Meet Helen Zimmerman, AIEC Committee Member

Helen Zimmerman
Helen Zimmerman, AIEC Committee Member & President of IEAA

Last week, Helen Zimmerman, President of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA) and latest member to (re)join the AIEC Committee was in town. We caught up for a few minutes to discuss Helen’s background in international education, the IEAA and what she’s most looking forward to at this year’s AIEC. Here’s how it went…

Could you tell us a bit about what you do?

My current role is heading up Government and Stakeholder Relations for Navitas, which I’ve been doing for just about one year now. However, before that, I headed up their division for English language delivery for international and domestic students, migrants and refugees for many years, and loved it.

How long have you been involved in international education?

I guess I’ve been involved in international education since the early nineties. I joined ACL in 1994, and in those days the company was primarily focused on international students. Navitas acquired the ACL Group, and so that’s how I came to be part of Navitas in 2005. I’m a member of the senior team, and so I’m involved in the strategy and operations as well as external relations.

I’ve also been a director of English Australia and NEAS over the years .

Were you attending AIEC back in those days?

There were two main conferences I use to attend when I first became involved in international education: the IDP Conference (now AIEC) and the ELICOS Association Conference (now the English Australia Conference). Those were the only two organisations giving real market intelligence back then, before we started getting statistics from the government, so the highlight of these conferences was the research and data presented on international education.

Attending the IDP Conference was our way of getting perspective on what was happening in international education in Australia, and of course, globally. Today, it has moved beyond having a purely a marketing focus (research and data presentations), and become a forum were we talk about “all” the issues in international education.

Could you tell us about IEAA and your role in the Association?

IEAA was formed in 2004. The idea was to create an individual member organisation for people working in and passionate about international education, to provide professional development for the sector and create a forum for the sharing and cross-fertilisation of ideas. Tony Adams invited me to be on the Board when they first started in 2004, and I’ve been involved ever since.

We were careful not to make it just about higher education. The IEAA has worked very hard and made it a point to ensure the association is cross-sectoral, public and private, with members based in Australia and overseas. Increasingly, with globalisation, we do a lot more now in engaging with other peak body associations, so the debates, the issues and the conversations are happening on two levels. The IEAA supports the whole Australian international education sector, and in the past few years we’ve increased our advocacy role and focused more on promoting the benefits of Australian international education to the community and governments.

IEAA is also about collaboration. There are many other peak bodies in Australia, but we are not here to do what they do: we are here to “link up” and “be a voice across all sectors”. We believe it’s important to work both nationally with these peak bodies, as well as with our international counterparts in other countries.

Over the last two years the focus has really moved towards engaging internationally, driven mostly by the emerging markets such as Brazil and South Africa among others, coming to the table and joining in the conversation.

The important thing to remember is that IEAA focuses largely on the professionalisation of the industry, and this is why the AIEC is so important to everyone who works in the international education sector.

Can anyone sign up to become a member of IEAA at the conference?

Certainly. We’ll have a booth in the exhibition hall and we welcome everyone to come and talk to us. The secretariat staff will be there to tell delegates about IEAA, about what we do and how and why becoming a member is so important. Anyone who is working in international education who wants to know what is happening in Australia and is interested in connecting with international education professionals is welcome to join. And it’s not only for Australians in Australia. For example, we have non-Australian members who just want to keep up with what’s happening in Australia, or Australian members living overseas.

You don’t have to be physically living in Australia to enjoy all the benefits of membership. For example, we are offering more and more webinars now, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, can benefit from our professional development courses.

What are the benefits of becoming a member of the IEAA?

There are several benefits to becoming a member. For example, through direct email communications, we offer career opportunities alerts, important industry updates, data and research information and members also get a subscription to our Vista magazine and discounts on our seminar courses.

Also, members receive a $300 discount on the AIEC registration, and $50 discount on the pre-conference workshop registration. This is a great offer, considering the individual membership costs only $250.

What are you looking forward at this year’s conference?

Well, I usually always enjoy the keynote speakers, as well as the breadth and depth of the overall program. There’s always too much to choose from!

I think this year in particular, I’m really interested to see how speakers talk about innovation and creativity, and how to engage globally. As cliché as it sounds, the world is not the way it used to be, and today international education is undergoing a paradigm shift. I think that education is the most powerful force for change in societies, but at the same time, education is being disrupted by so many things, like technology, connectivity, different perspectives, challenges to business models and the importance of the student voice.

It’s an exciting time for international education, and the AIEC is the place where all these issues will be discussed.

Hope you enjoyed the read, as much as I enjoyed the interview. Looking forward to introducing you to the rest of the Committee!



