Technologies of Freedom (1995 Athens Conference Plenary; Hopkins)

Technologies of Freedom:
Community, Responsibility and Empowerment
For the Profession of Overseas Advising

Opening Keynote Plenary Address
OSEAS-Europe 1995 Fifth European Advising Conference
Divani Palace Acropolis Hotel; Athens, Greece; July 2, 1995
John D. Hopkins

Thank you, Madame Chair.
And to our 289 distinguished international educators here today from 49 countries in Europe -- and Africa, Asia, North America and South America . . . Good Morning!

This is the third time I have had the honor, and the privilege, of addressing an OSEAS-Europe conference on its opening day. The first was in Dubrovnik in 1989. The second was in La Grande Motte in 1991. On both of these occasions I spoke on the influence of technology in educational advising, as I shall also do in part today....

Our theme today is Integrating Advising Through Technology. I would like to review what we have already accomplished with our use of technology in advising, and what could lie ahead. I will discuss our growing sense of community among overseas advisers, based on our ability to communicate through these technologies. And I will ask you to consider if the time might have come for us to transform the "virtual community" which most of us are now sharing into one that also exists in reality.

Should we take responsibility for our own advising future? Can our new capability to work with each other electronically help us empower our advising community? Has the time come to create an independent, democratic, representative structure which would have the authority to work and act on our behalf, and which could truly help develop the profession of overseas educational advising, both in Europe and worldwide?

Here in Athens, we are in the right place to talk about community and democracy. It was here that our host nation and its language gave birth to these concepts. Here in the birthplace of Western civilization, history surrounds us. In a small way, we at this conference are adding to that history.

We are the largest overseas advising meeting ever held, with a registration nearly double that of our last conference. And we have accomplished many things for the first time. Not only do we have more participants, but we have more than ever from both East-Central Europe and the Newly-Independent States of the former Soviet Union -- regions in which the need for developing new advising services is critical, in which the interest in developing new academic linkages is strong, and in which some of our very best advising expertise has rapidly developed.

We have a larger participation from the United States than ever before; in part, I think, due to the interest in developing new academic linkages with the (re)-emerging nations of the ECE and NIS regions. With the help of Linden Educational Services, the conference features a College Fair for the first time, an event putting 40 U.S. institutions into direct contact with the leading U.S.-exchange-oriented advisers from 48 other countries, as well as the Greek academic community.

Also for the first time, we are honored to have six outstanding educators here as a result of our Cost-Shared Grant initiative with NAFSA regions in the United States. We hope this initiative will help speed and expand the integration of overseas advising concerns within the NAFSA organization. We also hope it will lead to more cooperation between our community of educators outside the United States and those inside the United States.

We have more exhibitors, through the help of International Consultants For Education and Fairs (ICEF), exhibitors who are providing us information and consultation not only on educational opportunities, but on products, services and new technologies which can be critical to advising work.

We have 35 fully-funded and 20 travel-only grantees, the highest total ever, whose presence here was made possible through the generosity of the United States Information Agency. We also have more than two dozen advisers and administrators whose attendance is being generously subsidized by the SOROS Foundation.

And through the income generated from our Exhibitors and College Fair, for the first time OSEAS-Europe has itself sponsored 14 adviser grantees to its own conference with its own money -- a significant step for us, for this shows that it CAN be done.

These 14 include advisers from the Czech Republic, Kyrgysztan, Poland and Slovakia; and three advisers from Fulbright and USIS centers in Spain and Switzerland, countries which would not have been represented here at all without our grants.

And I am proud in particular that our new World-Wide Cost-Shared Grants have enabled, again with our own money, six advisers from other world regions, including two USIS Regional Advising Consultants, also to join us in Athens: Rosemarie Arens from Peru, Carole Cummings from Chile, "Hanif" from Indonesia, Dalia Khalil of Egypt, Roberta Paola from South Africa, and Marti Thomson from Malaysia.

We have a remarkable gathering of experience and capability in this room. But simply being here is not enough. Conferences are starting points for new endeavors. The purpose of a conference is to 'confer'. The objective of this conference is to "Integrate Overseas Advising Through Technology". HOW can technology help us integrate, beyond what we have already accomplished?

