Todd, who continues in her role as vice president, global, at Griffith University, describes her time as president of the association as an “incredible opportunity,” but she didn’t expect it to last this long because her tenure was extended due to the pandemic.
“Did I know it would take six years? No, maybe I didn’t say yes!” Todd laughs.
When the conference was last held in Kuala Lumpar in 2019, the world was a very different place, notes Todd.
After a three-year hiatus, the APAIE conference returned in Bangkok in March 2023, and it wasn’t until its flight left the tarmac that Todd was truly convinced that it would finally happen.
The conference was first held on university campuses and has since grown to welcome approximately 2,700 participants from 67 countries and regions in 2023, reaching a record level of participation.
The association itself aims to advance education by enabling greater collaboration between institutions, enriching and supporting international programs, activities and exchanges, and promoting the value of international education within the Asia-Pacific region, while also being a conduit for connecting the Asia-Pacific region. organization with the rest of the world.
However, the success of the conference was not without challenges, Todd tells The PIE.
“Asia Pacific is a very diverse region and there are different understandings of things and different ways of doing things,” he says.
That’s why the cultural component, including an annual local contribution from the host university, is vital, adds Todd.
“We’re trying to make sure of that [delegates] not only do they have a good conference experience, but they leave with a sense of where they are.
“Personally, I think that in international education sometimes it seems that we are in airports, universities, hotels and back home. You don’t always get a chance to learn a little more about culture, history and food.”
The APAIE theme always focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, but welcomes contributions from global institutions and organizations as long as the presentations are made in collaboration with an institution in the region or are related to collaborations with the Asia-Pacific region.
“I am very excited about the future of international education and especially its maturity.
“Like all things it goes through a life cycle and over the years we’ve moved on from signing up with every partner. I used to joke about you having a memorandum of understanding in your purse.’
Now, institutions are more measured, Todd says, and take the time to consider the mutual benefit of each partnership.
“In international education, it sometimes seems that we are at airports, universities, hotels and back home again.”
One of Todd’s biggest takeaways from the conference is a new perspective on how international education fits into work on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, The PIE says.
This year there was a themed conference Towards a sustainable future for international education in Asia and the Pacific.
“If you look at it very quickly, you might think that international education is actually at odds with the SDGs, but really international cooperation and partnership is the only way to get closer to achieving these goals.
“Like students, yes, they may travel, but we really need to think about what the experience is and what they leave with.
“Events in the world now and over the last few years I think have reinforced the need to work together and that we are one community.”
As for face-to-face conferences, Todd believes they’re here to stay.
“I think going forward it’s going to be a balance between how we use technology to stay connected but still provide face-to-face opportunities.”
Originally from New Zealand, Todd was previously the inaugural Vice-Chancellor for International Affairs at the University of Otago and Professor of Marketing and Academic Dean at the Otago Business School.
She also has her own experience studying abroad, spending her senior year of high school in Japan at a school that had never had an international student before, and attributes the impact of her experience in part to culture shock.
“It was definitely transformative and shaped me, but I learned a lot through being uncomfortable and explicitly acknowledging difference and not always trying to assume that everything was the same.
“On the first day, I had to take an advanced level Japanese test and I couldn’t even write my name.
Todd is not suggesting that the sector should return to its rougher days, but believes there is something to be said for pushing a student out of their comfort zone.
“How we support students to have fun, make academic progress and achieve their goals that they were looking for in international education and making sure they fit in the way they want to fit in if that’s what they want to do?
“But at the same time, how do we know they’re in a different country and a different culture?”
“It’s definitely about balance,” says Todd.