Who and What Is an Overseas Adviser? (Hopkins)

Who and What Is an Overseas Adviser?
Why Does It Matter?

John D. Hopkins
The Advising Quarterly, Fall 1993

Who and what is an "overseas adviser"? Where do they work, and what do they do? Who do they advise, and what do they advise them about? What else do they do? What training have they had? What advising references do they possess? Which ones do they actually use? What new ones might they want to acquire? To whom do they turn when they need help?

Are advisers proficient with technology? Can new advising resources be supplied in computerized format? If so, which resources, and which format? Would CD-ROM be useful? Could they get it from a "gopher"? How can one contact them? What are their direct mailing addresses; their direct phone and fax numbers? Or could one use e-mail instead?

Such questions will sound familiar to hundreds of overseas advisers who have responded to OSEAS Database inquiries during the past five years. Inserted in this issue of the Advising Quarterly is a new version of this form. No cost or obligation is involved in completing the form, but there are many potential benefits. What could you gain from returning this form, and what difference might it make for the future of overseas advising?

Who Are Those People, Anyway?

Overseas advisers are intriguing. They offer some of the greatest expertise available to the international education profession on the countries and world regions in which they live. They provide unique and highly useful perspectives on almost all facets of academic mobility to and from the United States. The work they do is indispensable for exchanges to operate.

But ironically, advisers are often international education's "invisible people," their value (or very existence) unrecognized despite all they accomplish. If any group of educators suffers an "identify crisis" it is overseas advisers, who are often amazed at the lack of knowledge among their peers on what they are, where they are, what they do, and how and why they do it.

Typical of this widespread lack of knowledge was a conversation overhead at NAFSA's 1993 conference in San Francisco after an OSEAS-sponsored session: "You know, that was really good," said one participant to another, "...interesting, useful, and very well done!" But who ARE those people anyway"?

Who Indeed?

Who are they indeed? And why might it matter? Following the third successive NAFSA conference with 20% attendance from outside the U.S., attention is now being directed overseas from other perspectives as well. Who were those new conference attendees? Why did they come? How much do they really work with U.S. exchanges? How many of them (or their institutions) are members of NAFSA: Association of International Educators?

If they are members, are they affiliates of OSEAS — NAFSA's "Professional Educators Group for Overseas Educational Advisers"? Which advisers are more likely to be NAFSA members and OSEAS affiliates? What different needs do they have? What different resources could they contribute? How could they help NAFSA?

And, what exactly is "OSEAS"? Are all advisers from outside the U.S. "OSEAS advisers"? Is there a distinction between an "OSEAS adviser" and an "overseas adviser"? Should there be...?

The Two 'Identities'

Amid the whirlwind of questions, two concerns related to adviser identity are apparent. The answers to both are essential for the future of overseas advising. One involves locating and documenting the wide diversity of professionals outside the U.S. who administer exchange programs and/or advise students and scholars on study and research in the United States. Once identified, communications within the advising community and between advisers and those who support them, or who wish to contact them to employ their expertise, will be greatly enhanced.

This done, urgent news updates can be distributed more quickly. National and regional training workshops can be organized more efficiently. And scarce funding for new resources can be targeted more precisely, so that despite reduced funding levels, advisers could still get new resources — the kind that they want, in a form they can use. The objectives are simple: to document the skills and resources needed in practical advising work, and to improve the channeling of resources and the practice of advising through better professional networking.

The second concern involves collective "identity" and the differences between "OSEAS" and "overseas" advisers. The OSEAS Professional Educators' Group is one of NAFSA's newest governance units. OSEAS was conceived in the mid-1980s to serve the small and closely-knit community of United States Information Agency (USIA) -assisted Advising Centers abroad, primarily centers at USIS consular posts and Fulbright Binational Commissions. NAFSA's "OSEAS Leadership" structure still reflects this original, limited bias.

Yet the structure and dynamics of international education have changed dramatically during the past decade. Particularly in Europe, as a consequence of the ERASMUS, TEMPUS, COMETT and other mobility initiatives, new centers of international education advising have appeared by the thousands in order to serve massive increases in the numbers of those who wish to study abroad, while at the same time U.S. government budget cutbacks have often forced reductions in the "traditional OSEAS" Fulbright USIS, and other USIS-assisted advising staffs.