Registrations open for the 2013 Australian International Education Conference

 Global Imperatives – Local Realities, 8-11 October, Canberra

Waleed Aly
Waleed Aly

Registrations are now open for the 27th Australian International Education Conference (AIEC), taking place in Canberra from 8-11 October, 2013.With leading social commentator Waleed Aly, and esteemed journalists Annabel Crabb (ABC) and Phil Baty (Times Higher Education) announced as keynote speakers, this year’s AIEC is again set to be the premier conference for the international education industry in the Asia Pacific region.Co-hosted by IDP Education and the International Education Association of Australia, this year’s AIEC will address the theme: Global Imperatives – Local Realities.

Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of IDP Education, said AIEC is an opportunity to come together to discuss important issues affecting the international education industry.

“The international student of today is faced with a wider range of decisions than ever before,” he said.

“Options for where a student learns, what they learn and how they learn have evolved rapidly in recent years.

“In the face of continuing global competition from established and newly emerging locations and study methods, universities and institutions around the world are considering these options and how to position themselves for the future.

“This year’s conference will examine the key global, regional and local drivers that influence international education.”

For more information or to register for AIEC 2013 visit

AIEC 2013 keynote speakers announced

Jon Burns, Founder of the Ethiopian Skateboard Park Project, Laurel Papworth, CEO of the Community Crew, and esteemed journalists Annabel Crabb, Waleed Aly and Phil Baty will join more than 120 higher education speakers from around the globe for the 27th annual Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) from 8 – 11 October 2013.

Above: Annabel Crabb
Above: Annabel Crabb

Taking place in Canberra, the theme for this year’s conference is Global Imperatives – Local Realities.

What impact do these drivers have and how can we respond to them most effectively? Conversely, what impact does international education have on the world around us globally and locally? How do local realities affect our ability to respond to global imperatives and opportunities? How do we achieve balance between global imperatives and local realities?

Education institutions are under increasing pressure to engage deeply at the international level while at the same time operating primarily as national agents within their domestic framework.
Achieving balance and sustainability in this context is often a significant challenge.

AIEC 2013 will address these fundamental issues.

Early bird registrations open soon.

Registrations for the 27th AIEC open soon and an early bird discount of $200 is available for bookings confirmed before 21 June.

Subscribe here for conference updates to ensure you are notified when registrations open.

AIEC’s call for session proposals extended

The call for session proposals for AIEC 2013  has been extended and it will now close on 12 April.

This year’s AIEC will focus on the key global, regional and local drivers that influence and shape international education.

Download the submission guidelines and submit your session on the AIEC website before it closes on Friday 12 April.

Also, take a look at our new video for AIEC!

Our new video provides an overview of AIEC 2012 and invites you to join us this year in Canberra for AIEC 2013.

We would like to thank the Council of International Students Australia, Australian Capital Tourism and Brand Victoria for provding us with some of the footage in this video.

Meet Lalith Soni – Delegate profile

Lalith is one of the many delegates you may meet during AIEC 2012.

An international journey from student to IDP counsellorImage
When Lalith Soni joined IDP India in 2006, he could never have imagined the direction his life would take.

Six years ago Lalith was finishing his university studies in Chennai, India when he accepted a part-time position to help organise IDP student exhibitions.

Soon after, Lalith became an IDP counsellor and began placing students from Chennai in Australian institutions.

Buoyed by the success stories of IDP students, Lalith took part in his own international student experience and studied human resource management at Swinburne University, Melbourne.

Lalith now works in the IDP Student Services Australia team as a Regional Trainer and Senior Education Counsellor.

Lalith said IDP’s commitment to its students is the key to upholding the integrity of the organisation.

“IDP is always driven by what is in the best interest of the students,” he said.
“As a counsellor, we are focused on what objectives students want to achieve from their studies and we work to find a course that provides the best fit.”

Lalith continues to play an active role in Melbourne’s international student community and is currently on the organising committee for City of Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Student Welcome events.

Who’s Who Delegate Profile – Melinda Rippe

Melinda Rippe, Quality and Risk Manager at Think: Education Group, has been with Think for three and a half years. She coordinates ESOS and non-academic compliance and continuous improvement activities across the Group’s CRICOS provider codes in NSW, QLD, and VIC.  Melinda has over 10 years experience in international education through roles in Australia and the USA.

Previous to her role at Think, Melinda developed and managed counselling services and helped re-design the online student application management system at StudyLink. She assisted students in the USA and Canada with their Australian study plans while working at IDP Washington, assisted with the AIEC conference at IDP Sydney, and coordinated short-term study abroad programs for American university students going to eleven international destinations while at BCA.

 Melinda earned a Masters of Education as an international student at the University of Sydney. She split her focus between international education and education management.  During her studies she participated in the canoe club and was elected to SUPRA (Sydney Uni Postgraduate Representative Association).  Outside of Uni, she regularly attended the Warratahs rugby home games and learned how to sail.

 Melinda grew up in the USA where her interest in international education started when she attended a language immersion camp in northern Minnesota.  She later worked at the camp as a camp counsellor.

