Category Archives: Human Interest

Spotlight on George Burke: Mentor and Advocate

July 6th, 2017

George

“For 40 years, I’ve been preaching international opportunities among the refugee community,” George Burke, a man of many interests and a strong advocate for international education said.

Burke is an international educational consultant who is presently the International Admissions and Recruitment Specialist at the University at Albany in New York. His rich history involves working with universities and colleges on all facets of international education, international travel and recruiting, and assisting immigrants and under-represented groups. He is a wonderful mentor and well-respected in the profession of applied comparative education. He assists people in the U.S. and all over the world. His dedication is unparalleled.

He is also a Certification Board Member for the American International Recruitment Council (AIRC), works in recruiting and academic program development, Fulbright Advisor, President of Steiner House (International Student Cooperative) and works with Welcome Immigrants to Northeast Ohio, Global Cleveland, and Welcome America – all organizations assisting refugees and analyzing the vibrant economic impact of immigrants and the survival of these groups.

“I assist with all aspects of assisting immigrants.  I also travel quite a bit, I traveled 80 days overseas this year. I help students to network and use organizations to build relationships. I’m the person to help them frame the issues and help them find assistance.” Burke said. “We now have new immigrant groups that must be addressed.”

When asked what challenges he sees with the new administration in regard to immigrants, Burke stated that we need diversity and integration. He says these things start within our own communities. “When you think of diversity, there needs to be integration. If you think everything is integrated now, you run into a dead end and you won’t be prepared for the next change. It takes time, but in the long run, we all need to be prepared for change. Integration is being lost. We need to focus on integration and we all need to be involved in our communities.”

He stressed that integration is positive. “Integration is not a negative word. It has been lost in our communities and our society. It is what is being missed right now. But we cannot have forced integration. It has to be a part of our everyday lives and happen organically. We need to be accepting and prepared for positive change.”

For many years Burke has assisted immigrants, refugees, and under-represented groups. He has worked with African Americans in his state of Ohio to assist in providing pathways for them. He also works to integrate African Americans with the immigrant community. Burke said that family connections are very important when discussing integration and the immigrant community, “Family is their connection, they need family relationships. By breaking apart families, we are creating a dysfunctional antithesis of the American story.”

When faced with an issue, Burke said that he thinks about it, talks about it, throws to out to his colleagues and communities, and they throw it back. Keeping an open dialogue is very important.

He not only preaches diversity and integration, he makes it happen. Burke closed with, “These things take time and I always have hope.”

https://www.linkedin.com/in/george-burke-78962511/

http://www.albany.edu/international-admissions/70602.php

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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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Being a Myth Buster in the Age of Fake News & Alternative Facts

June 9th, 2017

Myth

It’s been a while since I’ve written something for this blog and it’s not for a lack of material. I’ve been in a state of disbelief since November 8, 2016. I’ve watched how anti-immigrant, anti-globalization, anti-internationalization rhetoric from the new administration has affected the image of our institutions of higher education—the bastions of learning and innovations—in the eyes of the world. I am astounded as to how myopic, xenophobic, and short-sighted a large majority of my fellow Americans have become overnight. Most likely they have always been this way, and the November 8th elections have liberated them to boldly display and proclaim their hatred and phobia of the “other” for all to see and hear.

I’ve sat quietly on the sidelines, simmering in my own stew of angst and frustration, mentally drafting essays of my opinions but feeling a resistance in actually putting them on paper/screen for others to read. Until yesterday happened. Yesterday, for the first time ever in the ten years I’ve been on social media, I ventured out of my safe zone and posted a comment. It was a comment in response to another comment. And the commenter was commenting about a satiric video featuring Mexico’s Former President Vicente Fox. In the clip, Mr. Fox quips that instead of paying hundreds of millions of dollars to build a useless wall, the U.S. could pay for the university education of hundreds of thousands of students.

The comment that pushed me out of my self-imposed exile of interacting with the human species went something like this, and I’ll paraphrase it here:

“And how about those international students who are here in this country on a student visa, studying for free and then go back to to their countries and never pay back their tuition?”

I stared at this comment for less than 5 seconds and realized that I had to step in and bust the myth.  The myth shared by many Americans who think international students studying in the U.S. are getting a free pass. These same people mistakenly believe that international students return to their home countries without ever paying tuition or repaying the institution for the free education they received. This is far from the truth!

Unfortunately, in this age of fake news and alternative facts, it’s next to impossible to present facts, backed by research and statistical analysis when trying to clarify misconceptions and incorrect assumptions. But, I took a chance and went ahead and posted this comment in response:

“Foreign students must prove financial solvency in order to get a student visa and be admitted into the U.S. to study. They pay a much higher tuition than domestic students or out of state students. The contribution of international students to U.S. economy is quite significant. They not only pay tuition to cover their education but also contribute to the local economy by being consumers of products, renting apartments, buying cars, shopping, eating at restaurants, etc. Many people benefit. Clearly many Americans have the wrong idea of international students. They are not a financial burden but a financial boon to the country’s economy. $32.8 billion to be exact.”

