International student leaders across the United States gathered for the first national conference to help advocate international student issues and resources.
Article and conference overview provided by ISV Ambassador Janice Levi, International Programs Coordinator at the University of Oklahoma, College of International Studies.
“We are the winning generation,” said Danilo Tchoupe, president of the University of Arkansas’ International Student Organization and founder of the Association of International Student Organization (AISO) whose first national conference took place this past weekend. Tchoupe recognized that although others may have considered a national organization that encompassed all international student organizations (ISO) on campuses across America, the vision had finally come to fruition through tireless planning this past year.
AISO, an organization, which hopes to represent all ISOs and international students studying in America, is in its infancy and will require much more commitment from students to make sure it is sustained. This message of commitment and sustainability was reiterated throughout the conference as leaders were hoping to see attendees be motivated by its mission and commit to make certain that AISO thrives for years to come.
The AISO conference, a three day conference that spanned the weekend of Friday, March 15-Sunday, March 17 at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville campus, brought together approximately 80 students representing over 30 schools across the nation. The conference was dedicated to concretizing the purpose of the organization, its goals, as well as teaching leadership skills to its participants. Presidents from ISOs across the nation brainstormed together as they identified AISO’s main purpose and the steps in achieving these goals. The AISO is devoted to connecting ISOs from all over the country by serving as an umbrella organization that helps advocate for international student issues, share experiences and resources to other ISOs, and serve as a point of contact for new international students looking to plug into their local organization. In its inaugural year, the AISO will produce a final draft of its constitution, prepare annual conference plans, define a communications strategy, and acquire sponsorship commitments.
Throughout the weekend, students who arrived together from campuses across the nation dispersed and made new friends and connections while learning about opportunities ISOs provide at their home institutions. Everyone was seemingly energized about the opportunity to come together to provide resources for the international student demographic in the US. Several schools provided presentations highlighting events that they sponsor to increase visibility of international students and their cultures in order to facilitate cross-cultural exchange and understanding. Sarita Suarez, from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), stated “It was a pleasure to see great international and domestic students making (an) impact at different campuses,” acknowledging the need to bridge the gap between the two student groups which can be achieved through programming efforts.
There were many great moments during the first AISO conference, but many agreed it was the potential that AISO harnessed that had everyone in attendance most excited.
Hamed Poursharafoddian, a graduate student from Iran studying at Johnson & Wales University, explained that the AISO will “help (international students’) voice be heard, I think that is a big achievement for this conference and hopefully we are going to pass this torch to the next generation of international students that will come to the US.”
Similarly, Danilo Tchoupe recognized the energy of all the participants in their eagerness to commit to this organization.
“The next generation will thank us for the work that we are doing now,” stated Tchoupe explaining the importance of this organization and the efforts that are currently being made by its members. “There is an egg out there that needs to hatch,” Tchoupe analogized, referring to the beginning phases of AISO, which will require many to incubate the “egg” or contribute to the success of AISO in order for AISO to mature and fully represent the national community of international students.
The location of the next AISO conference will be decided by June 1, 2013 after the Advisory Board and the conference planning committee select from proposals from across the nation. Proposals will be due by May 15. Schools and ISOs interested in hosting the 2nd annual AISO national conference can find the proposal application on the AISO website and the AISO Facebook page later this month.
All international students are encouraged to join the AISO as well as all ISOs across the US. More information can be found on the AISO website and the AISO Facebook page. The AISO and Danilo Tchoupe would like to give a special thanks to Dr. G. David Gearheart, Chancellor at the University of Arkansas; Michael Freeman, Director of the Office International Students & Scholars at the University of Arkansas; and, Dr. L. Bergman-Lanier, Director of Spring International Language Center at the University of Arkansas for their support of AISO.