How could technology better integrate our advising resources? How might technology help us integrate more effectively into the institutions and organizations with which we have mutual interests, in both the United States and Europe? How could we build more continuity, reliability, self-determination, and a greater sense of 'professionalism' into advising work? These are among the questions on which we need to 'confer', to brainstorm, perhaps to argue, during the next few days. We may have very different needs and perspectives. Is there ground on which we can work with each other toward our common goal? The hard part has been accomplished in getting us all together. The question for us now is, where do we go from here?

Many here today are attending their first advising conference. I have been using "we" as if it were self-evident who educational advisers are, and referring to our use of technology as if it were self-evident what we have been doing, or how that relates to advising work. I should define my terms.

Overseas advisers are international educational exchange professionals outside the United States whose work involves educational mobility with the United States. Advisers may advise, consult, develop, administer, or even teach about study, research and training opportunities involving the United States, helping the flow of students and scholars, in both directions.

Advisers can be found in Fulbright Binational Commissions, USIS posts or USIS-assisted advising centers, SOROS and other foundation offices and centers, host-government advising centers, and university international offices and academic departments.

There are also private advisers, both non-profit and for-profit. Advisers may work for banks, media corporations, government ministries, insurance companies, hospitals and research centers, or international organizations -- indeed in any structure which has an interest in education and training in the United States.

The common thread which binds us is the need to provide accurate, timely, impartial information on the vast range of educational training and research available in the United States, within the context of American law, immigration and visa requirements, social and cultural norms and values, testing and training in the American English language, and the financing options available to support all this -- both from the United States and one's own country, and in some cases from third-country or multinational sources as well.

An adviser's routine may also include many of the other issues which are featured in our conference sessions over the next few days. By mentioning these few, I wish only to establish a 'starting point' to describe an adviser's work, and therefore suggest what resources advisers need to do this work effectively.

I say 'starting point' because a knowledge of United States affairs is only one dimension of advising work. Advisers must also be experts on their own country. To be able to provide useful advice, they need to know their host-country educational system, in order to know how the different options of its credentials and study structure match the different options in the United States. They need to know their own country's legal and financial requirements which may influence the ability of clients to study abroad.

They must be cross-cultural experts of the first order to be able to provide effective orientation services, to explain how the social and cultural norms of their own country differ from what might be expected in the diverse subcultures of the U.S. in which their clients may eventually find themselves -- or vice-versa, since we also provide such services for those who enter our countries from abroad.

And still a third dimension, particularly for those of us in Europe, is the need to know about the rapidly growing number of study and training options within Europe itself. These include both U.S. branch campuses and U.S.-style educational programs and the availability of options through ERASMUS, TEMPUS, SOCRATES, LEONARDO and other European educational mobility initiatives. Might Europe's own options be better for some students than travelling all the way to the United States? These are also considerations of which every good adviser must be aware.

Advisers are one of the most direct and effective agents for advancing vital national interests of the United States. They provide front-line counseling for nearly half a million international students who are enrolled in American universities; counseling which in many cases will have determined whether those students would go to the United States at all, and if so, where they would go there and what they would do.

These international students are significant for American higher education. More than just occasionally they make the difference in the financial and academic viability of U.S. institutions, financially by the tuition and research grant money they bring into university coffers, and academically particularly in the science and engineering fields, where international graduate students help keep alive some academic departments of even our most prestigious universities.

International students also bring close to $7 billion dollars into the U.S. economy annually. Educational advising is very much in the U.S. national interest. And advising is of equal importance to the countries in which advisers work.

But this again is only one aspect of the work that we all do. Overseas advisers are also an invaluable resource for information on the students, changing educational structures, credentials and documentation, and other mobility dynamics of their own countries. American university admissions and study abroad officers, not to mention recruitment staff, are often desperately in need of precisely the sort of detailed, reliable, up-to-date information on the educational structure and culture of other countries which overseas advisers are uniquely equipped to provide -- "uniquely" since the daily work of advisers is to explain American higher education within the context of the system and credentials of their own country. It is often a simple matter to give the mirror image.

Overseas advisers offer some of the best expertise available to the international education profession on the countries and world regions in which they live. They provide unique and vitally important perspectives on almost every facet of academic mobility to and from the United States. The work advisers do and the knowledge they possess is indispensable for educational mobility to function.

