Monthly Archives: June 2011

Forensics of Academic Documents: Part II

10 things you need to know:

As part of our on-going blogs on detecting fraudulent documents, this week’s blog offers 10 general steps you need to consider when handling academic documents (official, original or attested copies), whether for evaluation, admission or employment.

1. Familiarize yourself with the educational system of the countries you receive academic documents and request academic documents by using the terminology appropriate to the country you’re evaluating

2. Check the biographical data such as name, sex, date of birth, city and country of birth on the academic documents including your institutional application form to ensure everything matches

3. Use the date of birth as a way to determine whether the person, for example, has in fact completed the equivalent of high school

4. Notice if there are any “gaps” in the educational history based on the information provided on your institutional application form and the academic documents submitted

5. Check the applicant’s name on each document and if it differs by document or information on the application form, request for official proof of name change.

6. Compare the document you are reviewing against previous documents you have on file from the same country and check for consistencies (logo and insignia of the institution, format of document, texture and print, etc.)

7. Check the status of the institution to ensure that it is recognized by an internationally recognized authority in the country of study

8 Check references (print publications on world education systems, directories, on-line information) to see if the program studied, ie. major/field of study, is in fact offered by the institution

9. Review all correspondence (e.g. packages, envelopes, emails) received for postmarks and addresses to ensure they reflect the address of the issuing academic institution and not a personal/private address

10. Sometimes applications are submitted minutes or hours before deadlines making verification difficult and next to impossible. Insist on the importance on document verification. Don’t buckle under pressure!

In a future blog, I’ll share with you some clues to look for when reviewing academic documents.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
June 30, 2011

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Exchanging Stories: Learning from Each Others Lived Experiences

by Abby Wills, MA
Shanti Generation

Every person has a story.

In our stories live countless lessons and possibilities for learning. Stories are living bridges between our past and future; our ancestors and our descendants.

The act of telling our stories opens the way for us to shape them. As we see our own experiences reflected through the listening eyes and ears of others, we gain new perspectives. Likewise, when we listen to another person share their story, we become mirrors reflecting back to them an understanding, a validation, or perhaps another angle, or question. During the exchange of stories, both teller and listener are affected.

The exchange of personal stories has been utilized as a tool for learning throughout history, and has a current presence in diverse learning environments.

I came to value story sharing during my studies at Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena where I was required to write stories from my early years and other stages of my own life cycle. Rather than sending me to research the works of theorists right away, my professors first asked me to reflect on my life experience. This allowed me to locate myself in the theoretical information I would subsequently engage with.

The Human Development curriculum at Pacific Oaks introduced me to educators masterful in utilizing students’ stories as the “stuff of learning.”

“Education is not a preparation for life itself. Education is life itself.” John Dewey

The oft-quoted words of Dewey point to the essence of storytelling in education. Our stories are our lives. Our lives themselves contain the context through which we will learn best. In Dewey’s style of democratic education, the story is written in real time and is a shared experience of discovery. In this sense, each students experience enters the learning environment as vital content.

Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire, utilized peoples lived experiences to help them learn to read, thereby empowering them with the tools to vote. Inviting someone to share their story provokes agency in that person. Bringing students personal stories alive in the classroom means that we make a space for learners to enter into the learning as subjects.

As our stories are told and heard, they come alive. In telling our stories, we gain a new view of our lives. Listening to other peoples stories reveals just how interconnected our paths really are. The context of my hardships may be very different from yours, yet we have all overcome many obstacles to be able to share our stories today.

Pacific Oaks College



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Forensics of Academic Documents: Part I

One question that never fails to be asked when I present a workshop on foreign credential evaluations or even in casual conversation with someone asking me about what I do for a living is “do you see any forged documents?’” And I always reply “yes.” Foreign credential evaluation is part research and the determination of the U.S. academic equivalence of studies, and part detective work. In fact, there is an element of sleuthing and forensic science that’s involved when we examine academic documents. One thing that I always stress at seminars, conference workshops and at our in-house-training sessions at ACEI, is to first determine the document’s authenticity before starting the actual evaluation. This is not an easy task for a newcomer to the field and especially not so straight forward when dealing with documents coming from different parts of the world where knowledge of the nuances of a country’s mail system and document issuing practice is an essential component of the job. I find that I’ve become familiar with textures and smells of documents just as much as the country’s educational system and document processing procedures! Evaluation and determining document authenticity is tactile and intuitive supported by facts.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous falsified documents; some are bold and brazen attempts at reproducing transcripts and diplomas and some are sloppy and poorly executed tampering of data on existing “official” documents. The need to falsify documents stems either from desperation or a criminal mind wishing to break rules and laws as a means to an end. Regardless, if the rise in identity theft is any indication, we can be certain that document fraud will continue. And thanks to our ever evolving information technologies, we can be sure that reproducing documents using state of the art computer and printing machines has made the job easier for those seeing a profit to be made in this area.

