COLOMBIA: Education and Opportunities

May 10th, 2019

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Recently, ACEI’s President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, spoke on Colombia’s education system and opportunities for student mobility through its e-learning webinar series. And last week on May 4-5, at the invitation of the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S., ACEI attended the inaugural education fair hosted by the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S. on the campus of University of Illinois, Chicago. Clearly, the Colombian government is keen on reinforcing its connections with the U.S. and forging new relationships with U.S. institutions of higher education. In this week’s blog, we will share some highlights of this webinar.

On November 24, 2016, the Colombian government and the guerilla group known as FARC abbreviation of Spanish Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) signed a final peace agreement officially ending fifty-two years of conflict that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced more than 7 million people. The nearly five-decade long internal conflict has had an enormous impact Colombia’s the socio and economic development and education.

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(L) Former Colombian President, Juan Manual Santos shaking hands (R) with Rodigo Londoño, top FARC rebel commander at the signing ceremony of the peace agreement. Photo credit: Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Over the past two decades the Colombian education system has undergone a fundamental transformation. One of the most visible outcomes is the impressive expansion of access to all levels of education thanks in part to ambitious policies to tackle barriers to enrollment, making higher education affordable, and bringing education services to all parts of the country. In fact, Colombia has made a pledge to become the “most education” country in Latin America by 2025.

Colombia has undergone a silent revolution, undetected by the international community. In just a decade, there has been a sharp rise in student enrollments at all level of the education sector. There was even a 2.1% increase in the number of students traveling from Colombia to the U.S. to study in 2016/2017.

The U.S. is the preferred destination for Colombian students pursuing higher education. And the preferred states are California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. The fields of studies in most demand are business administration, management, finance, banking, marketing and engineering.

You may ask why is the U.S. preferred over Canada or the United Kingdom? Obviously, is proximity is one reason but most importantly Colombians view studying in the U.S. as enhancing their employment opportunities after graduation when returning back home. Securing a high level position within the government or a prominent national or multinational company is much more difficult without proficient English skills and/or a master’s degree. There is a renewed push by the Colombian government to encourage English bilingualism, student see studying in the U.S. as a chance to improve and strengthen their English skills.

And another reason is that more Colombian businesses are increasing their presence and operation in the U.S. They prefer hiring bilingual Colombians with experience of having lived in the U.S. and who are knowledgeable of U.S. business practices and American culture.

Colombian universities are also interested in having agreements with U.S. universities to offer dual degree programs for their students. The Colombian government’s mandate is that a well-educated Colombian population is vital to the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness.

As the peace process solidifies in Colombia and the country becomes more stable and prosperous, the U.S. higher education institutions are in a good place to look at Colombian institutions and their students to strengthen their exchange programs.

For a link to a recording of ACEI’s e-learning webinar on Colombia that includes additional information on Colombia’s education system, study exchange possibilities, scholarship programs and resources, please email ACEI acei@acei-global.org and include “Colombia: Education & Opportunities” in the subject line.


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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 www.acei-global.org.

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An Artist’s International Student Journey

Remembering Monir Farmanmaian (1924 –2019)

May 3rd, 2019

monirPhoto via: Keyhan Life

Monir Farmanmaian, the Iranian female artist known for her mirror mosaics and geometric patterns passed away on April 20, 2019 at the age of 97 in Tehran.  Until recently, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t know much about Monir, only a cursory knowledge of her and her work through articles and photographs. I only began to learn about Monir, her art and accomplishments, five years ago when I read an extensive article in The New York Times on the exhibit of her work at The Guggenheim Museum.

My appreciation of Iran’s classical and contemporary art has been that of a late bloomer and one that I’ve very recently began to explore, albeit very slowly. My earliest recollection goes back to the first and only decade of my childhood growing up in Iran, where accompanied by my art loving parents I found my young self standing in the spacious but dank and dimly lit basement studio of a struggling artist somewhere in Tehran. There were a few more of these types of visits to artists’ studios around the city, but my first visit to the young artist’s basement showroom is the one I still see in my mind’s eye. My parents supported this artist, whose name I don’t recall, by purchasing a number of his paintings which were displayed on the walls throughout our house. One, which hung in the sitting room where my parents entertained guests, was my most favorite. You could only make out the painting from afar; close-up it was a mashup of colors, soft hues of orange, yellow, blue and sand. Once you pulled back a few steps and sat in the furthest seat in the room, you were able to take in its full beauty, faint silhouettes of a caravan of camels, a ghostly apparition of the bygone days of the Silk Road, floating through the desert as the sun ever slowly dipped and disappeared into the horizon.