And where does technology fit in?
Advising work relies on the ability to obtain and relay to our clients highly changeable data -- new visa regulations, taxation rulings, academic credentials equivalences, admissions and study requirements, testing policies, grant availability, ad infinitum. Most of this arrives as raw data for which the adviser's exacting interpretation and modification to local national conditions, to the needs of a particular student, is essential.

Advisers depend on timely, reliable access to original data sources. Advisers often also depend on their ability to consult with trusted colleagues on how to interpret this data. In short, advisers depend on their ability to communicate. Advising work is information processing of the highest order. Knowing how to access, process, and distribute information is vital to advisers. Having the structures to access and distribute this information is equally vital.

Thus it is almost self-evident that our conference has again focused on technology, and that four of our subthemes this week (Information Management in the Advising Office, Unifying East and West via Electronic Networking, Using On-line, CD-ROM & Video Resources Effectively, and Telecommuting and Distance Advising) directly address the uses of technology.

But two other points may not be self-evident.

  1. The first is the image European advisers have gained for our proficiency with technology. Within the international education profession worldwide, the remarkable accomplishments in the use of technology of an image known as "OSEAS-Europe" is often regarded as the standard which our colleagues hope one day to be able to follow. We might look on that with pride.

  2. It is also not self-evident that we have had to create ourselves, and finance ourselves by voluntary time and money, all these technological marvels for which we are known, on which we rely, and which have become essential to our work. It is only through voluntary work that we have the structures to communicate with each other, and are able to circulate our queries, newsletters, handouts, announcements, updates, and new advising guidelines.

It is through volunteerism alone that a greater sense of sharing and community has been born among advisers throughout the world, a sense of common needs and concerns based on our new ability to communicate rapidly with each other -- an ability that has made even this conference possible.

It seems unlikely we would be meeting now were it not for Professor Ted Riedinger's creation of "OSEASNet" in May of 1992. OSEASNet had its origin in our 1991 meeting in France, which also provided the core for Ted's latest book, "Where in the World to Learn: A Guide to Library and Information Science for International Education Advisers." Ted created OSEASNet as a personal, voluntary effort, using the computer resources of The Ohio State University. He has been maintaining it solely as a voluntary effort ever since.

In November 1993, Janice Finn of the London Commission, who was trying to obtain USIA funding for a 1994 conference (the proposed 1993 meeting not having received funding) sent a request to OSEASNet for advisers to 'justify' the need for a conference, as USIA was going through budget cuts, and the argument had been made that there was no longer a need for conferences since advisers were gaining access to e-mail. It had been suggested, in other words, that e-mail could replace human contact.

In short order, advisers on OSEASNet submitted over 20 pages of single-spaced A4 printout giving opinions quite forcefully on why e-mail was not a substitute for human encounters, and how the growth of e-mail enfranchisement required, if anything, more frequent meeting to learn how to better use the technology, and to meet in person -- as we are doing here now -- advisers from the far sides of Europe, or far sides of the world, with whom they had been in contact electronically. One does not know exactly what transpired as a result, but a week or two after these exchanges the green light came to proceed with planning for Athens.

Four of the contributors to that OSEASNet discussion are here today: Eha Teder and Marvi Pulver from Estonia, Ildiko Ficzko of Hungary, and Evelyn Levinson of Israel -- the last three having spoken so eloquently that they ended up on our organizing committee. I think we owe our Athens conference to Ted Riedinger's dedication to the cause of advising through OSEASNet, and to all those who used it so articulately to justify why we do continue to need conferences such as this one today. There is power in communication. And this was one way in which our community was empowered by technology.

Volunteerism and communications technologies also played a role in the promotion and administration of this conference. Our use of technology was another way in which we made history. Without our use of e-mail, list-servers and gopher, most of you would not be here today. The majority of the USIA grant applications, and 100% of our own Cost-Shared and World-Wide grant applications came by e-mail. More than half of the general registration and hotel reservation forms came by e-mail. Often participants had retrieved the forms themselves from the Inter-L archives or our Athens Conference gopher directories, without the need, and the time, of a human to intervene. Our most effective publicity by far was through e-mail and gopher. For our publicity and registration, a savings of time and money accrued which is impossible to calculate exactly, but the result clearly is that e-mail enabled us to attract far more people to Athens than would have been thinkable if we had had to rely on print, postal, fax or phone communications.

