Late May, I had the opportunity to attend the NAFSA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, CA. NAFSA is the largest international educator’s organization in the world, with nearly 12,000 members of international student and scholar educators, advisors, language teachers, and student recruiters. At this year’s conference, over 8,500 folks from around the globe were in attendance.
“NAFSA believes that international education advances learning and scholarship, fosters understanding and respect among people of diverse backgrounds a nd perspectives, is essential for developing globally competent individuals, and builds leadership for the global community.” (NAFSA, 2017)
When I entered my first session of the week, first-timer’s orientation, I could feel that the realm of international education offers an overall exuberant, motivating, and positive atmosphere, with socially minded individuals dedicated to gaining, and sharing knowledge on how the needs of all international students and scholars, and a globalizing world can be best served.
Now perhaps you may wonder, how did an invasive species person, like myself, have the chance to attend an international educators conference?
Since 2015, our WISE team at Oregon Sea Grant and Oregon State University has taken part in a collaborative project focused on the USDA “Don’t Pack a Pest!” national campaign to educate all international travelers on the risks of accidentally introducing invasive pests from overseas by carrying prohibited agricultural and food items in luggage.
These prohibited food items may come in a variety of forms such as dried noodles from China to beef sausages from Eastern Europe. Have you ever seen a travel souvenir made of grasses, or decorated with seeds? This too could be a possible vector for introducing an invasive species or pest.
With the “Don’t Pack a Pest!” campaign, our current aim is to share our message to all students who travel internationally, especially since international and study abroad students make up the largest sector of all international travelers and students can be viewed as our future leaders for positive impacts.
My objective in attending the NAFSA conference was to better understand the NAFSA organization, and how a campaign such as “Don’t Pack a Pest!” may resonate with this group. I attended regional meetings and networking sessions to understand the structure, and knowledge communities of NAFSA, in which Education Abroad and International Student and Scholar Services would pertain most to our project. I listened to motivational plenary speakers such as Isabel Wilkerson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gaining the socially conscious perspective in which NAFSA professionals work to promote. I met advisors from Brazil, the Netherlands, and others here in the US. I attended a session on how to “Welcome your International Student”, and better understand the differing scenarios and situations new students face as they attend school in the US.
Students often look to their advisors, and respective programs for information. If our team can build relationships with international educators, we have the opportunity for this group to share our “Don’t Pack a Pest!” messaging to their students. To date, we have partnered and built relationships with international programs directors, advisors, and educators at Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Portland State University, Linn-Benton Community College, Portland Community College, Lane Community College, and the Northern Oregon International Educators (NORIE) organization. Our partnered international educators play a vital role in not only their willingness to understand the importance behind “Don’t Pack a Pest!” but to share this knowledge with their students.
With much time, dedication, and social mindfulness like that of the folks from NAFSA, our next steps are to create working partnerships with university international programs throughout the US West Coast in support of sharing the “Don’t Pack a Pest!” message with students, and all international travelers. If you or someone you know would be interested more in the “Don’t Pack a Pest!” project, please feel free to contact us at WISE.firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to hear from all!
Kayla first started at Oregon Sea Grant as a PROMISE intern after graduating from Oregon State University in 2014. She has since been a part of the program as a Marine Educator, working in the areas of watershed health and invasive species research and educational outreach. She has been involved in developing an AIS toolkit lesson plan for K-12 educators, assisting with the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC), visiting local schools to teach more on invasive species, specimen collections, conducting survey-based research studies, and supervising student interns and workers. She will soon be starting her Master’s in Public Policy at Oregon State University.