Similarities vs Differences?

Most of these newly-created advising positions are in university international offices or advising centers of National Academic Recognition and Information Centers (NARICs) or other government entities. These "new" advisers and "traditional" USIA-assisted advisers both serve clients who are interested in study and research in the United States. They serve them in very similar ways, and with a curiously symbiotic relationship.

The new advisers need access to the reserves of expertise on U.S. exchanges possessed by USIS and Fulbright advisers, who in turn need the greater numbers, geographic diversity and vastly larger capabilities of new university and government-financed advising centers to cope with the increased numbers of students and scholars demanding advising services. One might thus expect a meshing of needs and interest. Furthermore, new technologies are making cooperation potentially much easier (see "Technology and Change: A Turning Point For Overseas Advising," AQ-Spring 1991; and "New Technologies and International Exchange," AQ-Spring 1992; for further detail).

However, these "newer" and "traditional" advising groups are not the same. University-based and government advisers usually serve clients wishing to go to many other countries than just the United States. There are also significant differences in institutional resources between Fulbright and USIS offices and university centers, especially in staff diversity, access to communications technology, and funding available for training and trips to conferences and workshops.

Perhaps most significant is that university-based advisers represent their own students and institutional programs. They are a direct link for bilateral or multilateral development initiatives on behalf of their school, as well as a direct source for questions about credentials and other academic documentation. Both these areas are of considerable interest to colleagues in other universities abroad with whom they may have, or wish to have, direct or program-mediated exchanges.

Documenting Identity

While identity can seem complex, the answer is ultimately simple. Overseas advisers must establish and articulate a clear identity, central to the basic, vital interests of all regions and sections of the Association. In so doing, the confusion between "OSEAS advisers" and "overseas advisers" must be eliminated.

If overseas advisers can identify and document their work as being distinct and vital to the basic needs of the international education community, then their position within NAFSA or any other international education association should be assured. Organizations cannot ignore sole providers of vital services.

Careful documentation should help almost despite the results. If research reveals an underlying unity over the wide spectrum of advising jobs and affiliations outside the U.S., then cooperation among the different affiliations should more easily follow, and governance solutions would be easier to find.

However, even if research shows that the needs and concerns of overseas advisers have little in common aside from their mutual involvement with international exchange, the fact that advisers ARE documented would itself help. If the different segments can be identified clearly enough that their different needs could be equitably addressed through a precise targeting of limited resources, then choices to either exclude or favor one sector over another may not have to be made. Perhaps appeals could be made to "all" after all.

The location and documentation of overseas advisers is essential. Without precise identification, one can only guess at who might need what, or how to provide it. Resources are wasted. Such lack of efficiency inevitably results either in reduced service for everyone, or in a favoring of only the largest and wealthiest constituency, or both.

The question of "who and what is an overseas adviser" DOES matter. The improvement of practical advising work and the future of OSEAS identity within NAFSA both depend on thorough documentation of all those things that different advisers do. This is where the OSEAS Database can help.

What is the OSEAS Database?

The OSEAS Database is a professional resource and research tool which forms the largest documented collection of advisers on U.S. educational exchange outside the U.S. It identifies and documents advisers and international educational exchange administrators in university, government, private, USIS and Fulbright advising centers and offices outside the U.S. The Database [founded and administered by John D. Hopkins of the University of Tampere, Finland] began in 1988, and was partially funded as a NAFSA Field Service project for 1989/1990, 1990/1991 and 1991/1992. There is no cost or obligation to be included in the Database, and neither NAFSA membership nor OSEAS affiliation is required.

The Database has grown steadily since 1988, and annual reports have been presented at NAFSA Conferences since 1989. At the 1989 Conference the Database comprised 404 advisers, of whom 210 were fully documented. A year later it had already increased to 813 advisers from 102 countries, of whom 459 were documented. These figures were the basis for the Fall 1990 Advising Quarterly article The OSEAS Advisory Database: What Responses Show.

