Monthly Archives: August 2011

What happened to innovation?

August 25, 2011

As our dependence on fossil fuels continues to persist compounded by demand from the emerging economies of China and India, you would think our universities would be encouraging their graduate students to enter research programs in search of alternatives to oil. But that is not the case. In a recent August 24, 2011 interview on American Public Media’s Market Place, I learned that the high price of oil is spurring demand for petroleum engineers. “Students flock to college programs in the field with six-figure starting salaries as incentives,” reports Nathan Bernier from KUT in Austin, TX.

A second year doctoral student in petroleum engineering at the University of Texas is excited about the prospects of landing one of these six-figure starting salaries which will station her in Western Canada to look for oil in the tar sands. I wonder if she is aware of the over 160 people who have been arrested in ongoing civil disobedience against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline? There has been an ongoing protest of concerned citizens who have held sit-ins in front of the White House since last week and will continue for the next two weeks to call on the Obama administration to reject a permit for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline project, which would deliver Canada tar sands oil to refineries in Texas, rather than focus resources on developing clean energy.

The same doctoral student interviewed said that she was aware of the stigma facing her profession as a petroleum engineer, given the “link between fossil fuels and climate change.” However, she said “until an alternative becomes widely available, people will continue to rely on gasoline cars.” But, aren’t our graduate research degree programs intended to encourage innovations in search for alternatives? The purpose of a doctoral thesis is to present findings on an “original” body of research. We are not contributing anything original by supporting a field of study that propagates a way of life that only perpetuates our addiction to oil.

In fact, alternatives to fossil fuels do exist. What the burgeoning alternative energy industries need is public awareness (which leads to demand), academic support by our research universities (fosters innovations), and the backing of government and political leaders (provides economic incentives, encouraging new industries and creating jobs).

After seeing a screening of the documentary “Freedom” (check out www.thefreedomfilm.com) I, along with others in the audience, was inspired to learn of the slew of alternatives available. One is ethanol. But scientists hired and supported by oil companies quickly fed us science claiming that producing corn for the production of ethanol harmed the food supply and food prices. In fact, food prices are linked to petroleum prices. Check out another informative documentary “Save The Farm” (www.savethefarmmovie.com) to learn about localizing our food source. “Freedom” proves that the science brought out against ethanol as an alternative fuel source was a myth, but it succeeded in even convincing the avid environmentalist to turn its back on this form of energy that would help localize production and free us from dependence on foreign oil.

I only wish that more of our young bright scientists entering doctoral programs would be less seduced by Big Oil and instead be the leaders of a new and more evolved approach to our energy needs. It’s time to innovate. The old way is about to expire just like the dinosaurs!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
http://www.acei1.com

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Taking Charge: The Art of Assuming Responsibility

August 18, 2011

It’s been a month since I last blogged, and it’s not because of a lack of material. A few days ago I heard a story on the radio about a guy whose job at one of those high-end boutique hotels in the Big Apple is to collect the mobile phone #s of guests sunbathing on its rooftop terrace and send each sun worshipper a text message reminding them to turn over for an even tan! You don’t believe me? Here’s the link to the story so you can hear it with your own ears: The new summer job: The “tanning concierge”

And here’s what I don’t get. If these guests are capable of giving out their mobile numbers to the “tanning concierge,” why can’t they simply set their own alarms for a reminder of when to turn over? Is this so hard to do? Or is this display of laziness a side-effect of our technological age? Are we intentionally relinquishing responsibility for our own actions and decisions? Is it easier to blame our sunburn on the tanning concierge than ourselves for either forgetting to apply a generous layer of SPF30 or perhaps, like yours truly, be genetically inclined to assume the reddish hue of a lobster than the bronze glow of those lucky enough to brown without a burn. Mind you with my salary as an evaluator I’d probably be the “tanning concierge” in this scenario rather than the tannee!

You may be wondering where I’m going with this and I don’t blame you. But this idea of putting the burden of our decision making onto someone else’s shoulders is something I see on a daily basis with our international student applicants. For example, the simple act of filling out the educational history portion on our application seems to strike many as rocket science.

Here’s what the “Academic History” portion of ACEI’s Application form for Foreign Academic Document Evaluation requests: “List ALL educational institutions attended and now attending, beginning with primary school.” This is no different than a college application, yet, applicants seem to hit a wall when they reach this section on our form. Many simply avoid it in its entirety and proceed to the next section. Some ignore the word “ALL” and include only one institution, skipping their entire previous academic history. It’s as though they were born and skipped 28 years and suddenly ended up with a Ph.D. Then there are those who call and ask for help. Fair enough. I explain by reading the text out loud to them and then ask that they break down each school they attended with dates of attendance and so on. If you could hear the heavy sighs and long silences on the other end of the line, you’d think I’m asking them to figure out Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. For Pete’s sake, all I’m asking is for a list of the schools attended.

The average person has attended a grade school, followed by middle and high school, and then college. Unless your parents were part of a witness protection program or some top secret diplomatic mission and relocated frequently, chances are your academic history is not going to be more than 4 lines. So what’s the big deal? Why this reluctance to reflect on the past? Maybe you don’t have fond memories. (I hear you. Neither do I!) Maybe you were bullied or did poorly. But that’s a whole other story and another blog. All we’re asking is that you list the names of the schools you attended so that we, as your friendly and overworked evaluators, can properly assess your academic achievements and recommend the best possible U.S. educational equivalence.

