Tag Archives: Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute

Happy 22nd Birthday ACEI!

April 1st, 2016

Today, we celebrate ACEI’s 22nd anniversary. And, this is not an April Fool’s joke! We are incredibly grateful for the trust and confidence placed on us by all our institutional and organizational clients as well as our international candidates who show their support through their referrals.

For those who may not be familiar with ACEI, I’d like to provide highlights of what we do and who we serve.

  • ACEI was founded and incorporated in the State of California in 1994.
  • ACEI is a Charter and proud Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, a leading professional membership association which approves and endorses private organizations providing international credential evaluation services after a rigorous screening and vetting process.
  • ACEI offers evaluations of international academic and professional credentials of individuals who have studied outside the U.S. and need statements of academic equivalence.
  • ACEI evaluation reports are recognized by U.S. schools, colleges, universities, state regulatory boards, professional associations, employers, state and federal agencies.
  • ACEI has served tens of thousands of international candidates seeking evaluations of their academic credentials.
  • ACEI offers comprehensive course-by-course evaluations which include listings of subjects/courses, credits/units of credit (for post-secondary education), grades and grade point average, and course levels.
  • ACEI evaluations are based on official/original academic documents issued by the source institutions.
  • ACEI evaluations are prepared within 7 business days from the date the application and required documents are received.
  • ACEI provides RUSH processing for those applications that are to be expedited.
  • ACEI evaluation reports are released either electronically to the U.S. institution/agency for which it is intended or issued on transcript security paper and released by post.
  • ACEI provides a Translation Service.
  • ACEI business hours are from Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM PST. During our regular business hours, applicants and institutional clients can communicate with our Client Relations Officers by phone or email. Even during our non-business hours, applicants and clients have the benefit of speaking with live and helpful client service representatives. No automated answering machines!
  • ACEI senior evaluators have and continue to contribute as presenters at regional, national and international conferences on international education and to publications on country specific education topics.
  • ACEI provides webinar and e-learning programs on international credentials evaluation, updates on education systems from around the world, and reports on trends in higher education from student mobility, recruitment, to innovative approaches in teaching methodology.
  • ACEI issues a free monthly newsletter “The Report.”
  • ACEI remains engaged through social media sites as Facebook, Twitter and through its weekly blog “Academic Exchange.”

The above are a few highlights of ACEI’s achievements. 22 years of service is definitely not a joke. It has taken commitment, passion for our profession, dedication to quality and integrity in our evaluation, due diligence, and plain old hard work that has kept the ACEI engine purring and humming through the years. And, we couldn’t have done it without the help of loyal and dedicated individuals who make ACEI a socially conscious company where the bottom line isn’t just about profits, but how we treat our employees, our clients, but the community as a whole.

I’d like to recognize the services of the following individuals who help make ACEI a model for excellence and integrity:

Brian Aguilar
Client Relations Officer

Soheil Askarian
IT Specialist

Mary Baxton
Senior Credential Evaluator and our Latin American Specialist

Scott Brown
Client Relations Officer

Sajin Gacina
Senior Credential Evaluator and our Eastern European Specialist

Matthew Fisher
Senior Credential Evaluator and our Middle East Specialist

Behnam Heshejin and Grace Morillo
Accounting Service

Jennifer Hutnich
Senior Credential Evaluator and our African and Western European Specialist

Katherine Kang
Senior Credential Evaluator, and our South East Asia Specialist research and investigative analyst extraordinaire

Nora Khachetourian
Director of Evaluation & Translation Services and our Editor-in-Chief

Alex Martinez
Client Relations Officer

Yolinisse Moreno
Communication and Marketing

John Riley
Social Media Manager

George Renfro
Web Master

Alan Saidi
Senior VP & COO and uber senior credential evaluator

Sal Sarhangi
IT Guru

Scruffy
ACEI’s Resident Feline and Stress Relief Manager

scruffy
Photo Credit: Brian Aguilar; Graphics: Yoli Moreno (!)