For us to have attracted nearly 300 registrants, to a standalone conference on the periphery of Europe in the height of the 'dead season' for international education programming, is a tribute to two things above all: the ability of internet technology to help us communicate rapidly and cost-effectively, and the interest in U.S. advising concerns that those communications helped arouse throughout Europe.

We used only simple technologies -- e-mail, listserv, and text- based gopher. Simple technologies, but with powerful potential. We use simple technologies to be inclusive. E-mail is the lowest common denominator of internet technology. Through e-mail, all of the conference and advising information we have on-line is available to anyone, anywhere, even with the simplest equipment and the most basic connections. Our electronic "lists" turned basic e-mail into a widescale communication tool, enabling us to reach hundreds or thousands of colleagues quickly with a single message. Advisers have been in a unique position the past year, for we have had both OSEASNet and the new OSEAS-WORLD network at our disposal. These two structures will now be merged into one this coming autumn.

Supporting OSEASNet and OSEAS-WORLD has been the OSEAS Database (renamed in January 1996 as the NEXUS Database). The Database, begun in preparation for our 1989 conference, is the largest knowledgebase available on overseas advisers, a de facto member directory of the global advising community. Contact data of advisers worldwide is updated regularly in the Inter-L archives and the gopher. It is available for anyone, anywhere, to use. Through it, advisers may obtain national or regional sets of mailing labels to distribute advising materials. Through the Database we can identify ourselves, examine what our joint work comprises, and contact each other whenever the need arises.

We also have our own gopher. Advising resources are located in the International Education Forum, the largest international education resource on the internet, with over a thousand logins per day. The Forum can be used for archiving papers, reports, directories, guidelines and other advising resources for all of us to obtain. Mette Rhode Larsen of Denmark has written a fine article on how she used the gopher in her advising work — an article which is itself in the gopher for you to retrieve.

Like the OSEAS-WORLD lists, the Forum is hosted by the Center for Scientific Computing in Finland, one of the major SuperComputing Centers in Europe. The International Education Forum is the home of not only the Overseas Advising Resources, and Athens Conference files, but also (until March 1997) the CEPES-UNESCO European Center for Higher Education and (until July 1997) the European Association for International Education. It also comprises (comprised until 1996) more than half of the interlinked 'NAFSA Resources' gopher structure which MicroSIG runs for NAFSA.

For advisers, this is good company in which to be. To be listed in the main directory of the gopher on an "equal basis" alongside NAFSA, the EAIE, CEPES-UNESCO and links to other organizations like the ERASMUS Central Bureau conveys a compelling image of the identity of OSEAS-Europe and overseas advisers.

The image that OSEAS-Europe conveys to the world is intriguing. It is an image of a major, technologically-adept, exceptionally well-organized and integrated, Europe-wide professional structure with a membership comprised of some of the foremost practical international education expertise across the Continent. What is the reality?

When talking about our e-mail lists and gopher resources, I have been using the words "our" and "we", as if they were ventures supported by an organization, by an "OSEAS-Europe" itself. There is a sense in which they are, since much of the content, and most of the use, comes from you, the advisers for whom the structures were created. But it is misleading to ut it this way.

I am 'under orders' by our Conference Chair to disclose the reality behind our publicity for this conference, and other activities that may have contributed to OSEAS-Europe's image. This is an image of an organization that in reality does not exist, for "OSEAS-Europe" has been only the working name for conferences of advisers who happen to live in Europe, and are loosely associated with "OSEAS" — the Overseas Educational Advisers' Professional Educators' Group of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, in the United States.

Our Chair recently returned from the NAFSA conference in New Orleans in amazement. Many people with whom she had spoken had thought, she told me, based on the volume and appearance of materials they had gotten on this conference, both by e-mail and print, that OSEAS-Europe must be a major European organization, with at least its own headquarters and postal code, and an ample staff of conference organizers, working together in harmony like a scurry of happy chipmunks.