Unlike the “tanning concierge,” as your “evaluating concierge,” figuring out your academic history is something I can’t do for you, no matter how much you want to pay me. This is something you’ve got to figure out yourself.

Ciao for now and until my next blog, I remain

The Frustrated Evaluator
www.acei1.com

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Is there a doctor in the house?

August 12, 2011

According to a recent report on PRI’s The World, “the U.S. suffers from a shortage of primary care physicians, and the problem is expected to worsen. America’s baby boom generation is aging, and health care reform could put greater demands on doctors as more American gains medical insurance.”

How do we intend to address this problem? There is one solution that can address the physician shortage and it would be to allow more foreign-trained doctors to work in the United States. In fact, thousands of such doctors are already here, but face a myriad of challenges that prevent them from the profession they spent years studying and practicing before coming to the U.S.

In order to get a medical license in the U.S., a foreign-trained doctor must first take board exams followed by an English language proficiency test, and complete a residency program. This is where the process becomes difficult. Foreign-trained candidates, along with their U.S. trained counterparts, apply for hundreds of residency positions but nearly “95% of candidates accepted for residency positions are graduates of U.S. medical schools while fewer than 40% of the foreign-medical doctors are accepted for US residency.”

In order to qualify for the board exams, the foreign-trained doctors seeking a medical license in the U.S. have already satisfied the academic and medical education criteria, otherwise they would not be eligible to sit for the exams. And, if they pass the exams, they are qualified to apply for residency like their U.S.-trained counterparts. Given the shortage of medical doctors and the expected demand for more physicians, why is our system stacked against these qualified individuals? Is the residency system unfair and biased against non-U.S. trained medical doctors? Or, is this selection process intended to discourage foreign-medical doctors from abandoning their home countries in order to practice in the U.S.?

The PRI report cites Prof. Mullan of George Washington University School of Medicine who studies the global migration of doctors that “there are several reasons why US residency programs prefer US graduates. A doctor in almost every country in the world is a product of the taxpayers or the tax base of that country. Because governments spend money on medical education, countries want a return on their investment. For that reason, it is appropriate for U.S. residency programs to select US graduates over those from foreign countries…if the US made it easy for foreign doctors to work here, that would be unfair to other countries.” But this is true of foreign-educated candidates with degrees in business, humanities, science, nursing, engineering who migrate to the US for either economic or socio-political reasons.

The fact remains that we have a shortage of medical professionals and we are not addressing this need through our limited residency programs. And until which time we have more medical schools, expand existing schools and able to increase the number of American medical graduates, we would need to deal with the qualified foreign-medical graduates in the US who are eager to step in and help.

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. VP & COO, ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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Working Together: Agents/Recruiters, U.S. Institutions, Credential Evaluation Agencies…the recipe for success

August 4, 2011

There’s been a flurry of on-line discussions, reports and articles on the pros and cons of working with international student recruiters and commission-based agents. The discussion has been passionate and robust to say the least!

According to an August 3, 2011 article* by Alan Ruby, a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, “…an agent, is usually somebody who officially represents somebody else in business or who provides a particular service for another person.” In some cases, the agent representing the business may even make contractual decisions on behalf of the business. And this is where the discussion on the role of agents and/or recruiters representing an academic institution has become heated. Is the agent qualified to make decisions concerning the admissibility of an international student on behalf of the U.S. college/university? Mr. Ruby continues “admissions is a rationing decision – it involves privileging one person over others… admissions is also a gate keeping decision to ensure that those who enter are able to benefit from and contribute to memberships of the institution…the decision on who is to be admitted is made by the institution, not by individual agents acting independently of each other.”

As I, along with my colleagues in international credential evaluation, sit on the sidelines and listen to the on-going banter on the relationship between agents/international student recruiters and U.S. admissions officers, one important ingredient we believe will improve this recipe is to partner with experienced professionals knowledgeable of world education systems and the U.S. academic equivalence of international credentials. By utilizing the services of a reputable and professional international credential evaluation service, both the agent/recruiter and U.S. college admissions officers can have a better and clearer understanding of the potential international student’s academic achievements. Students not meeting the admission standards of the U.S. institution can be declined at an early stage of the process, before they are offered any promises of admissibility. Selecting a professional credential evaluation service that is a member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) guarantees that all parties will receive accurate U.S. academic equivalence of the international studies.

On more than one occasion, I have seen documents of an international student who is referred to my company for a credential evaluation, only after he/she has been admitted to the U.S. college/university. Needless to say, all parties involved are highly disappointed when the academic equivalence recommended determines that the potential international student’s achievements fall below the admissions criteria of the U.S. institution. Agents, recruiters, U.S. institutions and the international student can avoid pitfalls and disappointments based on unreasonable expectations by first obtaining an academic credential evaluation. Agents and recruiters can continue to properly and accurately represent an institution and its mission while an evaluation by an independent credential agency can help maintain standards and ensure the recruitment of qualified international students.

*NAFSA “Trends & Insights”

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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