William (Scottie) Thompson
Administrative Assistant with a big heart

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

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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5 Highlights of Events in Education from ACEI and Around the Globe

November 5th, 2015

news

Since our last blog a week ago, a great deal has happened in the world of education, both on the national and international level. We’d like to share a few of the events that have occurred this week that we will continue to report on through our blog Academic Exchange and our monthly newsletter, The Report. Here are a few highlights of what just occurred:

The Colorado Board of Education Ousted
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If you recall, last year students and their parents in Colorado protested the decision by the members of the Colorado Board of Education that was set to revise the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum so that it reflects “the positive aspects of the United States.” The protests drew national attention and this week we learned that Coloradans in a recall election ousted the members of the Colorado Board of Education. For more on this story click here: http://goo.gl/JeBVom

Diploma Mills and Fake Degrees: A Global Problem and Threat
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Last week at the NAFSA Region XII Conference in Honolulu, HI, ACEI’s President and Founder, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, presented an engaging and informative talk on Diploma Mills; a billion dollar criminal industry with hubs not only in the United States but around the world. She shared examples of bogus diploma mill providers and those who had intentionally purchased such degrees to secure high level positions at the state and federal level in the U.S. and officials in government positions in other parts of the world. She demonstrated that the problem is not unique to the U.S. but is a global underground network which continues to survive because of lack of enforcement and lax laws. Jasmin will be offering a webinar on this topic on December 5, 2015. For more information, please sign up here: http://www.acei-global.org/homepage-webinars-presentations/

Brazil Faces Challenges with its National Entrance Examination
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There are about 8 million students this year preparing to participate in the ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Medio), Brazil’s National High School Examination which is organization by the Ministry of Education. These 8 million students are competing for approximately 250 thousand places in the federal higher education system. Though, the ENEM was originally set up to assess the quality of secondary-level education in Brazil, it has now evolved into an admissions test to the main federal universities and other public institutions. The limited number of places available as compared to the number of students competing for them is predicted to be the cause serious challenges for the country. For more on this story click here: https://goo.gl/fRjpn9

Defending Affirmative Actions
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Colleges are arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of Affirmative Action. November 2, 2015 was the last day to submit briefs to the Supreme Court on a key affirmative action case. The following groups have filed briefs in support of protecting Affirmative Action: American Council on Education, accreditation boards, faculty groups, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the College Board, the Law School Admission Council, and the National Association for College Admission Counseling. For more on this story click here: https://goo.gl/ZBzchi

The Virtual Classroom and Future of Higher Education
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As part of an on-going series of webinars, ACEI recently provided a one-hour webinar on on-line education. The ever changing landscape of education requires a closer look at the present state of our education system so we can explore new strategies to increase student engagement and lower student attrition. Our guest presenter, Melanie Bryant, an accomplished educator with a passion for technology, shared her own personal experiences as a young student in the public school system and then as a teacher in public schools, and now as an on-line instructor and Director of the Professional Business Program at Laurus College. In the webinar, Melanie touched on several topics such as the traditional classrooms, expanding e-learning for education, training, informing, coaching, training learners to learn, teaching strategies that work and engaging learners in meaningful work. To stay abreast of our upcoming webinars, please sign up here: http://www.acei-global.org/homepage-webinars-presentations/

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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10 Takeaways from the 2015 NAFSA Region XII Conference in Honolulu, HI.

October 30th, 2015

Honolulu

The annual NAFSA: Association of International Educators Region XII Conference this year was held in Honolulu, HI and like years past, ACEI demonstrated its presence by having a booth at the Exhibit Hall and presented a conference session. Here are a few interesting facts about Oahu, NAFSA’s Region XII, the 2015 conference and our overall takeaway.

