Monthly Archives: December 2019

So you think you’re diverse? Examining your institution’s diversity and inclusion practice

December 20th, 2019.


On December 11th we had a very successful Webinar on Diversity and Inclusion entitled, “So you think you’re diverse? Examining your institution’s diversity and inclusion practice.”

What surprised me most was the lively dialogue at the end of the presentation, which was supposed to have been a time for Q&A. Everyone was so excited and sharing so much that we could easily have gone on another hour. I want to use this space to share what issues were raised and what people felt passionate about regarding D&I because it demonstrated the need for continued open and honest dialogue and information sharing.

One comment really hit at the core to many and unfortunately, I don’t think it’s an uncommon situation. One of the attendees mentioned that at her university, the international students are separated from the campus in various ways. Many departments refer to these students as “your students” (meaning the international office’s students).

When we label a group of students as one department’s group then we are not including these very valuable students and we are not making them feel a part of the institution as a whole (Inclusion). Often, we lose the chance to reap the benefits of what these students bring to our institution when we do this (Diversity). I implore you, in whatever role you play at your institution, to find ways to include these students to ensure that you and your domestic students learn as much as you can from them, and not to only think that they learn from you.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, ACEI’s President & CEO, talked about how she felt when people asked about her accent and where she’d come from. She felt as though those passersby just wanted to place her somewhere because when she answered, they appeared to not really care. Several participants said they’d felt the same – as if they were being judged or just placed in a box. What I liked about this conversation was that a few others stepped in to ask how she would want to be approached if people were genuinely interested. It demonstrated the kind of discussions we need to be having with each other, because diversity and inclusion must be approached holistically and include the very personal and individual.

The same lively discussion happened when I recounted a story of what my niece had witnessed in Missouri when a clerk refused to sell beer to two black men. She got around selling them the beer by using methods that weren’t legally required (such as asking for ID from the second person not just the buyer). People responded in the chat box as to what they would have done and many were quite assertive. Someone responded asking “but what if you’re shy”? This makes me think we need to have ways for people with all kinds of personalities to address racist situations because when my niece told them she was sorry that they’d gone through that they replied, “It’s OK, we’re used to it.” It’s not OK and we need to find ways to help each other; to be allies.

I could go on and on as there were so many great issues brought up, but I’d like to give those of you who weren’t able to attend some of the takeaways:

  • There are many forms of diversity – visible and invisible
  • Support systems for students are crucial
  • Have your faculty match your intended student body, e.g. faculty and students go hand in hand
  • Have systems in place for inclusion – if able to accomplish in advance that’s even better (wheelchair accessible bathrooms, gender neutral bathrooms, counseling centers, etc.)
  • Most important is to check yourself for your biases. Often. Watch yourself in your own conversations with people because, as I said in the presentation, “we will make mistakes but we will apologize and learn and move on.”

Finally, I’d like to share some of the valuable feedback we received, which confirmed how important and relevant this topic still is. And because it comes directly from the field we know it to be real.

From Marie: Since I also am in the International Education field, my service-learning organization could really benefit from some of the pointers that Kathleen mentioned, like having a staff training focusing on inclusivity and dialogue and also making sure that your mission statement is truly matching the representation of student demographics both on and off the organizations social media pages. It made me realize how we need to be more sensitive when using incorrect or inappropriate language like ‘white trash’, a term I use so freely. I will most definitely be sharing what I learned for the webinar to the rest of my team. Thank you for opening it up to the public, I think there should be more webinars on D&I these days!

From Yuriko: The discussion on webinar was amazing. We are not aware how others might feel or think until we are in the middle of that mess. That is the kind of discussion we have to have around the universities and workplaces. Thank you for providing the webinar.

From Laura: I saw the Diversity Consultant title at yesterday’s webinar (which was excellent and timely) and was very impressed. You’re giving ACEI credibility and showcasing your attention to the entire applied comparative education field, you’re not just limited to credential evaluation. This is extremely important showing ACEI’s dedication to the profession.

For a recording of the webinar, click here. To learn more about ACEI’s Global Consulting Group, click here.

Let’s keep the conversation going in order to truly be a more diverse and inclusive society. Thank you all who attended. We appreciate your time and feedback.

Kathleen Hylen, M.A. International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. Graduated with honors from UC, Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Community Studies, focus on anti-bias. Kathleen is also a member of ACEI’s Professional Consultancy Team. Her focus is on helping institutions and organizations develop and/or bolster their diversity and inclusion strategies.