As a ten-year old, I had little knowledge and exposure to Iranian culture. My parents seldom, in fact never, listened to Iranian classical, contemporary or pop music. I was exposed to The Beatles, Nat King Cole, Bossa Nova, Jazz, Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven. The films I saw in the cinemas in Iran were mostly foreign, dubbed into Farsi. My mother took me to my first opera when I was eight. It was Puccini’s Turandot at Rudaki Hall in Tehran.  My piano teacher took me to my first recital when I was around the same age to hear a talented young pianist from America perform pieces by the masters of western classical music.

I first left Iran at age ten to start school in England. After that my returns to Iran were more of a tourist’s; short stays for a couple of weeks or months during the Christmas and summer holidays. And, at sixteen, I left Iran to study in the U.S. At the time, I didn’t know that it would be the last time I’d see Iran, my home, and many of my relatives. I didn’t know that my departure was permanent.

There’s something that happened to me as a young woman leaving Iran, first for England and then for America. I started to detach and let go of that which identified me with my place of origin so that I could acclimate, blend and fit in at my new home.  What little I knew of Iran’s rich cultural history, I let go of.

Monir Farmanmaian, née Monir Shahroudy, didn’t let go and didn’t detach. Instead, she embraced her Iranian heritage and culture and infused her art with it.

Monir was born in 1924 in Qazvin, Iran to progressive parents who supported and encouraged her education. After her father was elected to parliament in 1932, the family moved to Tehran. Her love for art began at an art class she took in school once a week. She’s noted to have said that she found it “more fun than math.” After graduating from high school, Monir enrolled at the University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts.

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University of Tehran, Faculty of Fine Arts

In 1944, at the height of WWII, Monir together with her brother, her fiancée and his  friend, left Allied-occupied Iran on a British liner bound for Bombay (today, Mumbai), India. They then boarded an American naval ship that took them as far as San Pedro, California, and after four days and three nights of traveling across the U.S., they arrived in New York.

She continued her education at Cornell University and Parson’s School of Design. We may say that Monir was the first Iranian student to come to the U.S. to study during WWII.

After college, she worked as a fashion illustrator and graphic designer. She even created the Persian-violet trademark for Bonwit Teller, the luxury department store in NYC.  At Bonwit Teller, Monir crossed paths with none other than Andy Warhol who at the time was working as a shoe illustrator.

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In New York, Monir’s social circle included artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Andy Warhol,  Joan MitchellAlexander Calder, Frank Stella, to name a few.  In the early 1950s, she used to visit the Guggenheim museum when it was still in a townhouse and known as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting. She was also there in 1956, the day when ground was broken for Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete spiral.

Her first marriage to an Iranian artist with whom she had migrated to the U.S. seemed to have stifled her creativity. It was only after they had divorced that Monir truly came to her own. After her divorce she returned to Iran. It had been 12 years since she had left and she was wary of returning, not sure of what to expect. She remarried Abol Farmanfarmaian, a man from an aristocratic family, whom she knew of her time living in New York. Back at her homeland, and in a happy marriage, Monir began to flourish as an artist. Inspired by the Persian art of mirror mosaics, known as ayeneh-kari, Monir began to explore the use of this medium and fusing together Islamic patterns and modern abstract geometric shapes and design that soon became her signature creations.

In 1958, she won a gold medal for her display at the Iran Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1963, she had her first solo exhibition at a gallery in Tehran.

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Monir’s rising star as an artist was halted by the Iranian Revolution of 1978-1979. She and her husband left for NY soon after. Her art collection in Iran was confiscated by the government. America in 1979 was not as welcoming as when she had first arrived in 1944. The Iranian Revolution, the US Embassy hostage crisis, and then September 11, had placed anyone of Iranian and Middle Eastern origin in the Axis of Evil camp. Monir was turned away by galleries. No one was interested in her work. In NY, she continued creating her mirror mosaics and reverse glass paintings, mostly for herself and friends. After 25 years of living in self-imposed exile in NY, Monir and her husband returned to Iran. She was allowed to open a studio. Soon, she began receiving commissions one of which included a piece for the opening of the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 2006. Another was a permanent six-panel installation in 2009 at the Queensland Art Museum in Brisbane, Australia. The Iranian director, Bahman Kiarostami, premiered his documentary Monir in 2014.  (For a clip of Bahman Kiarostami’s documentary Monir, click here.)