1. Oahu is an island in the mid-Pacific, part of the Hawaiian island chain and home to the state capital, Honolulu. Highlights of the city include historic Chinatown; the Punchbowl, a crater-turned-cemetery; and Waikiki, the iconic beach, dining and nightlife area. West of Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, site of the 1941 bombing attack and home to the USS Arizona Memorial

2. NAFSA is a professional association with a national and international membership for those working as international student advisors at U.S. public and private schools and institutions of higher education, as well as credential evaluation companies, international student recruiters, study abroad program providers, ESL schools, insurance companies, immigration lawyers and organizations offering services to international students.

3. Region XII of NAFSA convers the following States in the U.S.: California, Hawaii, and Nevada.

4. Over 500 members had registered and were in attendance at this year’s Region XII Conference. This is a healthy number, since a few years ago, barely 120 people had attended the conference held in San Diego.

5. Tuesday, October 27th, our Director of Communications, Yolinisse Moreno and I joined colleagues, Perry Akins Chairman of ITEP , Sharif Ossayran of President of Ascension Zepur Solakian of CGACC and Judy Judd Price, Deputy Executive Director of NAFSA, for dinner. Our conversation quickly veered into current events, politics, history and related books. We may not have solved world’s problems, but we each left with a list of must-read books!

6. My session “Diploma Mills & Fake Degrees: A Global Problem and Threat,” was scheduled on the program for Thursday, October 29th. I learned that a topic exactly like mine on Diploma Mills was being presented by another person a day earlier. Needless to say, having the same topic presented by two different presenters is something I’ve never experienced or witnessed before. Having served on NAFSA’s Southern District Region XII Committee and on its national conference planning team, I can say with confidence that programming two identical sessions was an absolute no-no. In fact, in such cases, conference programmers either choose between duplicate sessions on a first come, first served basis or invite both presenters to consider collaborating and presenting jointly.

7. Despite the duplicate programming issue, my presentation on Thursday was a success and those who attended, though not the large number that would have been expected had there not been a similar session presented the day before, found the talk highly informative and entertaining.

Honolulu_2
Session on Diploma Mills & Fake Degrees presented by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO, ACEI

8. ACEI’s booth was also quite a hit with all of our fun island-themed swag intermingled with our serious literature on our evaluation, translation, and training services as well as our calendar of upcoming webinars. (To stay updated on our services and upcoming webinars, please click here.)

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Yolinisse Moreno, Director of Communications, ACEI

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View of the exhibit hall

9. Everyone’s favorite ACEI giveaway was our stress ball shaped like a pineapple. We had brought a couple hundred of them and they disappeared in less than 2 days!

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A parade of pineapples to relieve you of your stress!

10. Having Honolulu, HI as a conference destination was a great draw, though at times, dressed in our “casual” business attire, I felt like I was crashing someone’s family vacation! It was difficult to not stray from the conference hall. The warm breeze and our senses being bombarded by aromas of coconut infused sunscreens wafting by as we made our between hotel buildings to our meeting rooms were seductive temptations! However, despite the temptations of paradise, meetings and conference sessions were very well attended as was the exhibit hall where we reconnected with colleagues and regular clients of ACEI and made new connections. We look forward to next year’s Region XII conference in Palm Spring, CA.

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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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5 Reasons Why International Credential Evaluation is Necessary

September 17th, 2015

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Whether you represent a school, college, university, professional licensing board, employer, or any other entity engaged in the recruitment, placement, certification or the hiring of internationally-trained candidates, you know that educational systems and academic documents vary greatly by country. No two academic systems are alike and nothing can be taken on face value, even if an academic document “appears” to mirror a US college transcript. Academic institutions and professional groups that don’t have the expertise or knowledge-base to conduct foreign credential evaluations must not avoid this crucial step, no matter how qualified or appealing an international candidate’s portfolio may appear.
Here are 5 reasons why a foreign credential evaluation prepared by an independent credential evaluation service that is approved and endorsed by the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) will benefit you and your institution and the international candidate:

1. Authentication of Documents:


A credential evaluation will verify the authenticity of the academic documents with the issuing institution and compare it against archival documents. Such authentication will provide you with peace of mind that the academic documents are bona-fide and valid for processing.

