A shared commitment to improving the framework for supporting international students embarking on an international student experience in the US was aired by delegates attending the 14th AIRC annual conference in the US last week.
“In 2023, we will focus on developing more institutional standards, guidelines and best practices that will put AIRC at the forefront of international student recruitment,” David Adler, CEO at ApplyWave and AIRC Board Agency Representative, told The PIE.
AIRC is the only organisation that certifies its member education agencies – they become part of an organisation which also welcomes education institutions in the US as members. There are 94 certified agencies at present with others awaiting the outcome of a certification process.
At its most recent annual conference, 450 members and delegates convened. “It’s exciting to see AIRC continue to grow in numbers and in influence,” commented Adler.
“We will focus on developing more institutional standards, guidelines and best practices”
The theme of the conference, “Acting with Purpose and Understanding Our Why,” was highlighted in addresses made by AIRC executive director Brian Whalen and president Derrick Alex.
“A lot was accomplished in these three days,” Alex told The PIE. Key themes at the conference included identifying shifting market trends and being adaptable so as to respond with an appropriate strategy.
And the new AIRC standards were a hot topic as practitioners discussed how best to incorporate them into practice.
During the opening conference address, Alex encouraged all attendees to stay actively involved throughout the year. “[It] is probably one of the best ways to remain visible to your potential partners, stay current on industry trends, and contribute towards continuing to improve international student experiences,” he counselled.
Alex himself came to the US as an international student through a recruitment agency. And the focus on the student journey was, indeed, a major undercurrent throughout the four-day event.
At the Student Voices Luncheon, a panel of current and former international students each spoke about their own student journey.
Former international transfer student – now COO of EdVisorly Hanna Ving – told The PIE, “It is extremely powerful when we create a platform for students to voice and share their experiences. We can better serve the next generation of leaders when we listen, and then deliver on what we’ve learned from students.”
Several student panellists referenced the flexibility of the US education. “[You have] the option of choosing a major at a later stage, further study abroad options, [and] being able to transfer credits easily,” panellist Tushar Sukhwani underlined.
Several student panellists referenced the flexibility of the US education
“Also, the system is structured in a way that facilitates students’ overall personal growth and the freedom to curate their own path. Yet it teaches them how to be responsible, accountable, and independent,” he added.
Webster University sponsored the luncheon and, following the event, Samrat Ray Chaudhuri, Webster’s Director of Global Enrolment told The PIE that a key takeaway from the panel was the lack of transparency and direction that international students face while researching US institutions.
“There is a lack of trust, and this can be resolved by including current students and alumni in the overall communication and engagement plans,” said Chaudhuri.
Ryan Fleming, aecc’s Director of Partnerships, US also spoke to The PIE about the collegial networking during the AIRC conference and AIRC’s “core mission of bringing leaders and newcomers alike in our field together for insight and introspection.”
He reflected about the past few years in the field: “We feel like we have moved through a period of acute crisis with brighter times ahead… but what exactly has changed since pre-pandemic times? What core assumptions are due to be challenged?
“How have student needs and wants shifted? Most centrally of all, how do we maintain a sense of mission and identity while also pursuing growth, innovation and change?” he asked.
Fleming suggested that these ongoing conversations serve to “raise the bar of our profession for the benefit of students, rather than just ourselves [to] help support the advancement of our field.”
The 14th AIRC annual conference was the largest to date, with over 450 attendees gathering at The Hilton Universal City in Los Angeles, California.