Diary of an International Credential Evaluator

June 1, 2020
  • International
  • International Admissions
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation
  • covid-19

by Julia Funaki, Assoc. Director, AACRAO International

Welcome to another work week from home. My commute down the steps to my desk was smooth. The only added congestion on the route was our elderly and vision impaired dog who needs loads of coaching to make it down on her own. Probably took an extra 30-40 seconds, but I had left myself some extra time so I wasn’t late today. 

To add some lightheartedness to these peculiar weeks, I have taken to referring to my family as my "coworkers" during the work day. We consist of what I term as four "earners" and two "learners." The learners have finished their semester and moved out of their college residences. So now we are learning to share bandwidth. This is not an easy transition for me based on my previous one day a week of teleworking and having our internet all to myself. 

One of my home coworkers had an atypical early morning meeting today so the coffee was already made. A small and happy bonus. His employer is a very large federal agency. In all there are more than 300,000 employees, and the central office is near 4,000. Our AACRAO family is large too -- albeit a bit smaller than my “coworker's” office. Our AACRAO family consists of our members and colleagues in other areas of higher education. Our AACRAO national office staff is less than one percent of the size of my coworker's central office. 

Evaluators: a close-knit community

Having spent my entire career focused on international higher education and much of it specifically focused on international credential evaluation, I can tell you that we are a very small and connected group. We live all over the country, and around the globe. For those of us in the United States our employers are colleges, universities, credential evaluation agencies, and independent foreign credential evaluators. There are few who work with specific professional agencies: medical, physical therapy, accounting, teaching, oriental medicine and engineering.

Our work is a specialization that few aspire to as they are mulling over what they want to be when they grow up. Rather it tends to be a profession that one gets a taste of while doing something else. For me, I headed to graduate school in Washington, DC, to the School of International Service. I had made my way through graduate school working in the admissions office, slowly moving from the reception desk, to the records area, and eventually to the international admissions area, feeding the need to work with an international community.

My first effort to push myself into the field was submitting a proposal to do an overview of the Soviet system of education at a NAFSA Regional in the Fall of 1991. It was then that I began to discover the importance of the small, but mighty international admissions and credential evaluation community. The Soviet System of Education by Erika Popovych and Brian Levin-Stankevich was in the publishing process, but not yet released. Somehow I got into contact with Levin-Stankevich and he graciously – and I mean above and beyond- discussed the intricacies of the tekhnikums and uchilishches.

It was then that I began to meet and engage with the small group of folks who worked in the international education field. This is not a profession without its history and dramas, but it is one of people who are dedicated and who ultimately have a shared belief in the power of education, particularly the value to learn from one another and to gain understanding through mobility and education through connecting.

This pandemic has provided me a more steeped sense of the community that we are with one another. It is not about having the most obscure answer, or the first to discover a new resource. International credential evaluators, like college registrars, or admissions counselors don’t work side by side in an office. We don’t stand next to each other at the watercooler, but we share that fundamental belief in the power of education and the opportunities it brings. This “Covid-time” has brought grief, struggle, and hardship to so many. The challenges are too many to name, but today I want to think about the silver lining. The opportunity to connect with my fellow credential evaluators, to answer a question from a colleague at a college across the state or around the world. The chance to discuss my questions with a longtime colleague and friend at a credential evaluation service. I feel connected as never before to each of them, united in our work and the uncertainty that the future holds. 

Here at my telecommuting operation I've got my 'coworkers' all around me, earners and learners vying for bandwidth to keep their work lives going. Just let me get my cup of coffee and sit down at my desk, to greet my world of colleagues, and get this day started.

 

Reminder to self – for today and every day for a time to come:

Know what is going on.

Know what is possible.

Decide what is acceptable.

Be flexible.