Diversity and Inclusion is The New Initiative for 2017

March 24th, 2017

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Advocacy for our profession of applied comparative education is needed more than ever in 2017. In light of forming new partnerships and celebrating our differences, diversity and inclusion will be the top initiative for 2017.

What is diversity and inclusion?

Diversity is any aspect that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another, but it also means appreciation of and respect for differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion. But let’s look deeper into this thought. We all bring with us diverse views, work experiences, life styles, perspectives, and cultures. How does your institution or organization foster diversity and inclusion? How do you individually?

Some may define inclusion is a state of being valued, respected, endorsed, and supported. It’s also about focusing on the needs of everyone and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve their greatest potential. Inclusion should always be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce.

To look at this big picture, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

For institutions to succeed in the global marketplace, there must be a variety of perspectives. If organizations want to attract and retain the right skills, the best minds, all the aspects needed for success – and that means diversity.

At ACEI, we respect and welcome diversity in our clients, colleagues, friends, and our staff, and it is part of our mission. We strongly advocate for diversity and inclusion. We state as part of our mission, “ACEI is dedicated to the advancement of international academic exchange and understanding through the dissemination of information on world educational systems and evaluation of international educational documents.”

With our new administration, changes in the global landscape, more advances in technology and communications, diversity and inclusion are quickly becoming critical initiatives around the world.

Laura Sippel

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Laura Sippel
Marketing Consultant
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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Kedi: A Sweet Film and Soundtrack for Istanbul’s Constant Companions

March 16th, 2017

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A scene from Kedi. Photo courtesy of Ceyda Torun

Istanbul is a city at the center of the old world, for millenia a crossroads of civilization, trade, and cultural exchange. On the many sailing ships entering the Bosporus over the centuries came the stray cats that kept mice and other vermin under control, who then left the boats and became landlubbers. Kedi is a wonderful new film about the street cats of Istanbul. We usually adopt cats into our homes, but in Istanbul the street cats choose to adopt certain lucky residents, who then take care of them. According to Oscilloscope Films, the film’s distributor, “claiming no owners, these animals live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame—and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt.”

KEDi-22-800x450Aslan Parçasi—the hunter. Photo courtesy of Ceyda Torun

Istanbul native Ceyda Torun, who now lives in Los Angeles, directed this utterly delightful film, with cinematographer Charlie Wuppermann giving us great kitty-eye’s view of the feline characters, following them around in their haunts and daily travels. Thirty-five cats initially showed up for the “casting call,” but many were unreliable, so the cast was pared down to seven:

Sari—the hustler; Bengü—the lover; Aslan Parçasi—the hunter; Psikopat—the psychopath; Deniz—the social butterfly; Duman—the gentleman; and Gamsiz—the player.

The charming soundtrack features Turkish pop songs as such as “Arkadasim Esek” by Baris Manço, “Bak Yesil Yesil” by Emel Sayin, “Deli Kadin” by the Turkish psychedelic band Erkin Koray, as well as Eartha Kitt singing a Turkish classic, “Usku Dara,” plus “Amber Eyes” by an American musician named Lloyd Miller who plays over 100 instruments and is known for his expertise in world music and jazz. What makes the soundtrack music even more fun is that each cat character has his or her own theme song, kind of like friends who have specific ring tones on your phone.

2927116167_837950fd13_oA cat hanging out in a record store in Istanbul. Can you imagine fighting with a cat for elbow room in the bins at Amoeba Records? Photo by Amanda (CC BY-ND-NC 2.0) via Flickr

The cool score is by Kira Fontana, a classically-trained (Eastman School of Music, Yale University) pianist-composer. Her mentors include Steve Reich, John Adams, and David Lang. The playful and percussive music score—in which you clearly hear the Steve Reich influence—is performed by percussionist Sidney Hopson, a three-time alum of USC’s Thornton School of Music, and features marimbas, glockenspiels, vibraphones, and strings. The music was recorded at Cal Arts in Valencia, California.  The Arabic darbuka drum is used to highlight the hunt and fight scenes. As Kira described to me, they aimed for “an ethereal, magical sound-world to reflect the spiritual role Istanbul’s cats play in the daily lives of the city’s residents.” I think that together, the Turkish songs and score perfectly complement the feline stars as they pursue their daily adventures.