In 2015, at age 93, almost 60 years after Monir had first visited the Guggenheim in its original townhouse, she had her first comprehensive retrospective of her work in the United States. The exhibition “Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian: Infinite Possibility: Mirror Works and Drawings 1974–2014” was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

If we ever find ourselves questioning the viability of international education and the intangible benefits of student exchange programs and access to higher education, we need to remind ourselves of the real life stories of people like Monir Farmanfarmaian and those who came before and after.  The trajectory of Monir’s life, from the town of Qazvin, Iran, to the capital city of Tehran, and then New York, and back to Tehran is as depicted in her beautiful mirror mosaics. Fused together, it is a reflection of the richness and vibrancy of her own dual education, global experiences and those of her cultural heritage.

Additional Reading & References:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/21/arts/design/monir-farmanfarmaian-iranian-and-nonagenarian-celebrates-a-new-york-museum-first.html

http://www.reorientmag.com/2015/01/monir-farmanfarmaian/

https://hyperallergic.com/276470/a-portrait-of-an-iranian-artist-who-went-home-after-35-years-in-exile/

http://islamicartsmagazine.com/magazine/view/the_third_line_at_abu_dhabi_art/

http://p-l-us.com/en/monir-farmanfarmaian/

https://kayhanlife.com/news/kayhan/obituary-artist-monir-farmanfarmaian-celebrated-for-her-mirror-work-dies-at-97/


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

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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Nashira Eco-Village In Colombia A Matriarchal Example Of Women Empowerment

April 26th, 2019

Commentary: Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Angela Dolmetsh, Ph.D., on Facebook. It turns out that both Angela and I attended the same boarding school in England. Charters Towers School was based in the small sleepy retirement community of Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex. It was an international boarding school for girls and attracted young women from all corners of the world.  Though Angela and I attended CTS at different years, there is an affinity that is shared by us Charterians that transcends time and place. This is one of those intangible positive side effects of having had an international education experience. The connections and friendships made with classmates from diverse cultural backgrounds leave such a memorable and indelible mark that transcends time and one’s place of origin.  Today, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, many of us have been able to reconnect, stay in touch and hold reunions no matter where our life experiences have taken us or where we live. The young women of CTS have grown to be mothers, grandmothers, teachers, artists, engineers, judges, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and advocates for social justice. Angela’s achievements are impressive, but it was her founding of Nashira, an eco-village in her homeland of Colombia which fosters women empowerment that captured my attention when I first saw her Facebook post. I knew I had to connect with Angela and invited her to share with us the story behind the Nashira project and its positive impact on the lives of the women it has helped and the community. 

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO
ACEI


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Little is known about the economic structure of some pre-Colombian societies, as there are few early written records. Archeologists have been very reluctant to accept that some of these societies could have been matriarchal and practice different economic relationships. The particular culture that I will talk about is the Kansateura culture and the Nashira eco-village a practical example.

In the first century AD in the Cauca River Valley in what is now Colombia, there lived a community that is believed to have adhered to maternal principles and worshipped an earth mother figure and many female deities. The Malagana or Kansaterva culture was only discovered 30 years ago when a sugar cane worker accidentally uncovered a gold figure. He had discovered a remarkable hoard of ceramic and gold artefacts, very different in character from other previously known indigenous cultures in the region. The gold pieces were very fine and experts have recognised their quality by comparing them to objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The ceramics depict mostly female figures and amongst them were alcarrazas or drinking vessels with double spouts with figures of women fiving birth.

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There is a ceramic figure or a woman giving birth seating, probably pregnant and breast feeding at the same time quite distinct from any seen before in other pre-Columbian cultures. Archaeologists believe the Kansaterva culture was matriarchal and worshiped not only the mother earth but also women goddesses capable of fulfilling the functions of mothering and generating the miracle of life giving.

