Value and Values: CIS Tour Participation as Investment in Yourself, Your Institution, Your Community
by Sam Dunlop, Portland State University, Portland, United States
There I was again. Attempting to moderate a friend’s reaction to my recent international trip, this time assistant leading the CIS Africa tour. “You have a dream job,” he says.
“There are many dreamy parts of my job,” I say. “But not all of it is as glamorous as it sounds. I promise.”
To him, and many of my friends and family, I leave the comfortable (and delicious) bubble of my Portland life for a three week holiday in the ever-exotic and mystical land known as “Elsewhere.”
Of course, Elsewhere, at least to all my friends and family, is based on the snapshots I share through my well-curated stream of Instagram pictures. So, I am that guy: the one guilty of fueling this perception. But, of late, I’ve been diligently working to incorporate images of what work really looks like while I am on the road. And that also means framing the context of what I do and how it all happens.
CIS is crucial to the work that I do for Portland State University (PSU). The organization has helped me to evolve as a professional and continues to help me grow and learn within this profession. I’ll never forget my first CIS tour, now a decade ago. It marked one of the first international recruitment events I had attended. There was something monumentally different about the CIS tour compared to the range of other recruitment offerings I explored in my nascent months in the field of international admission. The contrast was clear: I departed that first CIS tour feeling energized, inspired, connected, and informed.
That sense of human connection to the people you meet during these events is truly priceless. After all, when you travel with someone almost non-stop for two to three weeks, you often leave feeling more like family than co-workers on a business trip. Little would I know at the time that many of the people I met on my first CIS trip would become dear friends, mentors, and people who I regularly turn to for advice and feedback that helps me advance professionally and helps advance the work that I do for my institution. This highlights one of the many benefits of CIS membership and CIS tour participation.
In the work I do leading the undergraduate office of international admission at PSU, I routinely evaluate tools that support me and my team in our work to increase enrollment, diversify our pool of applicants, and enhance the academic profile of each incoming class. We are regularly confronted (sometimes bombarded) with more opportunities to spend our resources and time than we can possibly take on. For my own professional development and the opportunities abundant to my team at PSU, CIS offers something truly unique in our field: non-profit, volunteer-led, mission-driven recruitment opportunities.
When I send one of my team members on a CIS tour I know that the quality of the program is excellent because it is planned by someone in the field of international admission who understands what other professionals are looking for in a recruitment trip, that there are no hidden agendas, and that their own professional development and network will grow through participation in the tour.
As a CIS tour leader, I have dedicated countless volunteer hours fine-tuning tour schedules, maximizing opportunities for my tour to have contact with guidance counselors in schools, and blazing new paths to schools previously unvisited by international university representatives. Why do this when I already have a full-time job?
Because it’s good for the students to see new options, new opportunities. Because it is good for my institution. Because it is good for the tour participants and their institutions. And because my professional reputation is as linked to the perceived strength of the event that I plan as is the CIS brand. I take personal and professional ownership for putting together a strong program that brings a robust and diverse range of options to the students and schools we serve, as well as the universities and colleges who depend on me and CIS to help them find those same students and schools. Our work is personal in that it springs from our personal and professional commitment to the importance of the CIS vision, “to inspire the development of global citizens through high quality international education: connecting ideas, cultures, and educators from every corner of the world.”
In many ways, I attribute the experience on my first CIS student recruitment tour in 2007 to a great deal of my success and growth as a professional. Those more seasoned and sage professionals on that tour saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself; they cared enough to support and motivate me to move forward in my career, and to ultimately suggest that I consider volunteering for a CIS regional service committee.
I am struck that even now, as I have recently completed another CIS tour ten years later, I walk away with as much a sense of enthusiasm, connection, inspiration, and energy as I did the first time. I am confident that no other tour provider in our field offers the unique range of benefits to its members that CIS offers. These tours are not simply a good value as an investment for an institution, they are also an investment in values we care about as a global community: non-profit, volunteer-led, mission-driven, and dedicated to the growth and nourishment of its members.
Sam joined Portland State University in September of 2011 and leads the office of undergraduate international admission. He has worked in higher education since 2005, with work experience in both community college and small private college environments. He currently serves on the CIS Higher Education Committee on Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
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