This is a movie not only about a great city and its colorful felines, but a tribute to the kind citizens of Istanbul who love and care for them. It’s a feel-good movie if there ever was one, whether you like cats or not. If you haven’t seen the documentary yet, the trailer below provides a taste, but you can also find screening information here.

And here is Eartha Kitt’s “Usku Dara” (theme song for Aslan Parçasi—the hunter):

And this is American Lloyd Miller’s “Amber Eyes” (theme song for Gamsiz—the player):

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Above, Sari—the hustler. This and banner photo at top courtesy of Ceyda Torun.

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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Importance of International Students and Immigration to US Higher Education

March 10th, 2017

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As someone who has been actively involved in international education, this article expresses why I’m so passionate about the importance of immigrants and international students. The contributions made by immigrants and international students in the sciences, humanities and arts, economics, medicine, their innovations and inventions are too numerous to list. Yet what the Trump administration has done in less than two months with the enactment of the travel ban, revoking visas of international students, detaining refugees, deporting undocumented immigrants has so negatively impacted our standing in the world and will so deeply hinder and stunt our growth that the effects are far reaching will be felt by all. Immigrants and international students who are considering to legally enter the U.S. are seriously reconsidering their options by turning to friendlier and more hospitable countries to migrate and/or pursue their higher education.

This article by Jonathan R. Cole that recently appeared in The Atlantic sums it up nicely; American universities need international students and immigrants:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/american-universities-need-immigrants/518814/

We all need to stand up and support academic and scholarly exchange rather than erect walls and hide behind them in fear. Aren’t we Americans made of stronger stuff? Where’s our courage? Where’s our foresight?

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

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US-Iran History of Research and Collaboration

March 3rd, 2017

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Iran is included on list of the travel ban on entry for nationals from seven majority-Muslim nations in President Donald Trump’s recent Executive Order. One thing many may not know is the collaborative relationship in research and researcher mobility that exists between the US and Iran. The US and Iran have been benefiting from this collaborative relationship which has been the strongest of all the 6 countries according to the Elsevier’s. However, with Iran selected as one of the countries targeted by the travel ban this relationship is expected to be damaged effecting universities around the world.

Data from Elsevier’s SciVal and Scopus databases show how strong the research ties are between the US and Iran. The following is the Elsevier data as reported in The Times Higher Education:

  • US academic relationships with Iran are by far the strongest of the seven nations targeted by the order. In fact, the US and Iran have had a long history of maintaining close academic relations and collaborating in research endeavors as far back as the 1960’s.
  • Between 2011 and 2015, US researchers co-authored 8,821 papers with Iranian scientists. (Note: This makes Iran the US’s 36th closest collaborator in research, close behind the Republic of Ireland.)
  • US-Iran co-authored papers had a field-weighted citation impact (widely regarded as an indicator of the quality of research) of 1.84. This compares with a citation impact of 1.46 for US-only authored papers and 0.84 for Iran-only authored papers. The world average is about 1.0.
  • Medicine, engineering and physics and astronomy are the main fields in which US and Iranian researchers collaborate.
  • 1,500 Iranian researchers active in publications have moved to the US long term since 1996.
  • The average field-weighted citation impact of these Iranian researchers who moved to the US is 1.93, well above the average for researchers who remain in Iran (0.88) and marginally above the average for researchers who do not leave the US (1.92).
  • Another 2,900 Iranian researchers were classed as “transitory” and spending most of their time in the US in that period, with an even higher average field-weighted citation impact of 2.21.
  • According to the Institute of International Education, Iran was the 11th largest country of origin for international students enrolling at US universities and colleges in 2015-16. Iranian student enrolment increased by 8.2 per cent to 12,269, “the highest US enrollment by Iranians in 29 years”, the IIE said in its 2016 Open Doors

If the US limits entry to Iranian national, the number of internationally co-authored papers will decline and in turn effect the quality of its research.

Links:

List of Iranian-Americans in Silicon Valley and Beyond: https://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethmacbride/2015/12/20/100-influential-iranian-americans-in-silicon-valley-and-beyond/#7f97aeb37c2f

List of Prominent Iranian-Americans:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Iranian_Americans

https://ir.usembassy.gov/education-culture/prominent-iranian-americans/

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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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Community Colleges for International Development Conference strengthened International Partnerships

February 25th, 2017

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ACEI attended the Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) 41st Annual Conference last week in beautiful Houston. The conference theme, “Aligning the Stars” was the perfect theme to align the stars for international partnerships.

