More than 1,400 participants representing over 80 countries gathered in person and remotely, and 100 sessions were live streamed across the globe.
The conference marked a new beginning for the organisation, with Kristoffer Toribio officially commencing his role as the new IACAC president, becoming the first representative of a community college (Orange Coast) and the first Asian Pacific Islander from Hawai’i to assume the presidency.
Toribio welcomed delegates, recognising that it was a privilege to be gathered at UNM in person and stating that it is one not all of his colleagues share. Referring to fellow IACAC members as Ohana, or family, he referenced the bond the group has formed in advocating for international students.
“I look forward to the challenges and the opportunity of leading our association to its next chapter and [levelling] up,” Toribio announced.
Hakim Bellamy, New Mexico’s first Poet Laureate was the keynote speaker at the conference and wrote a poem for the occasion, An Incomplete and Unauthorized List of Things Your College Admissions Counsellor Wants You to Know.
Bellamy acknowledged that not every student has a network of unconditional support. “Equally, we recognise that it is neither in our job description nor our power to replace anyone’s family. However, we are more than happy to enlarge it, if you’ll have us as your plus one.”
Conference sessions concerned finances, ethics, data, and social media, with a strand woven throughout the convening, both formally and informally, being “The Great Resignation” and the staffing woes felt by countless organisations across the sector.
Kristen Pantazes, Eric Ahlstrand, Wilson Lee, Kirk Wayne Mitchell, and James Bishop led a panel discussing, “the challenges and opportunities this global exogenous shock has provided our field, particularly as it relates to office cultures, work environments, and trends in employment”. Another focused on the importance of student voices on social media.
And conversations between sessions about the pressure created by being understaffed were abundant.
Also on the jobs front, some delegates shared the “side hustle” work they do “outside of their 9-5” to supplement their income. While others suggested engaging recent retirees to assist with admissions and recruitment projects to ease the burden on dwindling staff.
In addition to myriad sessions, the IACAC conference committee also organised numerous social and wellness events, including yoga, meditation, a 5K walk/run, a golf outing, and dancing.
“This IACAC offered a window to see new faces new ideas, new way of doing old things”
Many delegates expressed appreciation for the variety of in-person and remote activities as well as academic and social events. Moreover, they were grateful for the theme of balance woven throughout session offerings that prompted them to consider strengthening the equilibrium in other aspects of their practice, such as the use of technology and social media to recruit versus the power of human connection.
Song Hoffman, director of International Admissions at University of Delaware shared her thoughts about the conference balance with The PIE News.
“Through a sea of changes, this IACAC offered a window to see new faces, new ideas, new ways of doing old things, and new ways of approaching fresh ideas,” she stated, appreciating the variety of perspectives offered throughout the conference.
“Still,” Hoffman added, “I enjoyed seeing the familiar faces who still share the same passion.”
Likewise, Lisa Besso, International Recruitment Consultant at St. Francis College in New York noted “the eager response of both university and high school counselors to come together in such great numbers and be together again in person. It shows the power of personal relationships in this context and how important they are at every step; from student to family to counselor to admissions rep and onward. People need to connect.”