2. Verification of English Translations:


Many times the academic documents are issued in a language other than English and are accompanied by English translations. A credential evaluation will verify the English translations to ensure for accuracy that dates, course titles, grades, names, and key words match those on the official academic document.

3. Biographical and Academic History Check:


The candidate’s academic history and biographical information will be compared with the academic documents presented. In addition to the applicant’s name, other biographical information like age will be checked to ensure that it corresponds reasonably to the education represented in the documents.

4. Foreign Academic Institution Status:


The credential evaluation determines the official status of the institution where the studies were completed by identifying how the institution is accredited and who recognizes its accreditation. If an institution is determined to not have the appropriate accreditation, the studies will not be evaluated in terms of those completed at regionally accredited U.S. institutions. If the institution is determined to be a Diploma Mill, then this information will be conveyed to the U.S. institutions for which the evaluation is intended.

5. Program Description:


a) Entrance Criteria – The credential evaluation determines the level of the academic or professional program represented by the documents submitted as either lower secondary, senior high school, post-secondary undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate. It will establish the minimum academic criteria for admission to the institution where the studies were completed before the U.S. educational equivalence is recommended. This is an important step in the evaluation process which will assist the U.S. institutions in their decision-making. For example, if it is determined that the international candidate’s academic achievements are comparable to US senior high school graduation, yet he/she has submitted an application for graduate (master’s degree) studies at the U.S. university, the admissions department will be able to properly advise the candidate of his/her eligibility for admission to another degree program at the undergraduate level instead.

b) Length of Study & Conversion of Instruction Hours to Credits – The credential evaluation will determine the required length of full-time study for the academic program evaluated in order to calculate the U.S. semester or quarter credits for post-secondary studies completed and if necessary, determine the level of post-secondary courses in terms of lower, upper division and graduate division.

c) Conversion of Grades into U.S. equivalent Grade – A document evaluation will calculate the grades or final examination results/marks reported on the academic documents into U.S. equivalent grades, and calculate the overall grade point average.

Due diligence in international admissions, professional certification, hiring and job placement of individuals educated and trained outside the U.S. is essential. Understanding international candidates’ capability and qualifications allows you to properly assess and integrate them into your scholastic, professional and work environment. By obtaining the expert assistance of an independent credential evaluation agency, U.S. academic institutions, professional licensing boards and public or private companies can protect themselves against fraud and misrepresentation in the international education arena.

(Note: Please refer to our previous blog “5 Things International Students Should Know About Credentials Evaluation”.)

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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21 Facts About ACEI on its 21st Anniversary!

April 1st, 2015

Today, April 1st, ACEI celebrates turning 21! This is no April Fool’s joke. 21 years ago on this day, ACEI opened its office in Beverly Hills, CA, USA and has been providing its international credential evaluation services to students and immigrants from around the world.

We thought in celebrating 21 years of business, we share with you 21 facts about ACEI:

1. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators

2. ACEI’s primary service is international academic credential evaluation where studies completed at institutions outside the U.S. are evaluated and converted into the approximate U.S. academic equivalence.

3. ACEI evaluates educational credentials from all academic levels (e.g. primary/elementary school through high school, university from undergraduate to graduate and doctoral and professional) and from all countries around the world.

4. ACEI also provide a Translation Service where academic credentials issued in languages other than English are translated into the English language.

5. ACEI provides an Experiential Learning Evaluation for Officer Training programs completed while in military service for non-US commissioned officers.

6. ACEI evaluations are prepared by senior level credential evaluators who each have a minimum of 10 years of committed experience in international education credential evaluations.

7. Our processing time in completing an evaluation is 7 business days from the day we receive the completed ACEI Application, educational credentials and fees.

8. We offer three types of evaluation reports: Basic (General) Report; Comprehensive (Course-by-Course) Report and the California Board of Accountancy Report. Each of these reports are designed to meet the specific purpose for which the evaluation is intended: employment; professional licensing; immigration, further education/continuation of studies.