CCID recognized their board member organizations for their leaderships in internationalization ranging from Washington State, Australia, Denmark, Japan, Canada, Iowa, Honolulu and so many more U.S. cities and states. It truly was an international event!

The conference was kicked off with welcoming remarks from Lone Star College Chancellor, Dr. Steve Head, who said that he appreciates us – the hardworking faculty, staff, researchers, partners, and administrators for inspiring their students and alumni. He said our commitment and contributions to CCID are what moves us forward. And move forward we did! The conference atmosphere was very collegial and positive.  Many partnerships were formed with ACEI.

ACEI was very well received by many U.S. colleges and international organizations as we discussed the importance of the exchange of information and research.  In this positive light, we discussed how credential evaluation reports and research from ACEI can help strengthen the relationships between international organizations and the U.S.

Dr. Chris Whitaker, Chair of the CCID Board of Directors and President of Humber College in Canada, reinforced the continuing theme of partnering by saying, “I hope that each of you finds this conference to be a useful, dynamic opportunity to establish new partnerships and to strengthen connections already in place.” He also stressed we need to explore new initiatives and trends in our fields.

Mara Anderson, Executive Director of CCID, was absent due to the very recent birth of her child. She sent an upbeat message that she was thrilled to bring everyone together in CCID’s own backyard and that Houston is a wonderful home and resource to CCID, as one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.

The pre-conference workshops ranged from study abroad programs to intercultural awareness training. The sessions presented a wonderful assortment of topics including collaboration towards global understanding to how Community Colleges can stay engaged.

In this time of uncertainty of internationalism, the relationships formed with ACEI will be ever lasting. There was excellent exchange of ideas, tactics, and goals for international partnering. And our red cowboy hats were a complete hit!

Laura Sippel

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Laura Sippel
Marketing Consultant
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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30 Facts on the Education System of Iran

February 16th, 2017

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After intense negotiations, on July 14, 2015, the U.S. and five other world powers have reached a deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief that rolls out as Iran complies with a multi-step process. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  And now, in 2017, with the recent travel ban imposed by the Trump Administration against Iran and six other countries, we thought it would be helpful to revisit the blog we had written on Iran in July 2015.

Given these recent developments, we would like to spotlight Iran and share with you the following facts on the country and its education system:

1. Iran is one of the oldest nations in the world, with a history dating back tens of thousands of years. The country’s first great city, Susa, was built on the central plateau around 3200 B.C.

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2. Iran (pronounced ee-RAHN), formerly known as Persia, is situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Arab states of the Middle East. The name “Iran” means “land of the Aryans.”

3. Iran is a republic in Central Asia, sharing a border with seven countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

4. It has been officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

5.Iran is a Shiite Muslim country, but the majority of its people are Persian, not Arab.

6. Iran’s capital is Tehran.

Azadi
Tehran: Azadi Monument (formerly Shahyad Monument)

7. Iran has a population of 80,840,713 (median age 28) and covers an area that is 636,372 square miles (1,648,195 square kilometers), slightly smaller than Alaksa.

8. Official language of instruction in Iran is Farsi/Persian. English and/or French are taught in most private schools.

9. According to 2015 estimates, the literacy rates of total population age 15 and over is 86.8% of which 92.1% are male and 82.5% are female.

10. According to 2013 reports, Iran spends 3.7 of GDP on education.

11. Starting with 7th grade, English is taught as a second language in all public schools and is compulsory through the secondary level years.

12. Primary school is called “Dabestan” and includes grades 1 to 5 (ages 6 to 11). At the end of the 5th year, students take a nation-wide exam which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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13. Middle school is called Rahnamaei also known as Lower Secondary School (Guidance) and includes grades 6 to 8 (ages 11 to 14). At the end of the 3rd year of middle school, students take a region-wide exam administered by the local provisional board of education which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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14. Secondary school is called Dabirestan and includes grades 9 to 12 (ages 14 to 17). The 4th year of grade 12 includes a college-preparatory year known as Pish-daneshgahi. In dabirestan, students choose subjects from either one of two tracks: 1) academic/general track that includes a] physics-mathematics, b] socio-economics, c] literature and culture, and d] experimental sciences; or 2) technical/vocational track in such areas as business and agriculture. On completion of 3 years of study (Grade 11), students receive their diploma before they are determined eligible to continue onto the 12th year (Grade 12) pish-daneshgahi studies.

