What better way to leverage the University of Colorado Denver’s international education status than to welcome 6,000 international educators to the city it calls home? From May 31 – June 3 at the Colorado Convention Center, the university participated in and for the first time was a co-sponsor for the spring 2022 NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference—the largest gathering in the world of individuals working in international education. As Colorado’s only urban public research university, CU Denver used the opportunity to elevate its 2030 Strategic Plan goals, build brand awareness, and form new partnerships in the international education community.
“Like Denver—which continues to emerge as one of the most vibrant, global cities—CU Denver is punching above its weight,” Chancellor Michelle Marks said during the conference’s opening remarks. “This is especially true when it comes to international education.”
CU Denver’s Commitment to International Education
CU Denver’s growing global footprint is shown in numbers and partnerships. Of its unique student body, more than half of undergraduate students are students of color and half are first-generation students. More than 1,400 international students enrolled in the spring 2022 semester, representing 71 different countries.
One of CU Denver’s most longstanding international partnerships is the International College Beijing (ICB), a first-of-its-kind joint education program formed nearly 30 years ago with China Agricultural University in Beijing. This semester, 169 students, many of whom spent time in Denver during their education, celebrated their graduation in Beijing, with another 12 attending CU Denver’s spring commencement on Tivoli Quad. “These students, like our U.S. students who also study abroad in China, benefit greatly from that mobility,” Marks said during her NAFSA remarks. “They are exposed to diverse cultural skillsets and new languages, all while developing a greater understanding of the world and enhancing the lives of every student they engage with.”
Among NAFSA’s many benefits, the annual conference provides a dedicated environment for international educators and business partners to discover the latest innovations, best practices, and to brainstorm new ways to serve and bring more international students to the U.S.—and to CU Denver—as well as to offer more study abroad opportunities for students who live in the U.S. Meetings between university representatives from diverse global regions facilitate next-step developments for promising educational collaborations and future partnerships. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, thousands of international students are still looking toward the U.S. for a quality education.
“At this important point in time, the theme of this year’s NAFSA conference—the commitment to building a sustainable future for international education—is particularly meaningful for our entire CU Denver community,” explained Alana Jones, Associate Vice Chancellor, Office of International Affairs, University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus. “Our Lynx students, faculty, and staff have joined together to create a university that works for all—for learners of all backgrounds, all stages of life, and throughout all corners of the globe.”
NAFSA Efforts Support 2030 Strategic Plan Goals
A global perspective is a key component of CU Denver’s Strategic Plan priorities, in particular goal 1, to become the nation’s first equity-serving institution, goal 2, to become known as a university for life, and goal 3, to solve some of society’s grand challenges through world-class research. As Denver continues its expansion and emergence as a dynamic global city, CU Denver plays a vital role in helping to discover scientific breakthroughs, invent new technologies, graduate students who are well-prepared for today’s global workforce, and advance a society that values innovation and science. To do this requires diverse perspectives, cultures, and ideas.
“Opening borders for higher education has been one key driver of economic success and competitiveness,” Marks said, adding that in a world of increasingly divisive international tensions, international educational partnerships and exchanges, forged by common goals of learning with each other and about each other, could be an antidote.
“We have a collective mission, making our globe a better place for all—which has never been more important than right now,” Marks said to the thousands of attendees, including international education administrators and faculty, as well as third-party providers for recruitment and study abroad.
Conference Sponsorship Opens New Opportunities; Brings Visibility to the City and University
The NAFSA Conference is hosted in a different U.S. city each year. Past locations include Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. Denver last hosted the event at the Convention Center in 2016, which drew 11,000 people and favorable feedback on the location in the heart of Denver’s entrepreneurial, culture, and arts ecosystem, the beautiful scenery, and top-notch weather.
Because of the pandemic, this year’s event was expanded to in-person and virtual offerings. In addition to programming and networking, those who attended in person had the opportunity to take tours of CU Denver’s campus, which is only a few blocks from the Convention Center.
Though CU Denver has participated in NAFSA for decades, this year’s conference marked a milestone for the university. For the first time, CU Denver served as a non-exclusive, co-sponsor alongside Think New – New Zealand Education for NAFSA’s opening session. As a part of this sponsorship, CU Denver’s brand was promoted throughout the conference. Jones led the sponsorship effort to bring more visibility to all that CU Denver has to offer and to leverage the university’s international education presence now and into the future.
“In this time of evolving workforce demands, social progress, and radically shifting demographics, we at CU Denver are working with institutions, businesses, and partners worldwide to expand learning access that transcends borders and boundaries,” said Jones. “We are excited to collaborate with colleagues as we collectively delve into innovative new approaches that serve today and tomorrow’s international learners and educators, our campus, and the city of Denver.”