November 10th, 2014
There’s nothing more challenging to me than waking to the sound of an alarm at 4:30 AM to catch a 6:40 AM flight. At least the flight from LAX to Portland, OR was short and except for having an infamous celebrity, Kanye West, on board as our travel companion, uneventful.
Our Assistant Director, Yolinisse Moreno and I arrived in Portland to overcast skies and cool weather. Clouds were threatening rain which for us drought-stricken Californians would have been a welcome reception, but there was no deluge or even a droplet, even here in Portland as we explored the Pearl District.
With our booth set up in the Exhibit Hall, Yolinisse and I managed to hop on the tram from the Waterfront to drop in at the famous Powell’s Books, one of the few remaining in the country, and scratched the surface of this prolific bookstore bursting with hundreds of thousands of books stacked and showcased in the endless rows that lined each floor of this historic store. We also enjoyed a couple of Portland’s eateries, like The Garden Bar Salad Co., a wonderful farm-to-table restaurant specializing in salads, and the Cacao Drink Chocolate, a gourmet chocolatier where we each sipped delicious cups of dark hot chocolates. On our tram ride back to our hotel, we enjoyed a quick tour of the campus of Portland State University resplendent in the gorgeous colors of the season.
The opening day at the conference brought a number of conference attendees to the exhibit hall and to our booth. It is always wonderful seeing colleagues from the colleges and universities to whom we provide assistance with evaluations of international academic credentials. The conference sessions covering relevant and hot topics on recruitment strategies, credential evaluation, regulations on student visa policies and exchange programs ensured that all interest groups needs were equally met. Some meeting rooms were full beyond capacity and attendees with standing room only.
We didn’t get the opportunity to visit Portland’s famous donut shop, “Voodoo,” but to everyone’s delight the sugary treats made a grand appearance at the exhibit hall in time for the afternoon coffee break.
And, since we’re in the State of Oregon, its worthy noting that seven public universities make up the Oregon University System, and seventeen community colleges are operated by locally elected boards. There are also numerous private degree-granting institutions. The oldest college in Oregon is Willamette University, which was established 1842, and is the oldest university in the Western United States. The oldest community college is Southwestern Oregon Community College which was established in 1959.
We had a number of people who participated in our drawings and the winner of our Kindle Fire was Melissa Lyons, from Golden West College in Huntington Beach, CA. We wrapped up the conference by attending the private dinner hosted by our gracious and generous host, Sharif Ossayran, President of Asencion where we dined on a delicious three-course meal at the Andino, a Nuovo-Peruvian restaurant and reconnected with friends from Santa Barbara City College, Ventura County Community College, University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Azusa Pacific University.
The number of attendees which reached a record breaking 869 for a regional conference with 70 exhibitors is indicative of an economy that is recovering and the growing desire to expand U.S. higher education’s international appeal. We thank the NAFSA Region I & XII Conference Committee Team, an entirely volunteer effort, in helping organize yet another successful and memorable trip. We look forward to attending NAFSA Region XII’s conference next year in Hawaii. Aloha!