15. Pre-university or Pish-Daneshgahi is the 4th year extension (Grade 12) to secondary school and last one year. It is an intensive year of study intended to prepare students for the national university entrance examination known as the Concour.

16. The Concour determines students’ chances to enter public and some private universities in Iran. It is a very challenging examination and only a minority of students who take it are successful in passing.

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Photo Credit:PressTV – University Entrance Exam (Concours) in Tehran

17. At the higher education level, Iran has private, public and state affiliated universities.

18. Universities, institutes of technology, medical schools, and community colleges make up the higher education sector.

19. Except for medical schools, all state-run universities are under the direct supervision of the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Medical schools are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education.

20. Currently, there are over 50 public universities and over 40 public institutions specializing in medical study and 200 private postsecondary institutions in Iran.

21. Tuition at public universities is free.

22. Private institutions charge fees.

23. The largest private institution in Iran is Islamic Azad University.

24. Women make up more than 60 percent of the college population in Iran but less than 20 percent of the working population.

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25. Out of 1.176 million people registered for higher education in the Iranian academic year of 2012-2013, women accounted for 522,248 (44.38 percent) while men’s share stood at 654,593 (55.62 percent).

26.The number of female university students also increased by almost twofold from 1,231,035 in the Iranian academic year of 2005-2006 to 2,106,639 in 2012-2013.

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Photo Credit: Ebrahim Norrozi/AP – Iranian women, shown here in downtown Tehran, are among groups in the country pushing for social and economic change.

27. Distance learning degree programs are provided mainly by the University of Payam-e-Hour.

28. University degrees in Iran include:
• Kardani (formerly Fogh-Diplom) – 2-year program equivalent to the Associate degree;
• Karshenasi (formerly Licence) – 4-year program equivalent to the Bachelor’s degree;
• Karshenasi Arshad (formerly Fogh-Licence) – 2-year program beyond the Karshenasi equivalent to the Master’s degree;
• Doctora (Doctorate) degree – 3-year program; requires a master’s (Karshenasi) degree for admission and is awarded on completion of 60 semester units and passing a comprehensive exam before entering the research phase of the program, during which they prepare and defend their dissertation.
• Specialized Doctorates – Degrees in dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine are awarded after 6 years of study and a thesis and require completion of the pre-university year for admission.

29. Grading system at primary through university is based on a 0-20 scale. At the primary, secondary level, and undergraduate levels, an average grade of 10 is required for promotion to the next academic grade. At the graduate level the minimum average grade is 12 and in doctoral programs the minimum average is 14.

30. Every year about 150,000 highly talented Iranians emigrate in what the International Monetary Fund calls the highest brain drain in the world.

Bonus Fact:
31. Since we love cats here at ACEI, here’s a bonus fact on the Persian cat; one of the world’s oldest breeds. They originated in the high plateaus of Iran where their long silky fur protected them from the cold. Italian traders brought the breed to Europe in the 17th century, where they became an exotic status symbol. (source: Rajendra, Vijeya, Gisela Kaplan, and Rudi Rajendra. 2004. Iran (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.)

Helpful links & Sources:
https://www.educationusairan.com/edu-professionals/education-systems
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iran_statistics.html
http://www.snipview.com/q/Schools_in_Iran
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14541327

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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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One Rhythm, One Planet: Music from the Banned Countries

February 9th, 2017

ofra

I have always believed that music brings people together and bridges cultural divides. Music can connect us like no other arts, with its universal language of rhythm and melody. Maybe even more importantly, music—especially world music, helps us understand and appreciate other cultures and people. I have bonded instantly with immigrant taxi drivers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Armenia, Argentina, and other places simply by asking them about the music of their homelands.

This core belief in the binding power of music has underpinned my work over the past 30 years to popularize world music in Los Angeles and beyond. It’s been a joy to watch ecstatic crowds dancing to Pakistani qawwali (sufi gospel) music or Nigerian afrobeat and juju, to see people entranced by whirling dervishes from Turkey and Syria, and to swoon with others to achingly beautiful classical music from Iran. My life and personal horizons have been immeasurably enriched by these experiences. Sadly, some of these experiences may now be in peril due to the recently enacted immigration ban on seven predominately Muslim countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya.

