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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
But two other points may not be self-evident.
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.
- 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
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
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
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
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:
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.
- 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;
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
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
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
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
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?