In 1991 at NAFSA-Boston the numbers had increased to 515 documented advisers of 941, in 1992 at NAFSA-Chicago to 575 of 998, and the 1993 Database report for NAFSA-San Francisco showed 601 documented advisers out of a total of 1046.

There is a continuous updating of the Database. Listees who are no longer active in advising are removed, new advisers are added, and both contact information and resource and work priority data for advisers who are still active are updated as new information becomes available.

Your Responses Are Needed

However, the accuracy of the Database depends on your responses. First, responses must be sent in. Second, these responses must be accurate in fact, and clearly written. The brief overview of OSEAS advisers which follows is based in part on "old" data; some of the responses dating back even to 1989. Due to high postage costs, the last worldwide Database mailing was in August 1990. Since 1990 there have been only regional mailings, especially in Europe together with the 1991 OSEAS-Europe and EAIE Conferences, but with selected mailings as well to Eastern European, South American, and African advisers.

Data Forms have also been distributed at regional workshops in Eastern Europe and Africa, and during the College Board International Office's U.S.-Based Training Program each Spring. Many updates have come following presentations at NAFSA or EAIE annual conferences, after interim Database reports circulated on the OSEASNet and "Inter-L" electronic forums, and by word-of-mouth to new advisers by those who are already in the Database.

A new worldwide mailing is scheduled for Winter 1993/94, several weeks after the publication of this "Advising Quarterly," so that your response on the enclosed Data Form will have time to arrive before the mailing. This mailing will be able to use your new address details, as well addresses you might provide of other new advisers who are not currently in the Database. But what does the Database currently show about advisers?

September 1993: OSEAS in a Nutshell

The most systematic Database updating since autumn 1990 was carried out during the summer of 1993. Nearly 40% of the May 1993 entries were changed, representing 177 updatings of previously-listed advisers, 142 additions of advisers who were not previously listed, and the deletion of some 9% who were no longer active advisers. As of 01 September, the Database now includes 1011 advisers from 161 countries.

An adviser's affiliation often reflects particular duties and resources. The affiliations of all 1011 listees are 46.4% from universities, 18.5% from USIS Advising Centers, 15% from Private offices, 10.5% from Fulbright Commissions, and 9.6% from Government Advising Offices.

More significant is the data for the documented advisers, i.e. those who have completed and returned the enclosed "Blue" Data Form (or its e-mail equivalent). Of the documented advisers, 51.7% are from Universities, 14.8% from Private Advising Centers, 14.3% from Fulbright Binational Commissions, 13.1% from USIS Advising Centers, and 6.1% from Host-Government Centers.

Documented advisers are currently most numerous in Europe (60.1%), followed by Asia (16.6%), South America (9.5%), Africa (6.2%), North America (5.5%), and Australia/New Zealand (2.2%).

Overall, 48.7% reported that they are NAFSA members, with the highest membership percentage being Private advisers (72.2%), followed by Fulbright (57.6%), USIS (48.7%), University (43.6%), and Government advisers (26.8%). 13.3% or all advisers are U.S. nationals working abroad, and a further 55.8% (non-U.S. advisers) have studied or undertaken professional training of one month or more in the U.S. Conversely, 44.2% reported that they had never been to the United States.

The exchange work of 43.6% was reported as being "Full-time" (vs. "Part-time within full-time work"). "Full-time" advisers were found most often in Fulbright Commissions (70.5%), followed by Private (63.3%), Government (46.3%), University (31.2)% and USIS advisers (30.7%). The work nature was "Administrative" (Only) for 14.6% overall, "Advisory" (Only) for 28.1%, and a combination of "Both" program administration and advising work for 53.9%.

Those who reported doing "Advising" (only) were led by USIS advisers (48.7%), followed by Fulbright (40%), Government (36.5%), Private (28.8%), and University advisers (18.2%). The percentages for advisers who did "Both" administration and advising by affiliation were led by University advisers (59.2%), followed by Fulbright (50.5%), USIS (48.7%), Private (47.7)%, and Government advisers (43.9%).