And I must admit that long ago I stopped counting the number of letters and faxes I received addressed to the "OSEAS-Europe Secretariat," or phone calls wishing to speak to the person handling registrations, the person handling hotel reservations, the person responsible for the mailings, or the person on our computer staff who was responsible for gopher administration.

The reality is different from the image. It is a bit like the Wizard of Oz proving to be a meek little man in a rocking chair, with his wizardry only puffs of smoke and occasional loud noise. Behind the image OSEAS-Europe projected, our registration and publicity "staff" consisted of "me, myself and I." This is the reality. Or, it is part of the reality ....

The reality is also that we DO have a positive and widely-known image; we do have major electronic communications resources which we regularly use; and we do also have some of the leading practical international education expertise in Europe as a part of our adviser community. Many of their writings have been published in the gopher for educators throughout Europe and elsewhere on the global internet to read, and to learn from.

Twenty-eight of those persons are here today. As I read their names, in alphabetical order, I would like them to stand so you will know their faces when you next read their works on-line:

  • Silvia Antonescu, Romania;
  • Rosemarie Arens, Peru;
  • Alexandra Augustyniak, Poland;
  • Siebelien Felix, The Netherlands;
  • Ildiko Ficzko, Hungary;
  • Agnes Gal, Hungary;
  • Eva Gorynska, Poland;
  • Jennifer Haapala, Russia;
  • Stella Halfdanardottir, Iceland;
  • Olga Kniazeva, Russia;
  • Lydia Kucher-Shevchik, Ukraine;
  • Donna Lae, Norway;
  • Mark Lazar, Hungary;
  • Evelyn Levinson, Israel;
  • Terhi Molsa, Finland;
  • Marie O'Hara, United Kingdom;
  • Zara Oganessian, Armenia;
  • Marvi Pulver, Estonia;
  • Mette Rhode-Larsen, Denmark;
  • Ted Riedinger, United States;
  • Marianne Ruane, Russia;
  • Dace Sinkevica, Latvia;
  • Ivan Tsarikov, Belarus;
  • Catherine White, United Kingdom;
And I would also like to recognize four others who have often been responsible for these articles having been written — Regional Educational Advising Consultants Henry Scott of the NIS region, Mary Kirk of the ECE region, and Marti Thomson of East Asia.

The twenty-eight people who stood before you were not images. They are real people, who wrote real articles, of real value to us as advisers. Overseas advisers need the expertise which has been provided to us in such articles. We have among us individuals with the expertise to produce them. We have the technology to make the knowledge available within our rapidly-growing community. But we have no means of soliciting, editing, publishing, distributing or promoting any of the work we produce beyond voluntary effort. For 'professionals' who are concerned about the continuity of their professional development, this is not enough. It calls into question the very concept of 'professionalism'.

Can we call ourselves 'professionals' if we must rely only on volunteerism for all the services that sustain our 'professional' development? Are we 'professional' if we are not free to choose our own leaders, if we cannot decide where or when we wish to meet, or if we cannot ourselves directly influence the standards and activities of the 'profession' in which we are engaged? Does not 'professionalism' imply the capability to speak and act for ourselves, the possession of a democratic structure through which we can help determine the shape of our advising future?

Communications technology provides us with a means to empower our advising community and move beyond volunteerism, if we so wish, at the same time that it offers the means (some would rather say "the threat") to transform the nature of advising work.

We must remember that the tools we are currently using are still only the simplest. More advanced internet technologies almost beg to be used for advising. The graphical capability of the World-Wide Web could be a boon for advisers. Pictures can be put directly on-line. Visa forms, diplomas, and transcript models could be available for all our clients to see. Illustrations could be included in our articles; maps in orientation handbooks. Books can be published on line and read page-by-page, looking just like the version you would buy in the bookstore, if not better -- since typos can be corrected, and changeable data can be quickly updated.

Sound can accompany the pictures. An adviser's voice could be built into the graphic of an admissions form, soothingly and patiently explaining, step by step, how to fill the form in. Video clips could run side-by-side with the presentation of an advising center. The advising videos you can see downstairs in our computer room could all be viewed directly from the "home page" of your advising center, without the need for clients to actually visit your center at this introductory stage, and consume your advising time.