Significantly and symbolically, the eco-village Nashira is located in the same area as the Kansaterva culture.  Nashira is an ambitious project in the Cauca river Valley in Colombia that aims to solve not only the problems of poverty which affect a considerable section of the Colombian population, but also to serve as an environmentally sustainable pilot project for a community where women rule.

In Colombia, 32% of households are headed by women and depend on their work as the main source of income. As a result of the gender structure of Colombian society and high male mortality rates, due to 70 years of civil war, massive displacement of rural communities and endemic violence, women are frequently responsible for the care of the family including the elderly as well as children.

The women of Nashira lived previously in cluttered rooms in rented houses with up to 70 other people and often with only one shared bathroom.

At that time the government required a down payment of 10 per cent of the cost of the house for them to finance the rest, an impossible task for people below the poverty line. For that reason, it was imperative that the land should be free.

An NGO provided a three-hectare piece of land where eighty women heads of families, have developed a happy and sustainable community. The women built their own houses using environmentally friendly parameters. The wall panels were made from materials recycled from previous constructions.

The women of Nashira cultivate staple crops using permaculture techniques, fruit trees flourish in the common areas used by the whole community. Some of the cooking uses solar power and the women proudly collect and recycle organic and inorganic waste from the neighbourhood. The recycled plastic, glass and other inorganic materials are used to make products for their own use.

75 % of Nashira’s households are headed by women as they are the main income earners. All administrative decisions are taken by the women by consensus. The consumption of alcohol is not encouraged and men who have incurred in violent acts against their partners or children have been expelled. There is no crime in Nashira. Violence against women was eradicated as Nashira is a community with open doors, where women support each other and men have developed a new culture of love and respect for women. Childcare and maintaining the ecovillage are tasks, shared through “mingas” or collective work.

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Angela Dolmetsch, Ph.D. received here doctorate from the University College London. Her doctorate thesis is on Women in Colombian Politics. She is the Founder of the Eco-village Nashira. She is a published author and is International Honorary life President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers. She is also the Director and interviewer of the weekly TV program “El Agora” and a columnist of the daily newspaper “El Pais”, Cali,Colombia

angela.dolmetsch@gmail.com

Additional Reading on The Nishira Project Ecovillage:

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/womens-ecovillage-colombia-nashira

https://operationgroundswell.com/past-programs/nashira/

https://ecovillage.org/2018-hildur-jackson-award-extraordinary-project-nashira-ecovillage/

http://gift-economy.com/angela-dolmetsch-nashira/

 Publications by Angela Dolmetsch:

“La otra cara del Dólar”,  (Bogotá: Tercer Mundo, 1985)

“Of Govermnments and Guerrillas” (London: Biddles, 1988)

“El Hombrecillo que se tragó a Dios y otros relatos (Cali: ASOMUCAF, 1999)

In preparation “La Mujer en la Politica en Colombia Contemporanea. Tres experiencias reveladoras”

“Nashira, Las Mujeres Cambiando el Mundo”

NOTE: On May 8th, ACEI will be hosting a FREE webinar on the education system of Colombia and Opportunities for Student Mobility.  Join us!


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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 www.acei-global.org.

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Don’t stagnate – elevate: the magic of change

April 19th, 2019

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We humans are creatures of habit and deeply distrust and avoid change. My current TEDx talk is about exactly this and it has a lot of connections to our work in the internationalisation world.

Why do mobility exchange numbers start to stagnate, e.g. in the Erasmus program, why do we fail to motivate all students to go and explore the world: e.g. a meagre 1.7% US students (332,000 mobile amongst a population of 19.9 Mio) are mobile. The main reason is that mobility is one of the more drastic and large versions of change and we humans simply hate that.

Instead, we love to stick to habits – e.g. most people choose the same restaurant and often the same food when going out for dinner! We wonder why less than 10% of students become mobile across the European countries but we do wonder much less if we know that 66% of Europeans live within 25km of their parents and only 0.4% changed their country of residence in the last year. This is the level of immobility that we are dealing with!