Overall, 34.8% reported that their exchange/advising work was "Only" with the United States, and a further 32.5% that it was "Mainly" with the U.S. (as opposed to mainly with "Other" countries). Those who most worked "Only" with U.S. exchanges were led by Fulbright advisers (85.8%), followed by USIS (78.2%), Government (31.7%), Private (25.5%), and University advisers (13.3%). Those who reported working "Mainly" with U.S. exchanges (as opposed to "Only" or "Other") were led by Private advisers (48.8%), followed by University (35.5%), Government (29.2%), USIS (20.5%), and Fulbright advisers (11.7%).

Technology Resources

What types of data-processing and communications technology resources do advisers have? The current data show that personal computers are used by 61.9% of all advisers (this does not include university or government advisers who use mainframe terminals rather than microcomputers). IBM-compatible micros were used by 51.7% of all advisers, vs Macintoshes by 9.2%. The most-reported software was WordPerfect, followed by MicroSoft Word (both are word-processing products).

Worldwide, at least 21.3% of all Database listees report e-mail addresses (although the data are most accurate in this field only for Europe, and inexact even there). 35.5% of all European advisers report an e-mail address, broken down by region as 26.2% of Western European advisers, 42.6% of East-Central Europeans, and 49% for Nordic advisers. These data underestimate the reality. Internet e-mail access has increased dramatically during recent months. Many advisers now have e-mail, but have not reported that they have it, or what their address is.

CD-ROM capability is a new field for the Data Form, as there have been proposals to distribute the entire USIA Minimum Reference Bookshelf series on CD-ROM diskette rather than in paper form. Data are currently too scanty to be meaningful, although it is interesting that Eastern European advisers seem to be the group most likely to be actively using CD-ROM technology, often helped by equipment donations to enable cost-effective advising through the use of technology.

Problematics of Responses

Updates are necessary for data to be valid. Telephone and telefax numbers worldwide are changing, with the emergence of new nations and the expansion of telephone networks. Digits have been added and country prefixes changed. Postal codes have also changed. Are your phone and fax numbers still the same as two years ago? Have you added a new fax number? Has your office moved or your address changed? Send in your current data so your listing can be verified. Consider what those calls may have meant that you didn't get because your number was old!

Accuracy is essential when completing the Data Form. Type or carefully print those e-mail addresses! Or, on another tack, is your Fulbright Office or USIS post REALLY a NAFSA member? Three years ago, a comparison of NAFSA's own membership registry with Data Form responses showed "over-reported" membership percentages for these two affiliations. Apparently, USIS and Fulbright offices received certain NAFSA materials as part of the Minimum Reference Bookshelf Service, and may have felt that because they had NAFSA materials, they were NAFSA members. They weren't.

Such considerations are quite important when assessing the reliability of adviser data, not to mention the "responsibility" relationship between NAFSA and those groups of advisers. The problem did not show up in other affiliation categories.

OSEAS Files on Inter-L

Overview reports on the OSEAS Database, including a listing of all names in the Database, have been presented at each NAFSA annual conference since 1989. However, considerably more information from the Database is now available in electronic form, for those who have access to internet e-mail.

The electronic archives of "Inter-L," an e-mail discussion forum run by MicroSIG for the NAFSA Membership, includes two files of contact data from the OSEAS Database which are often cited in the NAFSA Newsletter and in "International Educator" magazine.

As of September, the OSEAS1 DIRECTRY and OSEAS2 DIRECTRY files (there is a limit of 8-characters for filename words, thus the spelling of "directry" instead of "directory"), contain adviser names, titles, institutions and cities, date of data entry and most recent updating — and most importantly telephone, telefax and telex numbers plus E-mail addresses for 875 of the 1011 Database listees (all for whom contact details are known).

These files are available by 24 hours per day, automatically, at no cost, to anyone who sends an e-mail message to "listserv@vtvm1.cc.vt.edu" with the one-line command "get OSEAS1 DIRECTRY Inter-L" (or "get OSEAS2 ... for the second file). OSEAS1 includes all European listees, sorted by country, city, affiliation and lastname; OSEAS2 includes the same sorting (as well as by Continent) of advisers from the rest of the world.