Language options could be added. For the Brussels office, for example, there could be choices for French, Flemish, and English, or indeed all of the EU languages. Click the "language button" of your choice with your mouse, and a voice in that language will start narrating your video. Another video could introduce your advising library, so students would already know when they came in where everything was and how to use it. In due course, the library itself could be on-line.

Think of the savings in your advising time. Think of the greater outreach you'd gain. Think of a master Web structure linking all advising centers, and funding sources, and testing services, from which anyone, anywhere could freely choose. Technically, all this is possible to do, right here, right now. But who is there to do it? From where will the time and the financing come? What voice do we have in decisions that affect the way we work?

Technologies can dramatically enhance an adviser's work. But they will not reduce that work; they will increase it. They will bring increased new demands for training, and even more demands for the skills of providing. From where will all this come? How will we provide for our own professional futures? We know what we need, and we might know what we want. But where do we go from there? How can we ensure future conferences on a predictable, regular basis? How can we continue learning how to use new technology? How could we better develop our advising resources, and expand our access to these resources?

Volunteerism alone is not enough. Professionals cannot rely on voluntary support for vital services. There is a point beyond which volunteerism is no longer reasonable in developing, administering, and providing continuity for advising activities. In the staging of OSEAS-Europe conferences, and in the provision of electronic resources for overseas advisers to use, we have passed that point.

Where do we go from here? What are our options? What about NAFSA, since "OSEAS" is a "Professional Educators' Group" within that organization? What about USIA, which assists Fulbright, USIS, and many other advising centers worldwide, and has so generously supported this conference?

At the New Orleans Conference, USIA informed us that changing political realities make it unlikely for us to expect increased support, if indeed they are able to maintain the present support. We cannot overstate our gratitude to the United States Information Agency for its generous and courageous support of this conference at a time when not only has its own budget been slashed dramatically, but its very existence is being threatened by the new mood of the U.S. Congress -- a mood which makes any funding activities outside the U.S. a risky venture.

The cold reality is that USIA operates at the discretion of the U.S. Congress. It is subject like all other government bodies to the cost-cutting and bureaucracy-shrinking fashion that currently prevails. Even assuming funding does remain available, USIA has made it clear that future support would be much easier to justify if it did not appear as if the U.S. Government was picking up the tab, but was rather cooperating in cost and labor with responsible, self-sufficient units.

What about NAFSA, an organization on whose Board of Directors I sit, and in which I have worked for the past six years to advance the numbers and position of its overseas members? What support can overseas advisers, or OSEAS itself, expect from NAFSA?

There are many dedicated NAFSAns who have done immeasurable work trying to advance overseas advising interests within the NAFSA structure. Many of them are in our audience today. Chief among those who would like to help us is NAFSA's President, Peggy Pusch, whose letter of greeting was read at the outset of this session. Yet underlying her congratulations for all we have done, and her tribute to the work we shall continue to do, was her honest recognition of the limited support we can expect.

As an organization, NAFSA would like to help us more. There is a genuine wish, and an urgent need, to integrate both the skills and the international perspectives of overseas advisers into the all-too-insular mainstream of the NAFSA membership. Our voices are needed, and a recognition for this need is slowly emerging. Our Regional Grantees are one proof of the interest we are beginning to gain. The NAFSA survey questions you received this morning are another proof. NAFSA wants to know how you feel it might help.

But again there are the realities. NAFSA receives a substantial portion of its budget from USIA contracts, including virtually all the support relayed via NAFSA to advisers, primarily those in USIA-assisted advising centers. NAFSA itself relies heavily on USIA funding, and the fate of this funding directly affects what NAFSA is able to do for OSEAS, regardless of good intentions.

A further 'reality' is that NAFSA is a membership organization, a "national organization of international educators." The primary mission of any membership organization is to serve its paying members. Fewer than 10% of NAFSA members are affiliates of OSEAS; fewer than one-third of this 10% live and work overseas. A smaller percentage yet are actually advisers. In this largest advising conference ever held, only 39 of all our overseas participants are NAFSA members — or to put it more graphically, of all the mass of humanity filling this great room, less than half of those in the front row. And despite our being the largest "OSEAS" conference ever held, we received not a penny of financing from NAFSA, to which the "OSEAS Professional Educators Group" belongs.