Why are we so resistant to change? This has biological and psychological reasons. The most striking biological one is that our brain is the Lamborghini amongst our organs: not the largest (only 2% of the body mass) but the one consuming most of the energy (20%). And every change needs thinking and thus energy. Habits on the other hand do not and are therefore more efficient. Psychologically, habits are attractive because they make us quicker – no decisions to be taken, that is why we usually shave on autopilot – and most importantly, they keep us in our comfort zone. People do not move away far from home because that keeps them in their social comfort zone (parents, friends) and when you do not risk new food, you stay in your “nutritional comfort zone”. Importantly for us, most students are therefore very reluctant to leave THEIR social comfort zone, i.e. their home university.

In short, habits are very strong and stop us from changing. Now we could leave it at that, but I strongly believe we should not. Change is favorable for us in many ways: a study by Staudinger 2018 showed that the amount of gray matter in the brain in areas related to learning and attention is closely related to how much the patients changed job tasks over many years: more change -> more gray matter -> healthier brain. And also, only by change can we make new exciting experiences. So, we need to tell students that going abroad does not mean losing the old friends but rather gaining a lot of new friends!

But how do we achieve change? We need mainly time and pressure and I explain the reasons in the TEDx talk. I also give you an 8-step recipe and ask you and everybody to not stagnate by sticking to habits but elevate yourself by embracing the magic of change.

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Uwe Brandenburg holds a PhD from the University of Bristol in Globalisation Studies, an MScEcon from the University of Wales at Swansea and an M.A. in Islamic Sciences from the WWU Münster.  He is currently the Managing Director of the Global Impact Institute in Prague and Associate Professor for Regional Cooperation and Impact of Higher Education at the University Rovira I Virgili in Tarragona, Spain. Prior to that he was Managing Partner of CHE Consult and CHE Consult Prague. He was also Director International at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for eight years. Uwe has published widely on the topic of internationalization such as the much debated article with Hans de Wit on the end of internationalization in 2011 in the Boston IHE. He was the head author and team leader for both the Erasmus Impact Study (EIS, 2014) and the follow-up EIS Regional Analysis (EIS RA, 2016), the European Voluntary Service Impact Study (2017). He frequently presents on international conferences around the globe. He also frequently coaches individuals in leadership positions, teaches at different universities and conducts research. Uwe is a fervent believer in the value of change based on his personal experience as well as professional and academic insights. His research interests are internationalization for society, the influence of technological developments on internationalization and the assessment of impact.

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Do you know BTS?

April 12th, 2019

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BTS – Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

Have you heard of BTS? No, its not another acronym for an educational credential or yet another new international professional organization.  It stands for Beyond the Scene, the acronym for a boy-band from Korea, but not just any boy-band. ACEI-Global.Blog readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS.  We do, however, have the pleasure of hearing from our guest blogger, world music connoisseur, Tom Schnabel (former Music Director of KCRW) who, through the help of a huge BTS fan, gives us a glimpse of the world of K-Pop, and BTS, a global musical phenomenon.

The reach of BTS and their music is evidenced in this photo of this Algerian student’s sign at a protest.  The words on his sign are lyrics from a BTS song.  – ACEI

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Rhythm Planet readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS. I don’t normally cover pop music, but over the past months, BTS has become a global musical phenomenon unlike anything I have ever seen. Yet most people I know still remain oblivious to the group. I’m not a BTS expert, so I’ve asked a huge fan I know to introduce us to the group and explain why we should all get to know BTS. — Tom Schnabel

The seven-member K-Pop group BTS—short for either their Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (Bulletproof Boy Scouts) or an English name Beyond the Scene—is currently on the tail end of their Love Yourself world tour, which began in Seoul on August 25, 2018. The sold out tour has so far taken the members through 11 cities across North America and Europe plus 5 cities and counting in Asia. They’ve performed 34 concerts to date in major venues like Citi Field in New York, The O2 Arena in London, and the Tokyo Dome. Their most recent stop at Singapore National Stadium—where they were the first pop group from anywhere ever to perform—drew 45,000 passionate fans. What truly amazed me, however, was that fans from all over the world shared in the excitement and joy of the Singapore concert via more than one million tweets that weekend. It’s just one example of the powerful reach of BTS, and excitingly, they are still on the rise.