9. We offer 2 types of RUSH services: 24-hour rush and 3-business day rush, if an evaluation is required to be completed faster than our 7-business days.

10. The fees submitted for a credential evaluation provides 2 sets of the evaluation report: an official report and a duplicate applicant copy.

11. ACEI official reports are issued on heat sensitive transcript security paper.

12. ACEI provides customized Virtual Intensive Training programs to U.S. schools, colleges, universities and regulatory boards interested in acquiring a more hands-on knowledge of world education systems and credential evaluation methodologies.

13. ACEI’s blog “AcademicExchange” has been producing weekly blogs since April 2011 and has been viewed by more than 40,000 viewers.

14. The Report is ACEI’s monthly online Newsletter which has a subscription of over 5000 subscribers and provides highlights of education-related news from around the world.

15. ACEI has 2 mail processing centers in the Los Angeles are to facilitate applicants with the delivery of their application packets.

16. Walk-in drop off service is available by appointment only to those applicants who wish to deliver their original documents in person.

17. The ACEI Comprehensive (Course-by-Course) Report in addition to recommending the U.S. academic equivalent of the level of studies completed and any certificate/diploma/degree earned, provides a detailed course-by-course listing of subjects studies with U.S. semester units of credit (for post-secondary studies), U.S. grade equivalents (A, B, C, D, F), calculates the overall Grade Point Average, and classifies course levels for undergraduate studies as lower and upper division.

18. ACEI staff is proficient in several languages including Spanish, French, Farsi, Russian, Armenian, German, Italian, Croatian, Chinese.

19. ACEI senior staff has authored several publications on world education systems that are used by international educators at other credential evaluation agencies, and U.S. colleges and universities and state regulatory boards.

20. ACEI provides 24/7 customer service through its call center.

21. ACEI’s Facebook page has 11,000 followers and its Twitter page has 700+.

Bonus Fact:

22. ACEI has its very own resident office cat, Scruffy, a 14-year old Main Coone with polydactyl paws.

Scruffy

Thank you for supporting ACEI since 1994!

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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Time Traveling with Music

February 26th, 2015

musictravel

In just the past couple of weeks, here at ACEI, we have been suddenly blessed by a flow of credentials from individuals with degrees in music. Holders of these degrees are from all corners of the world and studied at conservatories and universities from Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, Italy, South Korea, to Canada. They are all seeking teaching positions at various high schools and colleges throughout the U.S. Coincidence? Perhaps, but a very happy and encouraging one to know that music education in this country is alive and highly talented and qualified individuals will be teaching our young people.

Having just watched the film “Whiplash,” the story of a promising young drummer as a first year jazz student at a prestigious and cutthroat music conservatory and his abusive and demanding teacher, I was reminded of my early childhood experience with learning the piano. The actor J.K. Simmons who plays the role of the teacher in “Whiplash,” won this year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, a much-deserved award, though his character’s personality is nothing like my former piano teacher, Suzi.

I was seven when I first met Suzi. She was twenty-five. A recent graduate of the Vienna Conservatory, the daughter of upper middleclass Armenian parents living in Tehran, Suzi was a virtuoso. She could have been a concert pianist performing around the world, yet for reasons unbeknownst to me, she had chosen to return to Iran, move in with her parents and teach piano to children of privileged Iranian families.

Finding me a piano teacher had been my mother’s idea. After seeing “The Sound of Music,” I had pestered my mother that I wished to learn a musical instrument and the piano was my number one choice. She had surprised me with news of fulfilling my wish by picking me up from school one chilly afternoon in Autumn and taking me directly to Suzi’s house. She met us at the entrance to her house that like most Iranian homes was hidden behind high walls and a large iron gate. Tall and rail thin with pale skin and light green eyes, she struck me as a ghostly figure emerging through the plume of her cigarette smoke. A far cry from Julie Andrews’s timid Maria of The Sound of Music, Suzi commanded a regal presence in her designer tailored dusty rose suit with pumps displaying the famous Chanel logo and the short single strand of pearls adorning her swanlike neck.