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Don’t Give up, Keep at it! 7 Steps for US HEIs to remain competitive in International Education

December 13th, 2019


The reports are coming in, and they each speak of declines in the number of international students at U.S. institutions of higher education (HEIs). Panic has set in and decisions based on panic never turn out to be sound or prudent. They are short sighted and cause more damage than good. Panic prompts HEIs to retrench, which leads to laying off staff in international admissions and cutting back on student recruitment. The drop in international student numbers shows itself quickly with a decline in dollars generated from tuition and fees which prompt universities to slash their budgets, cut back on staffing that translate to reduced course offerings and less seats available for prospective domestic students. People forget that the tuition from international students help subsidize a large portion of the infrastructure of institutions, supporting more courses and faculty and more seats available to domestic students. International students also help by participating in the general economy, they are, after all, consumers just like you and me and besides paying their college tuition, they are also spending dollars in the local community.

No matter who or what political party is in power, we forget that the U.S. economy hinges on the global market and our global competitiveness is in trouble, which includes our competitiveness in the international student market. Combining the number of international students in the US government’s net migration target is a flawed policy. We have and continue to have a political environment laden with extreme political opinions where one group is adamantly pro and another passionately against internationalization. Neither point of view is accurate since extremes in any which way tend to be flawed and too simplistic on how the domestic and global market are intertwined and function together as a unit and not separately. The more we remain engaged globally the more we can encourage the coming together of people, ideas and innovations, that will help us better address the challenges that face us.

When the political climate insinuates that internationalization is bad, it trickles down to all sectors of the economy and community, and those of us in international education feel its immediate effects on our campuses and in periphery services supporting our HEIs. Suddenly, there is a dis-ease within the international student community about coming to the US to study. They fear for their safety, they anticipate difficulties in obtaining a student visa and express concern about how they will be treated on arrival at a U.S. airport by customs and immigration officers and by their peers on the university campuses. We have, unfortunately, not been sending a warm welcoming message to the world in this past year and it is resonating loudly and clearly around the globe.

Say what we want, but we live in a competitive world, and when it comes to international education, the U.S. HEIs are competitive to the extent that they remain in the field. Rather than retreating, U.S. HEIs must stay in the game and compete successfully with their counterparts in UK, Canada, Australia, and emerging markets such as China and India. In fact, this is exactly the time for HEIs to collectively work on maintaining a robust marketing and promotion campaign to counter the negative perceptions about international education and students by dispelling myths that deter students from wanting to study in the U.S.

What must US HEI’s do?

1. Intellectual Contribution: Reinforce and Raise Awareness

In an article in The Times Higher Education, Dame Nemat Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics and Political Science states: “…we need to reinforce, raise awareness of and spread the well-established principles that govern what constitutes a valid intellectual contribution. Practices such as peer review, competitive process for funding research, requirements to publish data, and transparency about conflicts of interest are fundamental to academic life. Most people are unaware of these practices, which are the bedrocks of academic quality and progress – we need to spread the practices to other domains such as think tanks and the media.” These are the hallmarks of U.S. higher education and US HEIs need to carefully craft the language that expresses and conveys this to the public without sounding elitist or academic.

2. Messaging

Which brings us to messaging. Where we seem to have faltered is in our messaging and doing a so-so job at communicating without sounding self-serving. We need to turn things around and emphasize the benefits brought to the community and country by international education and students. We need to use the Internet and social media platforms effectively and share personal stories and progresses in research in a language that is approachable and inclusive, one that will draw in the very camp that is opposed to internationalization. In the same report in the Times Higher Education, Dame Shafik suggests one way to accomplish effective messaging is by “working with thoughtful and effective storytellers to reach a wider public – consider, for example, Sir David Attenborough’s work to raise awareness of the environment or Michael Lewis on the risks inherent in financial markets.” Here are a few suggestions to incorporate in our individual and collective messaging on the unique benefits of international students and scholars:

  • Promotes U.S. foreign policy and international leadership
  • Helps the growth of U.S. knowledge economy
  • Spending by the international students and their dependents contributes significantly to the U.S. economy (approximately $13.5 billion)
  • Education exchange is benefits U.S. education as much as it does the international students
  • Education exchanges enhances and ensures U.S. security

3. Tools to Train an Informed Citizenry

While we craft the messaging to the world outside our campuses, our work as educators means that we must also commit to teaching and training our domestic students to become more discerning citizens. We need to teach them the tools they need that will instill in them an appreciation to be critical thinkers, learn how to distinguish propaganda and disinformation from facts so they are better prepared to engage and debate as informed citizens. Our domestic students will serve as our campus ambassadors and who better than they to welcome the international students.

