Robert Watkins, Assistant Director, Foreign Credentials, at University of Texas at Austin began his career in the admissions office at UT in 1977 and moved into international admissions in 1983 -- and he's a founder of AACRAO's Winter Institute for International Credit. But even so, he doesn’t know all of the answers to international credential evaluation questions.
“You think you know everything when you’ve done it for 41 years,” Watkins laughed. “One of the reasons it’s so much fun to do this [Winter Institute faculty] is inevitably a participant raises a question or a situation that you’re not familiar with. And someone with fresh eyes brings a new perspective to the pat answer you gave earlier in the day.
Winter Institute encourages participants to bring their real-world experiences to share and learn. The collaboration that happens in the workshop adds significant depth of understanding and nuance to supplement traditional resources like books, professional networks and experience, and AACRAO EDGE.
“Another reason it’s so fun is that I get to see the bright new faces in the field,” Watkins added. “My generation that has been doing this forever is aging and beginning to retire. My mentors have all retired and are no longer active in the field, so it’s a concern who will replace us. It’s exciting to see the up and coming professionals during the institutes and find out about them."
In addition, Institute participants are those who recruit heavily in the field, and usually bring a wealth of on-the-ground stories to share -- which cannot be conveyed with the same richness in a paper on your desk.
"That was the value of being in Cuba,” Watkins said. “And traveling to the Canada and Philippines on AACRAO projects. Folks come back from recruiting experience and can share what’s really happening. That first-hand knowledge is valuable both to the Institute faculty -- we can add to our curriculum if necessary -- and it’s also beneficial to other participants.”
When he’s not overseeing foreign crednential evaluations, Watkins might be found singing with his local choirs.
“My wife and I sing in our church choir and also now in the community chorus,” Watkins said. “I’m one of the few, the proud -- the tenors.”
Singing classic pieces, such as Brahms’ A German Requiem, satisfies the inner History major in Watkins. As does his avid reading habit.
“I mostly studied European political and diplomatic history in undergrad,” Watkins said. “Only in grad school did I discover that American history can be fun.”
His recent reads include Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
by Doris Kearns Goodwin and he “usually has a fiction book going, too,” -- something in the realm of espionage, political thrillers, or -- of course -- international history.