And, in case the commenter and others like him were interested in facts supported by research data, I also included the following link:

http://www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/NAFSA_International_Student_Economic_Value_Tool/

To my surprise, I received about 8 likes to my comment and no angry and nasty retorts. At least, none to date.

I guess the point to this blog is that we can’t afford to sit on the sidelines when we see incorrect information making the rounds or when assumptions are made that have no factual basis. It is our responsibility as citizens, fellow human beings, denizens of this planet to bust the myths and spread the facts. Whether we are heard or not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we spoke up and didn’t sit silently in the shadows. In the age of Super Heroes, we need to put on our cloaks, take a deep breath and assume our roles as Myth Busters!

Frustrated
Frustrated Evaluator aka Myth Buster extraordinaire

#mythbuster

#fakenews

#alternativefacts

#internationalstudents

#SuperHeroes

#Mexico

#PresidentVicenteFox

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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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Fulbright: A Two Year Photographic Journey

May 26th, 2017

During my two years in the Fulbright Program, I have taken thousands of photographs. I seem to have just as many stories about my students, the community I live in, and the nation I call home. In writing this, I wanted to give a diverse glimpse into the life of a Fulbrighter in South Korea and the development of my relationship with my students over the past two years. Living abroad is full of many complicated feelings: joy, depression, homesickness, excitement – there is no short story that can encapsulate the experience, but I hope through this photographic essay I can share life in the Land of the Morning Calm.

~*~*~
First, Let Me Take A Selfie, 2015
After three months, my first selfie with my students.
Until this moment, we had not reached the friendship point of pictures. I entered my school with a strong dedication to teach the English language as a professional. And part of this came with me creating distance between the students and I, not fully comprehending the culture of touch (hand holding is appropriate with teachers) or engaging with students outside of the classroom. In short, I had a lot to learn about being a good teacher. After a month, I began to change my approach and opened myself up to the students, which in turn lead to this moment on October 2, 2015 when I asked a few girls for a picture.

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~*~*~
An Artist At Work, Work Being My Classroom, 2015
I caught a student drawing in class. Usually, I would take away the drawings and talk with the student after about paying attention. When I walked up to this particular student she was so engrossed in her work she didn’t see me. Instead of taking the papers I stood and watched. After all, who am I to disturb an artist in the midst of a masterpiece?

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~*~*~
Special Snowflakes, 2016
The project was supposed to be simple. We had ended class early and I wanted to decorate the classroom with snowflakes. Some of my students listened to the directions. Others decided they knew how to make a snowflake.
Most of these students were wrong:

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~*~*~
The Battle of Sungsim, 2016
The first snowfall of the year brought with it the usual festivities. My students have a tradition of using dustpans as shovels and tossing the snow at each other. Just a word of advice to anyone reading this – if a group of teenagers have dustpans and you have a lone snowball, always remember you are older and will be the automatic enemy if you engage them in battle.

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~*~*~
Hanji, 2016
Hanji is Korean paper and has a long history on the peninsula. It can be used to make art and clothing. During my first year in Korea, I began taking lessons from a woman who has been making hanji art for 20 years! My teacher is an amazing woman who speaks 5 languages and is one of the happiest people I have met. Pictured is one of my projects, but don’t be fooled! My teacher saved it multiple times from my butterfingers!

 

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~*~*~

Closet, 2017
This past week we did a lesson on secrets, many of which broke my heart. In Korea, same-sex marriage is not legal, although being with someone of the same gender is not criminalized (military code exempt). You can be fired for your sexuality and support groups for LGBT rights are still growing. It has been painful watching students who have come out to me struggle with their identity, unable to share it with their peers. I have no clear answers – many expats simply say “its another culture” and brush aside the issue. But working with students who are in the closet changes the entire experience. And the worst part is not having answers or a fix for the situation.

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~*~*~
Do You Hear The People Sing?, 2017
Earlier this year President Guen-Hye Park was ousted after a money scandal. Millions filled the streets of Seoul demanding she be impeached. When the court ruling came down impeaching Park, the country erupted into celebration. On May 9, 2017, Jae-In Moon was elected president. Watching the whole process was intense. In my city there were nightly protests and my students covered their classrooms in signs demanding Park resign. The whole nation was against her and there was no way to stop the people. As one of my students said after the election, “Korea is a democracy, today shows our power.”

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~*~*~.
Good-byes, 2017
I had to rent a hanbok before I left, pictured here in front of my school. It has been an amazing journey and one I will not forget. Leaving Korea—there are no words to describe how I feel and perhaps that is the best. My students have transformed my life for the better. I am more compassionate, I am more patient, I laugh everyday, and I have found my calling in education. I just don’t know how I will live without them… or the kimchi.
안녕히 계세요.

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Nikki R. Brueggeman

Biography
Nikki Brueggeman is a graduate of the University of Washington s where she earned a master’s degree in 2015. She is originally from the town of Walla Walla, Washington where she was raised around sweet onions and wine barrels. Nikki currently teaches at Jeonju Sungsim Girls High School where she works with the most beautiful, vivacious, and hilarious girls on the Korean peninsula.