 Melinda draws on her wide range of professional experience in international education, her personal experiences abroad, and her commitment to quality to continually assist colleagues and to improve experiences for students.

(What Melinda failed to mention in her story above, is that when she was studying her Masters at Sydney Uni, she worked with me on the AIEC 2002 in Hobart! Davina)

Who’s Who Delegate Profile – Philipp Ivanov

Philipp Ivanov  is an education and international development consultant. Until recently he was the Acting Deputy Director of the University of Sydney Research Institute for Asia and the Pacific and Head of the International Leaders Program.

Philipp is from Russia. Born and bred on the Pacific coast of Russia in Vladivostok. He got into an undergrad program in China studies at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Far Eastern National University – which is one of 3 major academic centres of Asian studies in Russia), and completed a Master of Educational Leadership and Management from RMIT University.

His working career saw him spend 6 years in China working first as an education development consultant in rural school reform projects in Liaoning province and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Later he worked as a teacher and program coordinator at the International Education Network.

In 2005 he came to Australia to study at RMIT and has been here working in various international education roles ever since.

When not slaving away at work, he likes nothing more than swimming in the ocean – Box Beach near Port Stephens in NSW is one of his favourite places to be. Say hi to Philipp if you see him around the conference, or catch the session he’s speaking in: Enhancing the Soft Power Potential of Australian International Education: Re-defining the Next 25 Years Wednesday 1210-1310pm.

Who’s Who Delegate Profile – Sri Soejatminah

Sri was born in Yogyakarta, and spent her school years in Irian Jaya/ Papua. After completing an undergraduate degree at Bogor Agricultural University, she spent one year teaching at Cendrawasih University in 1989. In 1990, Sri received an AusAid scholarship to study at Melbourne University and, on returning to Indonesia after graduation, took up a position with the Planning Bureau in the Ministry of Education in Jakarta.  Sri completed her Masters degree in Education at Monash University in 2001, again with the generous assistance of AusAid. In 2006 her family received permanent residence; thus Melbourne became our new home. Although she left a good position in Indonesia ­she felt that life in Australia, and particularly my studies in the field of International Education and Cultural Education, have allowed her to develop much broader horizons and she is eager to pursue work and further research in this field.

Sri is currently completing her doctoral thesis in International Education at Deakin University in Melbourne. After migrating to Australia in 2003, Sri became interested in developments within the Australian International Education sector; the large number of migrant and visiting international students caused her to question how teachers can best prepare themselves to address the ‘cultural gaps’ – both teacher/ student, and student/student ‘gaps’. It seemed to Sri that the promotion of intercultural competence among student teachers would naturally lead to education that would prepare young people for a more global world. Sri’s observations of the multicultural school and university system in Australia made her keen to explore the field of Intercultural Studies, and she embarked on a PhD under the supervision of Professor Ian Robottom.

Sri is eager to pursue work and further research in this field, and her own words, “I am very excited about my life after graduation!”.

Who’s Who Delegate Profile – Sarah Steendam

Welcome to the first of a series of posts giving a little insight into some of the delegates attending this year’s AIEC. We tend to focus on the high-profile presenters and delegates when we profile people, but I find that sometimes it’s the conversations delegates have with the person that they are sitting next to waiting for a session to start that are just as useful as the information gathered from the session itself. Keep an eye out for Sarah when you’re in Adelaide and say hello.

Sarah Steendam, The Netherlands
Sarah Steendam has a major in Communication and Information Sciences, specializing in Intercultural Communication. These studies were a mix between cultural anthropology, international relations, development studies and marketing. This blend of different angles reflects Sarah’s interest and focus in work and life. She engaged in different international positions, starting with international marketing research for the Nuffic (Netherlands organization for international cooperation in higher education, based in The Hague), their Netherlands Education Support Office in Jakarta (Indonesia) and her former university (University of Groningen), working with university offices world-wide and promoting and aligning Dutch higher education in various developing countries (a.o. China, Indonesia, Latin America). Sarah acquired further project management skills in her work as a project leader for the Dutch Refugee Council, working with refugees on image building and awareness raising on immigration and integration.

In the different projects she has worked on her key interests were international cooperation and creating synergies and networks between the stakeholders of a project. She is keen on building bridges between ideals of social improvement and the engagement of other parties (government, communities, higher education institutes, entrepreneurs). She is interested in communication and the creation of a brand or image from both a marketing perspective and as a means to improve the knowledge and efficacy of education projects.

Two years ago Sarah returned to the field of international higher education as senior marketing & communication officer at the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS) of Erasmus University Rotterdam. At the IHS she is in charge of the international alumni relations and corporate communication. She was recently promoted as team leader Marketing & Communication. Sarah also sits on the board of DHENIM (Dutch Higher Education Network for International Marketing).