I joined the BTS ARMY (as the fans are collectively called) only this past August, when I happened to see an NPR music blog post about their candy-colored music video for the song “Idol.” It had broken YouTube’s record for the most number of views (45 million) within the first 24 hours of a video’s release, yet I had never heard of BTS. I was blown away by the dance moves and liked the song’s positive message. As an Asian American, I was also surprised and delighted that members of an Asian boy band appeared to have become worldwide heartthrobs. I wondered who they were and how they managed to connect with fans from Peru to Turkey, all while singing and rapping primarily in Korean. A YouTube search led me to introductory videos and a staggering amount of official and fan-made content. I quickly noticed—after watching just a few videos and reading some of the comments—that the group had forged a deep connection with fans through its music as well as what the members generously share about their lives via social media.

BTS members have a hand in writing and producing much of their music, and their lyrics often draw from their own experiences. They sing/rap candidly about dreams, doubts, and struggles, reflect on what they’ve achieved, and express satisfaction at overcoming haters who derided them as fluffy pop idols. Their most recent suite of three Love Yourself albums addresses themes of self-love and self-acceptance, and refreshingly to me, no glorification of sex, drugs, or violence is anywhere to be found. BTS’s heartfelt and sincere messages have resonated with its youthful ARMY, inspiring them to persevere in their own struggles and believe in their self-worth. I regularly see fan comments on Youtube and Twitter saying how much the group has helped them through hardship and depression. BTS’s positive influence is all the more important considering that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates of industrialized nations, with a troubling increase in teen suicides.

BTS also tries to create a positive impact on the lives of young people through its philanthropic endeavors. Shortly after the first Love Yourself album was released in fall of 2017, BTS partnered with UNICEF on the #ENDviolence initiative and simultaneously launched its own Love Myself campaign—both with the goal of ending violence against children and teens. The members and their management company collectively donated almost half a million U.S. dollars to the campaign and pledged a percentage of the proceeds from their album sales as well. While passing through New York last September on tour, BTS spoke at the United Nations in support of its UNICEF collaboration. Group leader RM acknowledged their sense of responsibility as role models and urged their fans to find their own voices:

BTS debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment, one of the smaller management companies in Korea. The seven members—RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook—are currently between 21 and 26 years old. As is normal under the K-pop entertainment system, the members live together dormitory-style beginning from their trainee years. BTS started out in cramped quarters and slept in a single room, and some of the earliest members to join have now lived together for almost a decade. They have overcome hard times and celebrated triumphs together as a team. Not surprisingly, the members consider each other as brothers and BTS as a family. They’ve remarked that something feels off if one of them is away from the group, and their lyrics make frequent reference to the Bangtan brotherhood.

The members’s closeness and rapport shine through in hours of behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals, dance practice, backstage, and music video shoots, as well as in several reality/variety series (Run BTS!, Bon Voyage, Burn the Stage) that they’ve filmed. Their genuine affection and support for each other only further endears them to an adoring ARMY, myself included. It’s simply charming and joyful to watch the members tease each other, have fun, and goof around like the young men that they are, even as they work extremely hard at their craft. Kudos also to Big Hit, for often prompting the members to think and talk openly about their achievements and fears in the many videos (such as this one) produced for fan consumption. The members express amazement that so many of their dreams have come true, but also struggle with the pressures that come with success. They look ahead to the future, knowing that this ascendance—and their youth and energy—won’t last forever. They speak of enjoying the moment and growing old together with ARMY. I find their emotional maturity and groundedness admirable given their youth and rapid rise.

In fact, ever since their debut in 2013, BTS members have shared their thoughts, feelings, and their everyday lives with fans through social media. There are video logs wherein they talk about anything, live chats on their fan cafe, live video broadcasts, and above all, thousands of tweets from a shared Twitter channel, where they currently have over 18 million followers. All the official online content combined with the group’s social media presence have allowed ARMY to connect with the members as real people rather than as idols on a pedestal—regular guys who still do their own laundry and love to eat instant ramen and Panda Express. By reaching out to their fans so openly and frequently, the members have cultivated a loyal fan base that reciprocates with a fierce love and devotion.