Could we expect this to change in future? What is the reality? Even with the best of intentions and most sincere desire, in light of the budget pressures it also is facing, how could NAFSA justify increasing its support to us? No matter how righteous we may feel, or how vocal we might be, it seems unlikely that budgeting realities will ever allow overseas members or the OSEAS group itself to be more than a peripheral interest within NAFSA, regardless of the vital skills, expertise, and perspectives advisers could bring to the association.

And the irony is, the support we might most need — assistance with our communications networking and training, or assistance with the organization of conferences like this, is the very support that we ourselves have been providing to NAFSA.

The reality is that we have only ourselves on whom to depend. Might we not help ourselves more directly? Is self-reliance an option? Could we create an OSEAS-Europe organization of our own that could work toward the development of overseas advising in cooperation with NAFSA and USIA and the other bodies whose own interests include working with us? This is not an option to be considered lightly. Hard work would be involved. Your money would need to be spent. But it is an option.

We are Europeans. We advise on U.S. educational options within a European context. We need a structure which understands and can work effectively within that European context. We have friends who could help. One of these is EAIE, the European Association for International Education. Networking with other Europeans on the broad range of educational mobility with which EAIE is involved is in our interest, as is EAIE's desire to learn more about our proficiency with United States mobility.

If we had our own organization, what could it do? A primary need is to ensure the continuity of the electronic communications structures on which we have come to rely. What if OSEASNet and OSEAS-WORLD were to vanish next week? When will the limits of volunteerism prove decisive, as they inevitably must? Whose responsibility should it be to provide and maintain the structures that link us together?

Another need is to organize European conferences on a regular schedule, at times and in locations where maximum utility can be gained from the cost of getting there. In this respect, we have been invited by the EAIE to hold our next OSEAS-Europe meeting, if we have the means with which to do so, in December 1996 in Budapest, Hungary, prior to and in association with the Eighth Annual Conference of the EAIE from 4-7 December.

With our continuing interest in the linkage of Western and Eastern European advising, and the rapidly increasing interest of U.S. higher education in expanding its contacts in East-Central Europe, a shared OSEAS-Europe/EAIE conference in the European heartland, with cooperative registration fees, and the use of one set of travel money for two related conferences, would be an exceptional inauguration for a new association. A third need is to further develop our technological capability, in cooperation with EAIE's ENIS group and NAFSA's MicroSIG, to provide more adviser training and develop our on-line resources.

And training and development are only the start. Authority and regulation are also needed to guide us through the masses of raw data on-line. Who determines what is put on line, in the name of advising, let's say? Who authorizes the options from which we would choose? When differing interpretations of credentials are proposed, who may be right and who might be wrong? How can our voices be heard in determining such issues?

A further need is to generate funding for professional development; to help advisers cost-share trips to NAFSA and EAIE conferences, to stage our own OSEAS-Europe events, and help advisers attend those events -- as we have shown we can do here in Athens -- and to have the ability to determine ourselves who is chosen to represent us at those events. And funding is also needed to publish and promote the work advisers are producing, as we have already begun to do electronically with our gopher.

Finally, there is the issue of adviser retention. Could we provide more on-the-job education for advisers, including study and research options which could provide more incentive to remain in their jobs? Our prowess with electronic communications could easily be combined with telematic distance-education programs at cooperating universities to offer advisers coursework toward degrees in the academic disciplines in which we are already working in practice, including such fields such as United States Studies or International and Comparative Education. These are examples of needs on which I think we might agree.

We already have many of the resources that would be needed. We have the support of a major supercomputing center for our e-mail lists, gopher services, and most of all, the creation of new World-Wide Web resources. We could easily get the cooperation of one or more major universities for assistance with salaries and services, for subsidized printing and mailing costs, for the employment of student work-study and government employment-scheme labor, and for funding eligibility from such European initiatives as TEMPUS-TACIS, which could assist with many of our needs.

What we lack is the most important ingredient -- a consensus that the option of creating our own professional structure is worth exploring, and if we should find that it is, the commitment to take responsibility for it. Is this an option for us? Or if there are other options, what are they? I suggest we consider what might be done, and in our closing two days from now, decide how we should proceed.