One egregious example of fraud that comes to mind concerns a student who recently presented an official transcript and an original diploma for a bachelor’s degree in “Harbor and Port Engineering” bearing the official name, logo, insignia of a college in the United Kingdom. The individual was requesting the evaluation for employment with the transportation authorities in the port of Los Angeles and was adamant about having his equivalency report issued ASAP! (Beware of those demanding expedited service, overly aggressive and pushy manners…that alone is enough to raise the red flag!) Well, we did move fast by immediately contacting the institution in the UK for assistance with verification of the documents, since we knew from the information we had on file that this institution, albeit an approved post-secondary college, was only authorized to offer one to two-year certificate and diploma programs in general arts and sciences and NOT the Bachelor’s degree. The college responded immediately and confirmed our suspicions. The documents were not legitimate for the very reasons we had detected. Once we informed the individual that the College had notified us that his documents did not corroborate with records in the institution’s registry, we never heard from him again. The pestering phone calls and daily barrages of emails suddenly stopped.

Other cases of document fraud are not as sophisticated but include an alteration of a grade, credit, or course title to an existing original document. The forensics of detecting document fraud is both a science and an art and something that develops and matures with practice. Sometimes, it’s a hunch and sometimes it’s blatantly obvious to the naked eye. It is important to exercise due diligence as we handle academic documents for educational equivalency recommendations intended for college admission, employment, professional licensing and immigration.

If you have any personal experiences with having encountered fraudulent documents, please feel free to post a comment and share your story. In a future blog, I’ll share some helpful tips with you. In the meantime, channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and stay vigilant!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
June 16, 2011


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Graduation Clearance

“Life is my college. May I graduate well, and earn some honors!” ~Louise May Alcott

Once a student has “completed” his/her degree course requirements, passed all the final examinations and satisfied any financial obligations, the institution where the studies were completed may then consider the student eligible to graduate. Clearance for graduation is the process of official compliance with the academic and financial requirements established by the academic institutions. The issuance and printing of the actual paper degree diploma is a process that may take some institutions weeks or months to fulfill. In the event the student has completed the degree coursework and financial requirements and deemed eligible to graduate, the institution may issue an official statement confirming these facts with the promise that the paper diploma will be issued and available at a later date.

There are, however, countries (e.g. Mexico, Russia, Iran, to name a few) where requirements for graduation and award of the actual paper degree diploma require not only completion of courses for the degree, but also submission of a thesis, internship or social service, or passage of professional examinations. In such cases, the student must fulfill all these requirements in order to be considered eligible for graduation and the award of the diploma. However, if an institution issues academic transcripts and an official statement attesting that a student has fulfilled all course (including thesis, internship, etc.) and financial requirements for the degree program and confirms the student’s graduation and eligibility for the diploma/degree, the fact that the paper diploma is awarded at a later date does not imply that the program was incomplete and additional coursework was required.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
June 8, 2011


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2+2: Bringing the $$$ value back to the U.S. Higher Education

The global middle class is growing as is the global demand for International Higher Education. It is projected that student mobility will grow 70% by the year 2025. International Students contributed approximately 18.78 billion to the US economy during the 2009-2010 academic years; it is this country’s fifth-largest service-sector export, according to the Department of Commerce. However as more countries get into global recruitment, U.S. is losing its global market shares due to the perception of high education costs, and the budget cuts that is effecting all institutions of higher Education and visa issues. U.S. global market share has fallen from 28% in 2001 to less than 20% in 2009.

What can U.S. Institutions do to remain globally competitive?

The answer lies in enhancing, articulating and marketing of 2+2 jointly by community colleges and four year institutions. The 2+2 process provides huge savings to students and all institutions of higher education. As the global middle class grows the 2+2 can bring affordability of a U.S. Degree to these families who would have otherwise looked at other countries. Properly presented this will create a new segment of the global market and a new pathway for U. S. Community Colleges and Universities. “The globalization of economies, the rise of China and India, advances in science and communications technology, acceleration of global mobility—and the fact that virtually every major health, environmental, and human security challenge Americans face can be solved only through international collaboration—will require our graduates to be far more knowledgeable about world regions, cultures, and global issues.” U.S. education must prepare students for a world where the opportunities for success require the ability to compete and cooperate on a global scale.

Zepur Solakian
Center for Global Advancement of Community Colleges (CGACC)
Executive Vice President, 
Global Communication & Public Relations


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