BTS understands how much ARMY contributes to their success, and the members take every opportunity to express their gratitude. The group won Billboard’s Top Social Artist of the Year award at the BBMA’s in both 2017 and 2018 thanks to ARMY’s efforts. ARMYs around the world lobbied hard to get them nominated in 2017, even though many people at the awards didn’t even know who BTS was at the time. Hardworking volunteer ARMY translators provide translations and subtitles for Korean lyrics, tweets, and videos almost instantly, so that international fans can understand in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic…you name it. Non-Korean ARMYs memorize the Korean lyrics (and many are learning Korean) so that they can sing along at concerts. They are vigorous defenders against real or perceived slights to the group. They are also quick to embrace anyone who gives the group a chance, because as big as BTS has become, it has yet to fully break into the western mainstream as a K-Pop act. K-Pop is not simply American pop sung in Korean. It is a genre unto itself where music, complex choreography, eye-popping videos, and edgy fashion all play an important role. The guys wear makeup and dye their hair rainbow colors. Language aside, these are not familiar aesthetics for male artists to a western pop audience, and it may still come off kitchy like Gangnam Style.

2018 was a very good year for BTS, with two number one albums on the Billboard 200, a Time magazine cover, not to mention the sold out tour. Their accomplishments on and off the world record charts are too lengthy to list—the word “first” currently appears 85 times on their Wikipedia page. But 2019 might be the year that BTS and K-Pop finally break through to a wider audience. The group was invited to present an award at this year’s Grammys, and they’ll be seated in the second and third rows along with the biggest pop stars in the west. The Recording Academy, which has been under attack for a lack of diversity in the Awards, has surely thought shrewdly about the good visuals offered by the group’s prominent seating. However, I do think they’re acknowledging BTS’s global success, even though it has yet to score a number 1 single on the Billboard 100. I’ll take bets that the ratings will be higher. I know I’ll be watching the Grammys for the first time in over a decade just to cheer the guys on.

In Season 3 of BTS’s Bon Voyage travel series, Jin, the eldest member of the group, goes around Malta jokingly asking random people if they know BTS. He probably won’t need to ask that question much longer. Even if their music isn’t your thing, I hope you’ve come to know BTS as not just “the new One Direction,” but an inspirational bunch of hardworking musicians and dancers who happen to be some of the nicest idols around.

Get to know the individual members of BTS:

The poignant music video for Spring Day, which pays tribute to the victims of the South Korean Sewol ferry tragedy (be sure to turn on English captions if they don’t come on):

A huge thank you to all the ARMY translators and in particular the following whose hard work has allowed me to get to know BTS — @JL_Kdiamond, @btstranslation7@doyou_bangtan, and @BTS_Trans. Cheers! — @brightstars88

[Correction: This post was updated to say BTS has not yet had a number 1 single. Their song Fake Love did make the top 10 on the Billboard 100.]

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

 

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Dispatch from the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting – Los Angeles CA

April 5th, 2019

dispatch

AACRAO’s Annual Meeting held its largest meeting of higher education professionals from around the world this week in Los Angeles California. The Association of International Credentials Evaluators (AICE), of which ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member,  joined more than 2,000 administrators to address the issues that affect our work, collaborate on goals and guidelines for meeting those challenges, and provide a forum for learning and sharing experiences.

The Annual Meeting provided an extensive program of over 200 sessions, roundtables, poster sessions, and workshops.

AICE Endorsed Member, ACEI, FCSA, Scholaro, shared their expertise in these workshops and several sessions regarding credential evaluation, country profile of Cuba and the AACRAO Cuba Project, the Alphabet Soup of International Credential Evaluators, updates on the standards for AACRAO EDGE, and how to conduct armchair recruiting.
The meeting was kicked off with half-day workshop on how to use the AACRAO EDGE, which AICE President, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert together with Drew Carlisle from AACRAO led.

The meeting then continued with the opening plenary featuring a warm awards ceremony, honoring the years of service of Janie Barnett, AACRAO’s Associate Executive Director. The awards ceremony also honored an AICE Affiliate and an Endorsed Member.

AICE is proud of the latest AICE Endorsed Member, Incred Evaluations, Inc., Leah McCormack, Director, who won the AACRAO award for Emerging Leader in the profession.

AICE Affiliate, Karee Head, International Admissions Specialist of University of Idaho, won the Thomas A. Bilger Award for her dedication to the profession. AACRAO was also the perfect arena to share the collaboration of AACRAO and AICE, as an MOU was signed by both parties to agree to partner on various issues surrounding applied comparative education. It was definitely a moment for AICE Endorsed Members and Affiliates to shine!