These two files are updated at least twice a year, at which time postings are sent to Inter-L and OSEASNet describing the changes in Database statistics, and notifying users that new editions are available. Many of Inter-L's nearly 2000 readers download the files and use the information to contact OSEAS advisers when they have scholarships available for overseas students in certain fields or countries, travel grants to enable advisers to attend and present at conferences in the U.S., or questions on academic credentials or study abroad options in the adviser's country.

Most of these communications are entirely consistent with an adviser's main duties, and they have often brought new funding initiatives, travel grants, and publication opportunities to advisers — at least to advisers whose contact data was correct! This is just one way in which the Database can help you.

MicroSIG 'Gopher' Resources

Since April 1993 MicroSIG has also operated an electronic "gopher" service, which for those who can use either the internet TELNET utility or else use a "gopher server" directly, provides readable and searchable documents directly on-line, which are also easily retrievable anytime one wants a personal copy.

The "International Education Forum" directories in the MicroSIG gopher (gopher.csc.fi or gopher.colostate.edu) include the OSEAS1 and OSEAS2 DIRECTRY files plus complete listings of all names in the Database in separate files by Continent, sorted by country, city, and affiliation. Those with internet access can easily examine these files to check the accuracy of their phone, fax, telex and e-mail data, or search by name, city, country or other fields for the details of colleagues they wish to contact.

The "International Education Forum" also includes separate directories especially for OSEAS advisers, which include papers published by and for OSEAS advisers, on-line bookstore, dictionary and reference services, access to the Chronicle of Higher Education electronic version, the U.S. Government "Federal Register," the electronic catalogues of the Library of Congress and many other useful resources.

Also in the "Forum" are e-mail versions of the blue Data Form and yellow OSEAS Database Background flyer which are stitched into this magazine. Advisers with internet access can obtain, complete, and return these electronic dataforms quickly and without the cost of airmail postage or faxing charges (if you or your colleagues don't have gopher access, but can receive e-mail, send me an note and I will e-mail you these forms directly).

All of these resources are provided to help you. The selection of documents and services result in part from suggestions you have given on your Database Forms. Please continue to tell us of any improvements you might suggest to the existing information or what additional resources you might want to have added.

OSEAS Database Mailing Labels

The OSEAS DIRECTRY files (both on Inter-L and the Gopher) do not provide mailing addresses; they are not intended as a resource for marketing mass-mailings. However, as of 1993 mailing labels now can be purchased from the OSEAS Database to reach either all or subsections of advisers listed in the Database.

A file describing the availability and conditions of label purchase (also including details on the purchase of mailing addresses through both NAFSA and the College Board International Office) can also be retrieved from the Gopher. Income from the sale of mailing labels goes to postage charges for Database postings, as each worldwide mailing costs several thousand dollars and the Database receives no other funding.

Let's Show Them Who We Are!

Identifying who overseas advisers are, where they work, and what they do does matter. Please complete and send in your blue Data Form, and encourage other advisers with whom you are in touch to also obtain and return a Data Form. Your assistance can help both your own work and the work of your colleagues worldwide.

OSEAS has the potential to advance within NAFSA perhaps more now than ever before. In January 1993 an OSEAS affiliate was elected to the NAFSA Board of Directors — the first time ever that a resident outside the United States had been elected to the Board. We now have a voice to speak on our behalf. That voice needs your help to know what to say!

More attention is also being focussed on the global constituency of international education, as new technologies bring us closer together. Not only are overseas advisers a natural part of this new focus, but we increasingly command the skills needed to function within it. OSEAS networking capabilities are expanding rapidly. Each week more advisors gain e-mail capability and are able to communicate with each other more easily, both directly and via networks such as OSEASNet.

We now have the means to forge a clear identity for ourselves, and to bring to our profession the respect that it deserves and the new resources it so much needs. Let's use this means.

"Who are those people anyway"? ... Let's show them who we are! Please fill out your form and return it today. Help the OSEAS Database help you.

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