4. Promote Healthy Debate

From teaching and training students to be critical thinkers, we segue to what is deemed as challenging by most and that is creating a space that respects different opinions and allowing both sides to debate and share their points of view, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel. Absence of this neutral zone for public debate hinders any progress we would like to see in raising awareness on the importance and benefits of institutions of higher education. By allowing and fostering healthy debate on our campuses, we can help broaden the minds of our domestic students who may have a narrow opinion on what it is to be an international student.

5. Promote Diversity and Foster Inclusion

Whether it is our intellectual contributions, messaging, training and informed citizenry, and promoting healthy debate, one thing we cannot and should not forget is that the USA is not a homogenized nation but one that is uniquely diverse whose citizens have ancestry representative of every country on the planet. Simply put, what makes the USA unique is the sheer magnitude of its diversity of people. In fact, this diversity must and should be front and center in our conversation with potential international students. It is this diversity that sets the US apart and we should embrace and promote it.

6. Support Study Abroad

Promoting internationalization on our campuses, is a two-way street. At the risk of sounding repetitive, since this message has been expressed before by others, our HEIs need to demonstrate their commitment by being global leaders in higher education by having in place a robust study abroad program and encourage and support study abroad opportunities for their domestic students, and preferably to countries where learning a foreign language is a prerequisite. This experience will foster a camaraderie and mutual understanding between a returning domestic student from studying abroad and a fellow international student at his/her home campus.

7. Don’t Abandon the Marketing Plan

At the sight of trouble, or a downturn in economy, businesses tend to quickly react and slash their marketing budgeting. HEIs do the same, they cut back on recruitment, outreach, and promotion of their programs overseas. Rather than putting marketing on an indefinite hold, a plan needs to be thoughtfully put into place as to how to keep the messaging alive and robust. The first sign of retreat and defeat is to slam on the marketing brakes when the economy is slowing down. We need to keep the messaging consistent, clear and loud.

If we are not careful and let panic set in, the years of work that have made the US an attractive destination for education for students from around the world will be lost and regaining that competitive edge will take a very long time to recover.

HEIs needs to demonstrate the benefits of international education and international students and their value to the community and US economy. HEIs must not simply accept the current dictates set by government as a given. Rather than retrench and retreat, we need to push on and keep at it!

Is your institution experiencing a decline in the number of international student applications? Please share with us what steps your institution has taken or is taking to address this issue.


Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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10 Quick Takeaways from the 2019 PISA Survey

December 6th, 2019


The latest scores from PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, were announced on Tuesday, December 3, 2019. The PISA survey is carried out every three years by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and this time it was among its 37 member states and 42 partner countries and economies. The latest PISA study was based on two-hour tests taken by 600,000 15-year-olds last year.

PISA’s overreliance on standardized test is seen by some as flawed as demonstrated by a call for a moratorium on PISA by more than 100 academics from around the world. On the other hand, the OECD which sponsors PISA and its supporters stand in defense of the test and regard it as a comprehensive and reliable indicator on how students around the world are doing and performing. Nevertheless, the results are worth reviewing.

For this week’s blog, we’ve prepared a quick summary of the latest PISA survey:

  1. U.S. students ranked eighth in reading, 11th in science and 30th in math. (Note: In the United States, a demographically representative sample of 4,800 students from 215 schools took the test.)
  2. China ranked first in science, reading, and math (Note: PISA survey only considered 4 of more than 20 provinces in China that included Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.)
  3. Singapore ranked second in science, reading, and math.
  4. Macau, Hong Kong, Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland outperformed the US.
  5. The United Kingdom, Japan and Australia performed similarly to the United States.
  6. 15-year-olds in Germany and the US perform better in mathematics than students in Peru or Indonesia. (Note: Per capita income in Peru and Indonesia is less than that in Germany and US.)
  7. Colombia, Peru and Portugal were among the countries that demonstrated improvement on the test.
  8. 3% of American children from poor families were top performers in reading, compared with an average of 4% of poor children among O.E.C.D. countries.
  9. The report showed that fewer than one in 10 students surveyed in the OECD countries could distinguish between fact and opinion, based on implicit cues pertaining to the content or source of the information.
  10. The only areas in which more than one in seven students demonstrated the ability to distinguish fact from opinion were the four parts of China (Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang), Canada, Estonia, Finland, Singapore and the United States.

Below is the performance ranking for reading (OECD average is 487)

Source: OECD

Below is the performance ranking for mathematics (OECD average is 489)

Source: OECD

Below is the performance ranking for science (OECD average is 489)

Source: OECD


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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