At the official opening of the EAIE 29th Annual Conference and Exhibition this morning, EAIE President Markus Laitinen, the General Secretariat of Universities, the Mayor of Seville and the President of Andalusia welcomed participants to the EAIE’s largest conference to date, then gave way for Keynote Alexander Betts to inspire and promote inclusivity in our field. The theme of this year’s conference, ‘a mosaic of cultures’ was influenced not only by the tiles that cover the beautiful city of Seville but also by the vast array of backgrounds found in our very own international higher education community, working together to improve access to education for future generations.
Markus told the crowd this morning, “Mosaics are made of small individual pieces, but without all the pieces, the big picture would be incomplete. Let’s make sure that by the end of the conference here in fabulous Seville, that we have made up a strong, beautiful image of what international higher education can accomplish”. This sentiment will continue to ring true during the conference and beyond for those at the EAIE, but with this image of unity also comes a lot of hard work and willingness to be the change at our institutions and in our communities.
The video introduced at the Opening Plenary asked some important questions that all higher education professionals should ask themselves. Fortunately, there are some great examples from the plenary that we can look to in order to see exactly how we might put into action what we learned this week.
How will you contribute to increasing mutual understanding?
The EAIE’s 2017 Award winners are a prime example of increasing mutual understanding, having taken it upon themselves to promote diversity and awareness through their careers in international education. That includes our Constance Meldrum Award for Vision and Leadership recipients, Erasmus founding fathers Alan Smith and Hywel Ceri Jones. Fortunately, both Alan and Hywel have been able to witness the fruits of their labour, as Alan stated in his acceptance speech, “the Erasmus programme is second to none in bringing citizens closer together”.
How will you equip the next generation to reach out and look beyond themselves?
2017 is an important year for Erasmus, as this year marks the 30th anniversary of it’s founding as well as the mid-term review of Erasmus+. A leading example for preparing the next generation with the tools needed to broaden horizons and change the world for the better, Erasmus has provided more than nine million students with mobility opportunities since its inception.
How will you put into practice what you learned this week?
In a world challenged by terrorism, xenophobia and restrictions on mobility, Keynote Alexander Betts gave some great suggestions related to the concept of inclusive internationalisation tailored to higher education professionals. Alexander encouraged us to look inward, at our own biases, while also reaching outward to others who may share different views. Alexander argues that higher education can play an important role in creating inclusive internationalisation by building bridges via student outreach and mobility programmes. Higher education professionals should do so in every community. “Build bridges. Not just horizontal, but vertical, deep down so we can reach all of society”.
Being the change
The week is off to a great start but there is plenty more to look forward to as well. This conference is about learning, sharing and collaborating with colleagues and building on the great examples of positive change provided at the Opening Plenary here in Seville. How will you be the change?
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