by Justin Hume, Associate Director of International Admissions at University of Bridgeport, AACRAO Summer Institute faculty
During a particularly hot and sticky week in July, admissions professionals and trainers assembled in Arlington, VA, to discuss the finer points of credential interpretation at AACRAO’s annual Summer Institute. This year’s event attracted 32 attendees from various institutions all over the world.
Central to these discussions were the basic techniques of reading educational documentation, practicing ‘transcript-ese,’ understanding what different credentials are called in each country, spotting common security features, and deciphering original-language documents.
Faculty viewpoints were exchanged, and through the work of our breakout groups, the development of a community began.
Six months ago, I attended the Winter Institute as a learner, and was later invited to attend my first Summer Institute as faculty. In February, I found that here was a community of university representatives, admissions officers, credential evaluators, registrars and others where I could turn for advice. In spite of what our universities might want to hear, the field of credential evaluation really is an art, and not a science. Through sharing business cards with the presenters, and others in the sessions, I had a way to ‘check my reasoning’, where manuals and other resources fall short. Interpretation is dynamic and changing as systems evolve to meet the demands of national economies, as they suffer through conflict, or as supranational reforms take place. Here in the United States, the situation is no different, with educational reform occupying much discussion space in our institutions, professional organizations, and in government. The Summer Institute is a necessary venue where one can turn to stay abreast of those changes, and train oneself in how to speak with students in their language.
Indeed, this fall, freshmen from one South Asian nation will be arriving to our campuses with secondary school transcripts issued in an entirely new grading scale.
THAT is why this community is so important. Here we can meet and address these issues head on, so as not to be surprised, and to have a voice in the development of policy before it comes to publication. These skills, and the resources and mentorship offered by the likes of Annetta Stroud, Staci Bernhard, Robert Watkins, Aleks Morawski, Dawn Cagley and others represent the way forward in how one can learn to lean in to the conversation our institutions are having in developing policy, and in doing so from a point of confidence and strength.
The Summer Institute and events like it are part of a journey, which may have begun long ago, or which may just be starting. Here, while the event might be labeled a training, it would seem that the more appropriate term is something else: a conversation.
Here are a few comments from this year’s participants:
“The entire experience was VERY helpful in learning the basics around international credential evaluation and viewing the admissions process through various lenses.”
“The instructors were all fantastic!”
“Most beneficial to me was the hands-on practice with actual credentials to review and a roundtable group of colleagues to work through the ‘evaluations’ with.”
If you missed the Summer Institute, AACRAO will hold a two-day pre-conference workshop at the AACRAO SEM Conference in Dallas, Texas on November 2-3.