Behind the scenes with Louise Goold: Building the AIEC program

This week, I caught up with Louise Goold, Manager for Engagement at Monash University’s Faculty of Education and Director of Murray-Goold International. Louise has been working alongside the AIEC Committee for 12 years now, and continues to help us deliver a great program offering to all our AIEC delegates.

Louise, tell us a bit more about what you do and your background in international education.

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Louise Goold

I’ve been in international education since about 1987. I started by working with what was AIDAB (then AusAID and now DFAT) and later moved on to senior international education roles at Flinders University, British Council and Swinburne University. Now I work at the Faculty of Education at Monash, looking after their engagement projects.

So, tell us when did you first get involved with AIEC and what has been your role?

I have probably been attending AIEC since 1990, but I have been helping out with the program since 2003.
My role is to sit alongside the committee to provide expert advice about content in the program, provide ideas for content and sessions and then help identify and invite speakers to participate. We start off by developing a theme for the conference and identifying key topics and issues that are current, important and need to be addressed. We then look at the feedback from the delegate survey and brainstorm ideas for panels and presentations.
After the call for proposals closes, reviews are done and proposals accepted, we then relook at the whole program and identify content gaps, i.e. missing topics that haven’t been filled through submitted papers. If we feel we need a session on a topical or emerging issue on international education, I then work with the committee to build those sessions and get them into the program.

We all know that building a program can be challenging. What are the major challenges for you?

STEP 4 Looks pretty good
Where it all comes together

To me the biggest practical challenge is the scheduling – making sure that we are not scheduling sessions on a similar topic at the same time, and doing our best to ensure that all the sessions scheduled in the same time slot are varied and cover as many sectors and topics as possible.

Another challenge, but also what makes AIEC so special, is that AIEC caters to all sectors, covers a broad range of topics and is suitable to industry veterans as well as newcomers to the industry. We do our best to make sure that we have a good balance of topics that will appeal to a wide audience, but also provide a forum for more niche topics to be presented as well. Some sessions are particularly focused and cover only one topic and one sector, but other sessions present the opportunity for a cross-sectoral perspective. Both types of sessions are equally valuable and provide a great opportunity for professional development, but when sessions don’t fall neatly into one particular category, it’s not easy for scheduling!

Can you give us an example?

We have sessions that focus specifically on the school, VET, Higher Ed or English language sectors. To balance that, we also have sessions like ‘Just what does the future hold for international education in Australia?’ that brings together representatives from all the peak bodies in Australia to discuss common challenges and provide their views on a particular issue affecting international education today.

This year we have offered a few speakers the opportunity to present a poster. We know that their presentation might only be relevant to a small percentage of delegates, so by presenting a poster, the topic still gets covered at the conference, and delegates still get to talk and meet with the poster presenters. Posters this year focus on a range of topics, including research, mobility, etc.

We have more plenary sessions this year. Is there a particular reason why?

Sometimes we have really interesting high level speakers that we’re putting up against other equally important sessions and speakers. This is unfair for the delegates who have to miss out on something, as well as for the speakers who have to present at the same time! So this year we made a deliberate decision to have a few more plenaries, particularly ones we think will appeal to all delegates, regardless of their sector or key interest area.

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Virginia Trioli

The student panel “Inventing their own futures – a conversation with international students” is one example. It’s important for all of us to take the time to sit down and listen to what international students have to say, and we didn’t want delegates to miss out on this. I’m really looking forward to hearing students from different backgrounds and at different stages of study, share their experiences with acclaimed journalist and TV anchor, Virginia Trioli.

Some of the panels you help put together are what we call the ’In focus’ series. Can you tell us a bit about what delegates can expect if they attend one of these ‘In focus’ sessions?
As the name suggests, the session focusses on one particular country or region. Each year, we try to identify a country or region that is quite new or emerging in international education, or we revisit ones where there have been new developments. For example, in the ‘In focus’ Saudi session this year, delegates can expect to get a cross-section of views from student recruitment through to projects, consultancies and research opportunities, as well as gaining insight into how things work in the region and some of the challenges and realities on the ground in working within that market.

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Top tip: Read the program in advance!

Just to finish off, what’s your top tip for delegates to get then most out of the conference?

To get the most out of the conference program, take the time to actually read the program. Session descriptions are up on the website, so you can read the session descriptions and the speaker bios in advance, and then you can do the same when you arrive at the conference and receive the printed program. At the very least, flick through the pages, and identify the key sessions that are most relevant to you.

If you’re there with colleagues from your same organisation, coordinate with each other so that you’re not all sitting in the same session and you can actually spread that expertise and that knowledge around and meet up later to share what you’ve learned.

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The preliminary conference program is now available online. To receive updates on the conference program and other important news about the conference, subscribe to our enewsletter or follow us on Twitter @AIEC, hashtag #AIEC2014.

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