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Conference Musings Part II

By Margit Schatzman, President of ECE
April 13, 2023
6 Minute Read

Discover how conferences shape credential evaluators' practices. Uncover trends, values, and future insights.

Margit Schatzman, President of ECE, smiling against a conference background

The President of Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE), Margit Schatzman, offers a two-part blog focusing on conferences in the international higher education arena, principally in the subfields of credential evaluation and international admissions and recruitment. Part I covers a bit of an historical overview of in-person events and Part II, addresses how these conferences have evolved over time, in terms of themes, content, and organization. 

Absolute Beginners

The first professional conference I attended was the 1983 NAFSA Region V conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As an international credential evaluator new to the profession, I was grateful that my employer understood the value of introducing me to the world of international education conferences.  

At my first conference I learned so much useful information from the content of sessions presented by other professionals. Information and knowledge acquisition was only the beginning of the value gained from that event. I learned about the structure and workings of a professional association; the significance of volunteering to grow professionally; the value of meeting people in my field to expand my professional horizon; how networking and listening to and helping others enriched my own work; and how the camaraderie of gathering for a common goal could form lifelong friendships.

Later on, as I became more active in professional associations as a volunteer, presenter, organizer, and leader, my conference experiences became deeper and more meaningful. Public speaking, research, organizational skills, negotiation, persuasion, diplomacy, and advocacy were all skills that I developed and exercised through conference attendance and work.

Attending professional conferences is a good way to advance your career. Getting involved in a professional association can help you gain knowledge and skills to better do your job more effectively, make you a more valuable employee, and provide you with personal and professional satisfaction. If you have the opportunity to attend a professional conference, consider taking it.

Most professionals do not have unlimited funds for conference attendance. Selecting the right conference to attend to enhance your professional skills is critical. The ability to articulate the value of conference attendance to your employer may make the difference between obtaining funding for attendance or seeing those opportunities go to someone else at your organization or to nobody at all.

Come Together

Until ten years ago, international credential evaluators in North America and Europe had three or four main choices for professional development opportunities at conferences. These included AACRAO (American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers), CBIE (Canadian Bureau for International Education), EAIE (European Association for International Education), and NAFSA (Association for International Educators).

For years NAFSA, as the acknowledged premier international education association, offered significant conference programming for credential evaluators.  AACRAO provided solid session content for international admissions professionals. Often membership in NAFSA’s credential evaluation sections and AACRAO’s internationally minded members overlapped and offered complimentary and sometimes cooperative sessions and workshops. CBIE, fulfilled the Canadian role as international education association leader, with a lighter emphasis on credential evaluation.

In 1989 EAIE was founded and has steadily assumed the status of leader in the internationalization of European higher education institutions (HEI). In its early years, it had a strong international admissions and evaluation expert community which provided conference programming for credential evaluators. Currently, this expert community is called Admissions and Recognition

As the membership of NAFSA and EAIE grew, both organizations moved in the direction of advocacy for international education and general internationalization of the HEI sector. Whereas once NAFSA’s ADSEC (admissions section) represented one of the largest and most active interest sections of the Association, by the end of the last century credential evaluation sessions at the national conference were becoming less numerous. The need to attract more generalized session audiences, an emphasis on marketing and recruitment in the international admissions profession, and the specialized nature of credential evaluation meant that credential evaluators were finding less conference content that met their needs. A similar trajectory impacted admissions programming at EAIE conferences.

Beginning in 2014 in Toronto, TAICEP (The Association for International Credential Evaluation Professionals) changed the conference dynamic for credential evaluators. TAICEP, with its specialized and singular focus on international credential evaluation professionals provides specialized programing for credential accessors around the world. TAICEP has quickly become the premier credential evaluation conference, with sessions and workshops tailored for credential evaluators at all types of institutions, including education, local and national government professional boards, and NGOs.

TAICEP conferences are held in a rotation of countries and regions. A pattern of Canada, USA, and Europe locations has ensured the international flavor of the association and allowed members to meet in the regions where most members live.

Across the Universe

If your job responsibilities are focused specifically on credential evaluation and assessment, the conference that will give you the most focused and relevant content is TAICEP. Since many credential evaluators have other responsibilities or cannot always attend a TAICEP conference due to geographical considerations, other options are available.

AACRAO has consistently provided strong credential evaluation sessions and workshops in balance with its focus on registrar and admissions officers topics for North American audiences.

In the US, state and regional NAFSA conferences and state and regional AACRAO networks sometimes have credential evaluation programming that is responsive to practitioners. In Canada, the OURA (Ontario University Registrars’ Association) and its related parent organization ARUCC (Association of Registrars of Universities and Colleges of Canada, although not focused on credential evaluation has sometimes provided programming helpful to the field.

Besides NAFSA and EAIE, other regions of the world have international education associations that offer conferences. ANIE (African Network for International Education) and APAIE (Asia-Pacific Association for International Education), IEASA (International Education Association of South Africa), and FAUBAI (Brazilian Association of International Education) all provide programming focused on general internationalization with a limited focus on admissions and credential evaluation. They offer good opportunities to broaden perspectives on specific regions, but credential evaluators should not expect their specialization will be represented in programming or even well understood by other attendees. Getting a credential evaluation session on the program can provide a good opportunity to introduce other international education professionals to the importance of appropriate assessment of credentials for international admissions purposes.

Do You Want to Know a Secret? 

There exist a multitude of other organizations who hold conferences that align in part with the field of academic credential evaluation. Attending conferences on various aspects of allied areas of interest (such as HEI recognition, quality assurance, and administration) can serve to broaden and deepen one’s knowledge base, share information on admissions and credential evaluation with stakeholders, and impact those with influence on our work and environment.

ACE (American Council on Education) and CHEA (Council of Higher Education Accreditation) provide access to university and quality assurance decision makers who have interest in international education; yet, who have only peripheral interest in admissions issues. Understanding how higher education decisions are made and the role of accreditation is important for credential evaluators. You can expect generally useful information on understanding how international admissions fits into the higher education sphere, and why our work makes up one of a myriad of concerns at HEIs.

AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators) provides access to levels of decision makers who have control over parts of the admissions process and who benefit from knowing more about what we do. This organization’s conference is an advocacy and education opportunity. NAGAP (Association for Graduate Enrollment Management) conferences occasionally offer programming of interest to those who are responsible for admitting international graduate students.

EducationUSA, a US Department of State network of over 430 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries and territories, holds regional conferences as well as an annual gathering in Washington D.C. Attending one of these conferences has been a transformational professional experience for many credential evaluators. Further opportunities to learn and influence topics impacting credential evaluators include the GDN (Groningen Declaration Conference) conferences, where the push to digitize student data has important resonance with evaluators dealing with digital documents from around the world. PESC (Postsecondary Education Standards Council) is an organization that establishes standards for digital data and which holds conferences where the voice of credential evaluators is welcome and valued.

Fantastic Voyage

I hope you enjoyed this brief global adventure of international education conferences and their relationships to the field of academic credential evaluation. Those mentioned are just my own impressions. How do my reflections on conference attendance for credential evaluators resonate with you? Do you have a different take on the characteristics described for some of these gatherings? Are there other associations which offer meetings helpful to you professionally? Let me know. Margit Schatzman, President of ECE.