The plenary continued with a moving discussion led by Nightline’s Byron Pitts, who overcame many obstacles to reach his life goals. He provided motivation for change and gave us a sense of hope during these trying times in International Education.

The Annual Conference continued with several more sessions, including, “Alphabet Soup for International Credential Evaluation” with AICE Endorsed Members, Aleks Morawski, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, and Robert Watkins.

Laura Sippel, AICE Director of Communications, represented AICE Charter Endorsed Member, Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI) through her session: “International Student Recruitment Without Leaving Your Office,” with California State University Northridge.

The International Luncheon brought together dedicated professionals for a inspiring informational presentation by Dr. Keith David Watenpaugh, Director of Article 26 Backpack Project, that assist refugees and displaced persons. He said through the Backpack enrollment, refugees guide their peers and this program also helps digitize their documents and create profiles that put a story to their accomplishments. AICE will be working with AACRAO to foster this initiative.

The evening continued with the lively International Educators reception sponsored by AICE Endorsed Member FCSA’s William Paver and the Paver Family Foundation. We then continued to an intimate gathering to truly honor the years of service of Janie Barnett, with AACRAO Executives and sponsors providing moving speeches, wonderful stories of working with Janie, and wishing her well.

On Wednesday, AACRAO Annual Meeting came to an end with the closing plenary featuring George Takei, Author, Actor, Director, and Activist, who used humor and warmth to address the large crowd. George Takei is of course well known as Sulu, on the USS Enterprise in the long running TV series, Star Trek. He spoke of his early days as a five-year old having lived with his family in the Japanese internment camps in Arkansas and California during WWII.

It was truly a week of collaborating, celebrating new partnerships, and honoring our colleagues and friends.

AACRAO indicates on their website, “Our programming reflects the diverse nature of our members’ roles and responsibilities, and strives to meet the changing demands and needs of the professions we serve. Join us in Los Angeles to gain the knowledge and skills that ensure personal, student, and institutional success.”

As the meeting closed, we felt the positivity of the meeting, as we discussed new initiatives, gave each other encouragement to be a strong advocate for our profession and have the right tools to serve those affected by our work so we can change lives.

As the sun set on the 105th AACRAO Annual Meeting, we very much looked forward to moving on to the AICE Symposium, directly following the productive meeting.


ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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 www.acei-global.org.

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SYRIA: Education in Exile

March 29th, 2019

syria

Syria’s brutal civil war that began in 2011 has created the world’s largest displacement crisis, with almost 5.7 million registered refugees, including more than 2.5 million Syrian children now living in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. (In 2016, we posted an extensive piece on the Syrian conflict and its impact on the education system and the millions of its citizens who have been displaced. Click here to read more.)

The civil war has led to the creation of the Syrian Interim Government, an alternative government or a government in exile of the Syrian Opposition, which has been formed by the opposition umbrella group, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. The interim government is seated in exile in Turkey. Its headquarters in Syria are located in the city of Azaz in Turkish-occupied northern Syria.

In effect, at this time, there are 2 governments in operation representing Syria: the Syrian Arab Republic (SAR) led by President Assad and the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). Because of the conflict, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in SAR has placed the entire curriculum of secondary education on-line to allow for students to self-study. In this case, students will not receive a report card or transcript for each year of study. The only document they will receive is the certificate for final exams for the Secondary Baccalaureate which provides them access to tertiary education at the universities in Syria.

In direct opposition to the government of President Assad, the SIG’s MOE has instituted its own secondary curriculum for those in the Turkish refugee camps and Syrian schools in Turkey and offers its own Secondary Baccalaureate examinations. The Interim Government’s MOE is working closely with the MOE in the Turkish government to coordinate efforts between the two ministries to oversee all Syrian schools in Turkey. It is also discussing how Syrian university students living in exile can be admitted into Turkish universities to continue their education and qualify for scholarships.

Until recently, Turkey, and with some limitations, France, had been the only countries recognizing the Secondary Baccalaureate examinations administered by the Syrian Interim Government. But on March 11, 2019, the MOE under the Syrian Interim Government announced that its diplomas are being recognized by several European universities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The diplomas are not recognized by the Syrian Arab Government’s MOE and any Syrian returning to Syria will not be granted admission to the universities based on the SIG MOE’s Secondary Diploma.


ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

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 www.acei-global.org.

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