Our final NAFSA 2017 Current Topic Workshop (CTW) Spotlight Series entry features Marybeth Gruenewald, director of global initiatives for Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. Marybeth will join co-trainers Marina Malgina, head of the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education's Section for Recognition of Refugees' Qualifications; Jeannine Bell, senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Colorado-Boulder; and Ceren Genc, location manager for Study Group, to present a critical training at NAFSA 2017, “Developing Admissions and Evaluation Procedures for Students with Non-Verifiable Documentation.”

“The current refugee crisis is not a new phenomenon,” says Gruenewald. “Migrants seeking new venues for employment, immigrants seeking lands offering better opportunities, and refugees seeking a safer life, a life away from civil war and famine—all of these populations have been moving and migrating and running towards something while running away from something else for centuries. The time is right for this workshop as the refugee crisis itself begins to cross over more and more borders.”

Discuss the timely relevance of your workshop for international education professionals.

Something extraordinary is happening now with the Syrian crisis. And because of this crisis, we see an emphasis on assisting not only Syrians but also other persons. According to recent figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 65 million people have been displaced globally and 21 million are officially classified as refugees. The education sector as we know it for the nations affected is in a grim and distressed state. The collapse of a secondary and tertiary educational system for many of these countries in strife and war will be tantamount to whether or not a nation can rebuild itself.

We are now speaking about nations that have lost the majority of their educated citizens. And as education infrastructures are destroyed and the teachers are leaving or are being forced out, who will educate the country’s future engineers, scholars, or health care providers? Who will be able to nation build? As international educators, we are uniquely positioned to be part of the conversation for sustainable solutions. We must remain informed.

Who would benefit most from participation in this workshop?

Many refugees, economic migrants, and immigrants (new and in country) may not have the necessary academic paperwork when they travel to a new country. What options does an admissions officer, a recruiter, international student adviser, or faculty dean have when encountering a person who is willing, wanting, yearning to study or to work, but their academic credentials are missing or their former institution has been destroyed.

Describe one “take away” from this workshop a participant would be able to apply at their home institution/organization?

We will provide an overview of the current crisis with up-to-date information about what our colleagues in Europe are doing in these situations. We’ll explore some strategies and programs at some universities in the United States that are succeeding in admitting these students. There are a variety of ways we can help, and I’m encouraged by seeing more and more U.S. universities developing uniform, fair, and ethical policies for the evaluation of credentials and the admittance of these populations. For those attending, you will come away with a better understanding of the current global crisis, and if your institution has not developed an admissions procedure or your institution has yet to agree on a policy for working with these students, we are confident you will leave the workshop with an abundance of resources and ideas to take back to your institution. By learning from our colleagues abroad, by examining the crisis in depth, discussing problematic issues and obstacles, and by sharing your stories with each other, you will be emboldened to tackle these issues in our complex world.

How will your CTW inspire those who participate?

As I say often, remember that behind every document, every reference letter, every over-photocopied piece of paper, there is an individual who has encountered extreme hardship in order to further their educational endeavors. There is a human with the same thoughts and dreams that we’ve all had.

To learn more about this CTW and all of the workshop offerings in Los Angeles, check out the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference Preconference Workshops at www.nafsa.org/ac17workshops.  Don’t forget to register for the conference before April 15 to take advantage of early bird savings.  See you in Los Angeles!

Dawn Cepica is the 2017 NAFSA Annual Conference Committee Workshop Coordinator and lead administrator of faculty and staff immigration services in the Office of International Affairs at Texas Tech University.