Visiting four countries in less than a month is an undertaking not many have achieved, but for Andrea Gardner, OSU Institute of Technology’s coordinator of global relations, it is part of the job.
Gardner went to China, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam in October to take part in student recruitment activities, visit with OSUIT partner institutions and present several Global Leadership & Faculty Development Academy sessions.
“It was an intense four weeks, and it was a productive four weeks,” she said. “I was going, going, going the whole time, but I loved every minute of it.”
Gardner met with recruitment agents in those countries, conducted some training sessions with them and participated in a few promotional events and education fairs.
“Even though I’m not a recruiter, when you go on a trip like this, you want to take advantage of any opportunity you have… you talk with students and want to tell them what an education at OSUIT can do for them,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of potential for us to attract new international students from that region.”
She also represented OSUIT in signing Memorandums of Understanding with several institutions and in formalizing an articulation agreement with Tra Vinh University in Vietnam for OSUIT’s B.T. in Information Technology, the first articulation venture with an international institution, Gardner said.
Also on the agenda were visits to several partner institutions in Thailand and Vietnam and discussions to strengthen those relationships.
“I had an opportunity to meet the universities’ staffs, tour their facilities and talk about collaborative projects we can work on together,” Gardner said. “I think they are eager to work with us. My goal is to develop meaningful partnerships and to see mutually beneficial projects coming out of them.”
She also conducted Global Academy workshops with representatives of Vietnamese community colleges and presented on the skills gap and how OSUIT’s model can bridge the gap.
“There are huge challenges in terms of development in Southeast Asia, and the skills gap makes it that much harder to overcome them,” she said. “Companies and universities need to be working together to make sure students are prepared for the workplace. When I presented at an industry conference in Bangkok, there was so much interest afterwards. People said ‘no one is talking about this, but we know it’s a problem and we need help.’”
Trips that focus on international relationship building like this are an important part of higher education for both international students who come to OSUIT to study as well as our domestic students, Gardner said.
“We give our students, our faculty and staff the opportunity to learn more about the world around us. It’s a globalized world, and employers are looking for someone who grasps that,” she said. “And if OSUIT is a part of the international dialog on some of these issues like the skills gap, we raise our image in the international community.”
About Andrea Gardner
Andrea Gardner, coordinator of global relations at OSU Institute of Technology, is now the Oklahoma State Liaison to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which has a membership of 10,000 people from over 150 countries.
NAFSA, founded in 1948 as the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors, promotes international education and professional development of college and university officials who work with international students and education abroad.
Gardner will serve as Oklahoma’s representative for two years on the regional leadership team. There are more than 50 colleges, universities and English language institutions in Oklahoma that host about 9,000 international students each year.
“I’ll basically be the go-to person in Oklahoma and will hopefully be able to facilitate expansion and improvement of the many great programs and activities that already exist,” she said.
Gardner said she was surprised she was even considered because she’s relatively new to the international education field.
“It’s a huge honor. The people who chose me assured me I would be able to offer unique knowledge and experience,” she said.
Another responsibility as Oklahoma’s representative is playing a role in planning and organizing the state’s annual NAFSA conference in February.
“It’s a great learning opportunity for anyone involved in international education –whether its working with international students, encouraging study abroad or teaching American students cultural awareness and global understanding – to talk about what works for you and what you’re struggling with,” Gardner said. “I’m excited to be able to bring everyone in Oklahoma together to pinpoint our goals and embrace those goals.”