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Tree Trees

May 5th, 2017

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When I was in college, just by chance I ended up at a party for the international students, (free beer) and there, to my surprise, I made some of my best friends to this day. You know when you instantly connect with someone? Romantic or not, it’s rare and there is something special about the sheer dumb luck it would take for a kid from the Netherlands and a kid born an hour and half outside of Los Angeles should meet and become (dare I say it?) best friends.

Not my first friend from out of the country, Ralf and I (pronounced Rolf in Dutch but forced to take Ralph as his American name by sheer repetition) have become close like only a few friends I’ve had in my 26 years. We talk about anything and everything but I would be lying if I said we didn’t discuss the norm for two people from different countries quite frequently, i.e. cultural differences between the US and The Netherlands, the EU, The World at large, long political talks about what’s wrong with America, what’s great about America, what’s wrong with Europe, what’s great about Europe, Life, Humanity. No doubt, it is a big part of our relationship and I enjoy it fully, as I suspect he does.

That being said, I think some of the greatest joys comes from the subtle teasing that comes from a close friendship. Little jabs about “fat Americans” a few remarks about outdated Christmas traditions (see Zwarte Piet) here and there help us recognize the differences between ourselves and our cultures in a way that transcends either, humor.

An example, my best friend Ralf speaks perfect English, it’s just, his accent has him say “tree” instead of three. It makes really no difference with context and so is generally a non-issue. So, one time, near Christmas, we’re at a bar just chatting when Ralf notices funny albeit bawdy ornaments on some trees.

“Look at that tree” he pointed.

With a sly grin I asked him, “How many trees are there?”

Ignoring the odd question, Ralf responded earnestly, “tree”

“Yes Ralf, I know they’re trees, but how many of them are there?”

“Tree”

“So just one?”

“No tree!”

I think my smile gave away the joke and Ralf, realizing my mischief, and being a genuinely great person, tilted his head back in guffaws, causing groups of patrons to stare.

Although small, I think this is one of the better moments of my life, not because of some great accomplishment but the realization that we are heading into a globalist world, and how great it is that our conversations, our relationships, our lives can be enriched and diversified by this. Increasingly in America you hear the term Globalism used as a slur. Those who use “globalist” as a derogatory term could not be more wrong.  The world has always been heading toward globalism and there are so many benefits worthy of discussion: Economic stability, increased understanding and decreased xenophobia, trade. You can expect all this from Globalism…. or maybe you’ll just share a laugh with a new best friend.

Alex Brenner

Alex is a graduate of UCLA’s creative writing program and helps ACEI’s international applicants in his role as Client Relations Officer.

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Why is Central European University under attack by the Hungarian government?

April 14th, 2017

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Demonstrators at the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest protesting legislation that would force the closure of Central European University, April 9, 2017. (Photo Credit: The Nation – MTI via AP/Jano Marja)

If you haven’t heard already, on Tuesday, April 4 2017, the Hungarian National Assembly fast-tracked and passed an amendment to a higher education bill that threatens the closing of the Central European University (CEU), a leading university in Europe. According to a report in The New York Times: “The new law requires, among other things, that foreign-accredited universities provide higher education services in their own countries — meaning the United States in the case of Central European University.” CEU has until January 1, 2018 to comply with these new requirements.

CEU, located in Budapest, is accredited in the United States and Hungary and offers degrees in the social sciences, humanities, law, public policy, business management, environmental sciences, and mathematics. CEU attracts students from over 100 countries from around the globe and is revered for its programs in social sciences and humanities.  According to The Times Higher Education, CEU was founded in 1991 as an English-language university by “a group of visionary intellectuals – most of them prominent members of the anti-totalitarian democratic opposition.”

Members of the European Commission of EU’s executive body are investigating this new law imposed by the Hungarian government and questioning is legality. There have also been massive student protests in Hungary who see the government’s heavy handedness as a clampdown on free expression and in retaliation against Mr. George Soros, a financier who sits on CEU’s board. Mr. Soros, according to some observers is seen as an influential global threat by Hungary’s conservative nationalist government.  Even the U.S. has expressed concern and criticized the Hungarian government’s higher education bill and its impact on CEU.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban is unmoved by the criticism and the protests. Mr. Orban’s party is convinced that George Soros is behind the shaping of CEU’s institutional philosophy of inclusion which encourages migration while the Hungarian government opposes it vehemently. Mr. Orban wants to stop migration while he sees Mr. Soros as an advocate of migration who will use money and his political capital to weaken and destabilize governments, such as Hungary, who oppose his philosophy. Mr. Orban has coined the term “Illiberal democracy” by turning liberals into the enemy and arguing that majority rule is more important than minority rights.

With such deeply rooted dislike for liberalism, George Soros, and migration which translates into international students, the future of the Central European University in Hungary looks rather bleak.

Sources:

https://www.oneyoungworld.com/blog/trouble-hungary-central-european-university

https://www.google.com/?trackid=sp-006#q=Central+European+University

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/world-university-rankings/central-european-university#ranking-dataset/1089

https://www.thenation.com/article/central-european-university-under/

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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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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

laura_sippel

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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