In this time of division and discord, it’s imperative to keep building bridges through music. With that in mind, I want to celebrate music that I’ve loved by artists from the seven countries targeted by the recent immigration ban. This sweeping ban will most certainly prevent artists from these countries from performing in the U.S., but we can still support their music and arts from afar—by continuing to share and learn about them through recordings and the vast resources of the internet.

We begin in SYRIA with the poet-musician Abed Azrie and his albums Lapis Lazuli and Aromates. Azrie was born in Aleppo but has been based in Paris for many years. Aromates was his first album released in the U.S., on Nonesuch. I put a beautiful cut, “Pareil à l’eau” (Like Water) from the album Lapis Lazuli on a compilation that I produced called Trance Planet Vol. 3. His poetry is as beautiful as his music.

IRAQ: Munir Bashir has been called the King of Oud and is credited by many as the greatest modern oud player. Algerian-born, French singer-songwriter Pierre Bensusan gave me my first Munir Bashir LP years ago. I immediately fell in love with his finely-filigreed music. Sadly, Bashir died at the age of 47 in an auto accident in Budapest. Here is a track from his album Mesopotamia:

I also want to mention an upcoming concert at the Getty Center by Iraqi-American oud musician Rahim AlHaj. His concerts take place on Saturday, February 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 19 at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but you must make a reservation. Click here for more information and reservations.

IRAN: Masters of Persian Music is a classical music ensemble formed in 2000 by true masters of Persian music. Iran has an amazing classical tradition, as complex and arabesque as any Mozart or Bach. Lyrics come from the classic poets and mystics: Hafez and Rumi, as well as more modern writers. The group once performed at the Hollywood Bowl with a live calligrapher rendering classical Persian poetry; it was one of the most stunning concerts ever to grace the Bowl’s celebrated stage. Here is a song from their album Hanan (Without You), featuring Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian. It is a gentle, passionate, and powerful love song.

YEMEN: When I think about Yemen, I immediately think of the late Yemenite Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Her parents moved from Yemen to Israel in 1950 in the airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet. She burst upon the scene in 1986 with her transcendent album Yemenite Songs. Many of the songs on the album were written by a 17th century rabbi. Her song “Im Nin’alu” topped the European charts, even rising to #1 in Germany. To me, her success was more convincing proof that music transcends language and builds bridges between cultures. Ofra once visited my UCLA World Music class—International Bandstand—and performed a Yemenite song, drumming a large oil can on her shoulder. It was a beautiful moment. Here is “Im Nin’alu“:

SUDAN: Sudanese music has incredible rhythms and deep groove. Crowds love it, though it’s featured more in big European summer festivals than in the U.S., especially after 9/11. Sudanese singer and oud player Abdel Aziz El Mubarak leads a large group, playing music that blends Arabic styles and Western forms. The great UK label Globe Style released his music back in the 1980’s, and I was listening.

SOMALIA: Somali poet, musician, and hip hop artist K’naan (born Keinan Abdi Warsame) was born in Mogadishu in 1978 and now resides in Canada. His hybrid sound draws from world music, hip hop, reggae, and of course, Somali music. He has collaborated with artists from the great Youssou N’Dour to Bono. Here is his song “Take a Minute.” Watch him as he walks by portraits of Gandhi, Mandela, Bob Marley, and Nina Simone:

LIBYA: We don’t hear too much from Libyan artists, especially here in the U.S., due in part to the country’s isolation under the four-decade long rule of Qaddafi. Ahmed Fakroun is a pioneer of modern Arabic pop music and one of the most popular Libyan artists, both in Tripoli as well as among Libyan expats. His crossover style blends Arabic instruments and lyrics with Western pop elements like synthesizers and electric bass. Here’s a track called “Ya Farhi’ Bik” from his 1983 album Mots D’Amour – it definitely has that 80’s pop sound but with an Arabic twist:

Finally, I want to mention the compilation album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, released back in the days of the Bush 43 administration. It features music from all the countries above, as well as music from Afghanistan, North Korea, and other “evil” places.

I hope you enjoyed these tracks and will keep exploring musical riches from around the world.

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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