Last week, I kicked off the 2016 Annual Conference Committee's inaugural Workshop Preview series by featuring my conversation with Jin Abe, lead trainer for the Current Topics Workshop (CTW) Experiential Learning to Facilitate Intercultural Understanding. The Workshop Preview series is designed to highlight some of the can't-miss professional learning opportunities at this year's NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo in Denver.

This week we feature an engaging conversation with Daphne Orr, international student adviser at Georgia State University, who gave me the inside scoop about her upcoming CTW Building Your International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) Crisis Management Plan and how it will benefit participants and their institutions.

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

Orr: In this day and age, sadly, we are faced with crisis on a seemingly continual basis, from campus violence or catastrophes, to a rise in awareness of mental health issues, as well as issues abroad such as natural disasters and political unrest. As professionals in ISSS or intensive English program (IEP) administration, we need to be as best prepared as possible so that when a crisis occurs we can tap into the planning and resources that we already have in place and best serve our international students and scholars, as well as our campus communities.

We all know that the ISSS office, be it at a large university, a one-person office, an intensive English program or otherwise, is a very busy environment, and when a crisis occurs we must focus much of our attention to the issue and devote many of our resources to assist. Having a good, solid crisis management plan in place BEFORE a crisis occurs can position those in the ISSS office in a way to have the most positive and effective outcome.

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

Orr: This is a very valuable workshop for all professionals serving international students and scholars. Participants will have the ability to network with other professionals as they actually develop sections of crisis management plans for their institution. By networking and collaborating with others, they learn best practices for approaching crisis at similar institutions in similar contexts, from large public institutions to small private institutions and just about everything in between! The workshop also provides a great deal of resources on the topic of crisis management and different modules that one can use to build a crisis management plan that best suits their institution.

Who is on your training team and how does the experience of each trainer support the learning objectives of your workshop?

Orr: We have a fantastic training team for this workshop, and it is such an honor to work with them as they have so much experience and insight to share. Maria Anastasiou is the executive director of the Office of International Education and Development (OIED) at Appalachian State University. She works closely with the associate vice chancellor to implement Appalachian State’s strategic plan and internationalization strategic plan and manages the day-to-day operations of OIED. She has been a member of NAFSA’s Subcommittee on Crisis Management since 2012 and has served as chair of the subcommittee since 2014. Tamara Felden is director of the Office of International Affairs and an associate dean of students at the University of Chicago. She joined the university in 2003, and her office serves an international population of more than 5,000 students and scholars and their families. Over the years, this work has included a role in various emergencies, ranging from individual situations, such as a student injured in a car accident, to large-scale emergencies, such as the one caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. She has served as a member of NAFSA’s Subcommittee on Crisis Management since 2014.

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

Orr: I love getting to meet with all those that are participating! Each time that I have done the workshop I have learned so much from the others and their experiences, and I feel so fortunate to bring this collective experience back to my office and institution so that we can continue to strengthen our own crisis management plans. We really build a great community and one that we can continue to draw on when we have a crisis situation in the future.

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

Orr: Utilizing NAFSA crisis management resources and a cohort of other ISSS and IEP professionals engaged in crisis management planning at their own institutions, we will walk away with not only tools and best practices for responding to crises that involve international students and scholars, but we will actually have drafted our crisis management plans to take back to our institutions with us!

Learn more about the 2016 NAFSA Annual Conference Preconference Workshops at

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