would like to emphasize that NAFSA staff and Regional Affairs Committee (RAC) leaders always support the regional leaders. I feel like there is a safety net to catch us.  

And if you are interested in joining regional teams, go for it! We will be waiting for you! 


Adilia Ross, MS

University of Nevada-Reno
Region XII
Region XII Education and Training Coordinator, Nevada State Representative
Previously: Secretary/registrar, Nevada District; co-coordinator, preconference workshops (2015)

 
How did you first get involved with regions? What was your entry point? 

I got involved with the region after being asked to fill in for a vacant position on the regional team as the education and training coordinator in 2018. Prior to that, I served as the secretary/registrar of the Nevada District and volunteered as co-coordinator of the preconference workshops at the 2015 Region XII conference. My term as the Region XII education and training coordinator ends this year, and I will continue to serve on the team as the Nevada State Rep.

How has your leadership experience shaped you as an international educator? 

It has helped me build relationships with other international educators so that I have a network of peers to consult with in my job. This has enabled me to be of better service to the students and scholars I serve. It has also given me the knowledge needed to organize events and bring together trainers to lead workshops.

What’s your recommendation for people who haven’t been involved in their region or in their region’s leadership? Where can they start? 

I definitely recommend getting involved in regional leadership. It’s a way to learn more about the field and to build your skills as a leader. There are the added benefits of knowing the ins and outs of organizing large events such as the regional conferences. You may start with volunteering to help with the regional conferences, or if your region has smaller districts within the region, you may volunteer for leadership positions there, as well. Another way to get involved is to apply to join the Trainer Corps; I’m a member. Trainer Corps members are selected to lead the Core Education Program (CEP) workshops and e-Learning courses.

What has been the most important skill or experience you’ve gained as a result of your leadership in your region? 

Event organization skills.

What’s your favorite memory or experience from a NAFSA event or conference?

All the conferences are memorable. My favorite memory is the Region XII conference in Hawaii in 2015. This was when I volunteered with the preconference workshops. The venue was beautiful, of course—it’s Hawaii! But it was also my first time being in the midst of the conference organization and this sparked my interest in being part of the conference teams.


Karin Brown, MA

One Earth International Credential Evaluations
Region V
IEM Liaison
Previously exhibitor/sponsor coordinator (2012-2017); Chair-elect (2017); Chair (2018); past Chair (2019)


How did you first get involved with regions? What was your entry point?

I had been a NAFSA member for several years and had been attending NAFSA Region V conferences regularly and exhibiting since 2012.  A colleague, friend, and fellow exhibitor, Laura Sippel, and I and began to volunteer assistance with Region V exhibitors and sponsors, and soon were asked to officially join the Region V team.  

How has your leadership experience shaped you as an international educator?

I’ve often said that our colleagues are some of our most valuable resources.  The relationships I’ve built with colleagues in Region V and their generosity in contributing their time and talents have absolutely made me a better international educator. 

What’s your recommendation for people who haven’t been involved in their region or in their region’s leadership? Where can they start?

Be sure to attend your region’s conference!  Region V hosts a newcomer or first-timer reception, as well as a session on how to get involved in NAFSA leadership (at the state, regional, and national levels).  If there is no current position open on the team, volunteering at the regional conference is a great way to meet people and get involved.  

What has been the most important skill or experience you’ve gained as a result of your leadership in your region?

Honing my negotiation and delegation skills!  We have a big team with a lot of responsibilities and personalities and though we often think of each other like family, keeping on task and getting everything accomplished requires efficient and effective decisionmaking.  

What’s your favorite memory or experience from a NAFSA event or conference?

I have so many wonderful memories, but our team dinners are always a highlight.  It is such a special night out with fabulous food and conversation and a great way to bond as a team.