We followed her through the inner courtyard carpeted with yellow, russet and orange leaves, past the decorative shallow pool empty of water but a few layers of leaves. She led us to the house, a two story building its façade bathed in pale yellow offset by white shutters and two white pillars standing on each side of the front door looking like sentries guarding the inner sanctum. Suzi’s music room, or the “studio” as she called it, was on the ground floor as was her apartment. Her parents lived on the second floor.

As we parted with our coats in the marbled foyer, we trailed Suzi down the hallway carpeted with a well-worn Persian runner, past large oil paintings of landscapes mounted on cream-colored walls. The faint sound of classical music I had heard earlier in the foyer got louder and louder as we neared what I assumed to have been her studio. It was the most sublime piano music I had ever heard. “It’s Chopin…nocturne,” Suzi whispered as though our natural voices would somehow disturb the pianist on the recording. “Someday you will be playing these very pieces, my dear,” she said to me, her tone sincere and filled with optimism of my abilities, though until that day, I had neither played nor touched the keys on a piano.

Her studio was spacious with French windows opening to the courtyard. A pot bellied stove had been lit heating up the room. A full-length Persian rug with rust and creamy white floral design covered the entire marbled floor. A partially drawn sliding glass door separated the studio from another that remained dark but I was able to make out the silhouette of a black grand piano. It stood alone in the center of the room like a king holding court with the low hanging chandelier as its crown.

Bookshelves and framed oil paintings of pastoral landscapes hung on the walls. Perched atop the mantle and squeezed between books on the shelves and coffee table were small statues of men’s heads. Stacked against one wall was a collection of LPs, displaying covers of recordings by symphonic orchestras.

Two upright pianos rested side-by-side against one wall. “Perfect for duets,” Suzi said, sensing my curiosity and invited me to look around while she and my mother sat on the sofa to talk. I jumped at the invitation and headed toward the framed photographs on the wall and on the pianos. They were mostly of Suzi sitting behind a piano or standing next to one on a stage with various people. In some photos she was dressed elegantly in an evening gown and in others she looked as she did on that day. Framed documents in an unfamiliar language adorned with gold seals and red ribbons covered another portion of the wall above the upright piano. The language wasn’t English but used the English alphabet. I was able to make out the word Vienna and Konservatorium, and of course, Suzi’s name. Graduation diplomas, I concluded. Little did I know then that thirteen years later I would be examining and evaluating diplomas like Suzi’s at a company based in the U.S.

My snooping was cut short by Suzi inviting me to join her on bench in front of the piano where we sat side-by-side. I breathed in her perfume and stared at the empty pages of an open book with lines unlike any notebook I had seen before. “This is going to be our sheet music. You’ll be learning a new language that will help you play beautiful music.”

Still curious at the objects around me, I pointed at two busts atop the piano. “Who are those?” I asked.

“The one on the left is Schubert, and that one on the right is Ludwig von Beethoven,” she replied. “Soon you play their pieces,” she added with confidence. “Here’s a little taste of Chopin, it’s one of his Nocturnes.”

I didn’t know what a nocturne was but as soon as her long fingers touched the keys, the room was filled with the sound of music so glorious unlike anything I’d heard in my short seven years of existence. Suzi may have seemed fragile and almost frail on the outside, but the music that was emanating from the piano was powerful, yet intensely graceful and melodic evoking so much emotional sentiment that I found my skin tingling with goose bumps. So overcome I was by its sheer beauty that I fought hard to hold back tears as she played.

Patiently, Suzi began the instruction and over time, I had not only learned to read musical notes but played them with confidence. By the time I was ten, Beethoven’s sonatas, Mozart’s piano concertos, Tchaikovsky’s mazurkas were my go-to pieces of music. I continued with my piano lessons at Charters Towers School (CTS), the boarding school I attended for the next six years in England. At CTS, not only did I take lessons, I also prepared for exams with the Royal School of Music and participated in competitions playing solos and duets. I fared well and won a few awards and collected certificates. But it was during those brief visits to Iran for the Christmas or summer holidays when I’d resume my lessons with Suzi, that I felt a oneness with the piano. At Suzi’s I was able to enjoy playing the piano for the sheer love of the composers and their creations; free of the drudgery of competitions and pursuit of awards.