I would like to close by reviewing our last two conferences, with an eye toward how our past may point to our future. How has our history helped shape our identity?

'OSEAS-Europe 1989' in Dubrovnik was the first time we used the "OSEAS-Europe" name, and it was the first meeting to call itself a "conference" instead of a "workshop", the term used in our first meeting in Brussels in 1986, and then in London in 1987. We might say that our conference identity was born in the Balkans, and in Greece we are returning to our origins.

In Dubrovnik, we heard that a new organization, a "European NAFSA", might be started in Amsterdam in December. The EAIE was born later that year, shortly after the Wall came down and democracy began returning to East-Central Europe. Several of us in Dubrovnik became founding members of the EAIE. Brigitte Birke-Dexheimer helped found the Study Abroad and Foreign Student Advisers section, which Siebelien Felix currently chairs.

When I spoke in Dubrovnik, only 2 of 84 used e-mail. But e-mail was unknown then to most of international education. Three weeks later at the NAFSA Conference in Minneapolis, MicroSIG — the voluntary group which has provided NAFSA's telematics resources since their inception — was founded. The "Inter-L" forum that MicroSIG has administered ever since began a few weeks later. Inter-L was the first of our "technologies of freedom".

The influence of overseas advisers in developing these telematic resources has always been strong. MicroSIG was begun by Jim Graham, a former adviser in Chile who knew well the desperate need we had to link with each other, and the empowering ability of communication to forge community and foster responsibility. In Jim Graham's heart there has always been a special place for overseas advisers, as many of us know personally. But Jim was not alone at the creation. The first MicroSIG chair also was an overseas NAFSAn, Barry Tonge from the University of Alberta. And so was its second chair, and its third, and its fourth...

Two years after Dubrovnik, 'OSEAS-Europe 1991' in La Grande Motte was held together with the third EAIE Conference. The joint conference with EAIE opened many new bridges to the different sections of that young, and now rapidly-growing, organization. U.S. exchanges were peripheral for EAIE, with Europe's focus on its own new mobility initiatives. But EAIE knew that the U.S. would remain a strong part of global education, and that we in OSEAS-Europe had expertise from which all our European colleagues could benefit. They also admired our spirit, and our sense of sharing and togetherness. There was a special feeling to our OSEAS meeting that was envied by those at EAIE.

By 1991, the momentum had begun, with 37 of our 143 conference participants now on e-mail. We supplied a technology workshop for EAIE which twice filled to standing-room crowds. EAIE formed a permanent committee for Electronic Networking and Information Sharing (ENIS) to coordinate its communications development. An overseas adviser was the first person invited to serve on this committee. A basis for cooperation was firmly established.

In 1992 OSEASNet began. In the Spring of 1993 the "International Education Forum" began and in 1994 the OSEAS-WORLD network began. All of them were begun by overseas advisers. Through them we are joined with each other, in Europe and throughout the world. Through them we ARE a community, in which none of us need any longer feel alone. We have here something special. We need to make it last.

Now, the course of events has brought us to Athens, to a conference whose opening reception was held beneath the lighted Parthenon, a symbol worldwide of the birth of democracy and the spirit of freedom, and whose closing plenary will be held on the fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States.

It is as if destiny has brought us here to decide upon our future.
Where do we go from here?

Author Credit (at time of publication): John D. Hopkins is Senior Lecturer in American Language and Culture and Coordinator of the U.S. Area Studies Curriculum at the University of Tampere, Finland. He is an elected member (1993-1996) of the Board of Directors of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, and permanent member of the Electronic Networking and Information Sharing Committee of the European Association of International Education. He served for two years as Chair of the Board of the International Student Exchange (ISEP) Program, and for 12 years on the Board of Directors of the Finland-United States Educational Exchange Commission. He is the administrator of the NEXUS Database, the International Education Forum, and the 'OSEAS-WORLD' integrated e-mail network.

This address was subsequently published in the Fall 1995 issue of the Advising Quarterly, published for overseas advisers by AMIDEAST in Washington, with support from the United States Information Agency

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Selected Publications by John D. Hopkins