AACRAO International Associate Director Annetta Stroud spent three weeks in June and July Lebanon to assist the official launch of the platform for the Article 26 Backpack (A26BP).
“Our goal in Beirut was to launch the final platform and have various enrollment events throughout the country,” Stroud said. “Unfortunately, due to political constraints on refugee camps, there are many checkpoints and many refugees can’t travel. So to reach the intended populations, we held events not only at the American University of Beirut, but also held events in the Beqaa Valley to reach the camps there and in Tripoli to reach refugees in northern Lebanon.”
What is the Backpack?
A26BP is a cloud-based “ecosystem” and human rights tool to empower academic and employment mobility. It provides displaced students with a secure, private platform to shape, store, and share their professional, vocational, and educational stories. Lead by Global Affairs at UC Davis and in collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, the A26BP is named for the article in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that establishes the right to education. (Learn more about the A26BP.)
Almost 200 students enrolled; 400 more this fall
Nearly 200 Backpackers--both refugees and also other socially or economically disadvantaged Lebanese students--were enrolled during this first push, and 16 students from AUB were trained to be Backpack Guides, who help others create and maintain their Backpacks and connect with international credential evaluators. (All Guides are on scholarship by MasterCard or DAFI and most are from Syria.) The events were held in partnership with key NGOs, including Sonbola, Jusoor, MAPs, and LASeR.
“In the next two years, the goal is to have a training and SOP manual that we can hand off to NGOs so they can deploy their own Backpack events,” Stroud said. “We’d like it to be something that can basically run itself, and Keith [David Watenpaugh, the project leader] is hoping to have 100,000 users within the next five years.”
Currently, the platform is in English, which requires guides who can speak both English and Arabic. By mid-August, the Arabic platform will be ready to use, increasing the number of individuals A26BP can reach. In September, the team will return to Lebanon for a second large project launch with a goal of enrolling an additional 400 Backpackers.
“AACRAO is an important partner in this project because not only do we have the expertise in terms of registrar and admissions capabilities, but we are also able to inform institutions on how this could actually enhance their admission processes in general,” Stroud said. “Basically, the Backpack can function as a digital portfolio, including, for example, a video interview, that can provide valuable information when making admissions decisions.”
This fall, AACRAO will host a joint workshop with The Institute of International Education’s Platform for Education in Emergencies Response (IIE PEER), inviting specific institutions to work with the Backpack to see how they can it use on their campuses and get feedback.
Save the date: Best Practices in Admitting Vulnerable and Displaced Student Populations to U.S. Campuses
On October 26, 2018, AACRAO and IIE PEER will host a a one-day workshop at the IIE Headquarters in New York City. The workshop will provide Senior International Officers (SIOs) and Admissions’ Officers with best practices in reaching out to, identifying, and admitting vulnerable and displaced student populations on U.S. campuses.
A comprehensive internationalization strategy is an essential part of the strategic planning of U.S. higher education institutions. Vulnerable and displaced students play an important role in realizing institutional internationalization goals. Successfully identifying and admitting these students often requires a specific skill set and tools.
More details to come. For questions about the workshop, email firstname.lastname@example.org.