It was at one of the lessons with Suzi during a summer holiday that she introduced me to a collection of Chopin’s nocturnes. “Let’s start with this piece,” she said, turning open a page from a book bearing a portrait of Chopin on its cover. I had just turned 13. I must have balked at the sight of the open page in front of me filled with a complex line-up of notes. “I’ll play a few bars and then it’s your turn.” As soon as she began to play, I was overcome by a sense of déjà vu. She was playing the very piece I had heard six years earlier when my mother and I had first stepped into her studio…the same piece she had played for me on that first day. Suzi had promised me that one day I too would be playing Chopin and she had kept her promise.

I was sixteen when I last saw Suzi. I was heading to America to study but had plans to return for the long summer holidays. Unbeknownst to both of us, our lesson in summer of ’78 was to going to be our last. “Find yourself a piano at the university and practice, practice, practice!” These were Suzi’s last words.

At the University of San Diego, I did find a piano and after graduation bought a piano and continued to play. To date, the piano is my go-to instrument to unwind, relax and create. I still play the classics but I’ve learned to improvise and free form. On occasion, I’m invited to play with a talented group of friends in their music studio. No sheet music, no notes, just stream of consciousness creating and performing.

Thanks to Suzi, my dream of learning the piano had come true. Had I not pestered my mother to find me a teacher after seeing the film “The Sound of Music,” I may never had the musical experience that is part of my life even today. I wonder if I would have felt the same had I seen the film “Whiplash.”

jasmin_2015

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI), an international credential evaluation company, based in Los Angeles, CA. She is a leading expert on world education systems, and is also writing her memoire “Cinema Iran,” offering a glimpse into pre-Islamic Republic Iran as seen through the eyes of a young girl. This blog includes excerpts from a chapter in her memoire entitled “Tehran Nocturnes.”

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Filed under Arts, Creativity, Credentials, Education, Human Interest, Music

Chinese student challenge: How to support them in succeeding in the U.S. educational system

May 29th, 2014

CGACC

On May 20, 2014, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI) and Sid Krommenhoek, Founder of Zinch, presented a webinar hosted by CGACC on China and the challenges Chinese students pose for U.S. colleges and universities.

According to the 2013 Educational Exchange Data from the Institute for International Education (IIE) Open Doors, in the 2012/13 academic year, 235,597 students from China were studying in the United States; a 21% increases from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S.

The reasons for this boost in numbers can be linked to China’s growing middle-class affluence, especially when concentrated on a single child and the country’s higher education system not being able to meet the demands of its people. We can also attribute this upsurge to budget cuts at U.S. universities giving rise to the need for institutions to increase reviewed by recruiting abroad and the easing of the stringent student-vise policies that were implement immediately after 9/11.

It is difficult to predict if the huge percentage increases we’ve witnessed in Chinese undergraduate enrollment will continue but at least in the short-term China continues to represent the largest market of undergraduate international students heading to the U.S. One of the single biggest problems concerning Chinese students is the prevalence of document fraud in the application and evaluation process and the uncertainty of the quality of their prior education.

In the webinar, Sid Krommenhoek spoke extensively about China’s state-run education system being overrun by bribery and cronyism. It’s not unusual for parents to bribe school officials to get their children into elite schools, retain agents who will falsify recommendation letters, financial statements, academic transcripts and other documents needed to satisfy admission requirements to a U.S. college or university. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert offered helpful tips for admissions counselors and credential evaluators to consider when dealing with transcripts and degrees from China.

The audio and presentation slides of this webinar which Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert of ACEI and Sid Krommenhoek attended are available for free at this link:

http://goo.gl/W1yCWr

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