2021 AIEA Annual Conference 

Leading Internationalization in a New Era: Collaborating for Global Solutions
 “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday's logic.”
- Peter Drucker

The 2021 AIEA Annual Conference Call for Session Proposals will be announced in mid-June with an August 15 deadline - more details coming soon.

February 14-17, 2021 
Washington Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, DC, USA

Conference Theme | Conference Subthemes 

The AIEA Annual Conference is the only conference specifically for those leading international education at higher education institutions.
  • Over 100 sessions and roundtable discussions where international education leaders engage in peer-learning on relevant and key issues for the field 
  • Pre-conference workshops that delve deep into issues such as international strategic partnerships, virtual exchange, and more!
  • Inspiring keynotes on trends influencing the future of the field 
  • Opportunities to network with colleagues who lead strategy for comprehensive internationalization

Conference Theme:

This Call for Proposals is released at an extraordinary, potentially transformative moment for the field of international higher education.  Every aspect of our work has been affected by the COVID-19 global crisis.  The spread of the virus has exposed economic and political vulnerabilities of the higher education sector while the responses of various national governments to the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging deep-rooted beliefs regarding when, where, and how our institutions can best serve students in an interdependent world. Higher education has been at the center of globalization, and controversies concerning the origin, spread, and mounting cost of responding to the virus are leading many to question the value of international cooperation among colleges and universities.  The outbreak has brought renewed attention to disparities between educational access in rich and poor countries alike, but COVID-19’s rapid spread has not allowed us the space to address those disparities.  We are indeed sailing in troubled, uncharted waters.  All that is clear is that this moment will test our leadership like never before. 

The theme for the 2021 AIEA conference, “Leading Internationalization in a New Era: Collaborating for Global Solutions” dares us to envision how higher education will emerge stronger in the post-pandemic era.  We seek to examine the elements necessary to ensure resilience of international higher education and how senior international officers must play a critical role in preparing for and responding to global challenges.  We encourage speakers to investigate how familiar patterns, practices, and partnerships that have been thoroughly unsettled by the pandemic could be reinvigorated, and even reestablished upon new foundations, to foster resilient, cooperative relationships when the immediate crisis has passed.  We invite forward-thinking proposals for sessions that will contribute to a deeper understanding of not just the present disruptors, but more importantly, the possible best paths for the future of higher education. We particularly invite sessions that examine how senior international officers can lead within their institutions in a time of unprecedented change. 

This conference is being planned to provide opportunities for members to participate in person as well as virtually.  Further details will be announced later as to how these opportunities will be made available to members. 

NB: AIEA defines senior international officers (SIOs) as those individuals within an institution of higher education who are charged with leading and facilitating internationalization efforts. AIEA recognizes that many other terms may be used to reference these leaders, depending on the cultural context (examples include International Relations Officer, International Relations Manager, International Liaison Officer, and so on). We invite you to incorporate AIEA’s recently published Standards of Professional Practice for International Education Leaders and Senior International Officers into your proposals as warranted. The standards are available online.


Conference Sub-themes:

  • International Higher Education, Social Impact, Social Responsibility

The obligation for higher education to address quality, equity, and sustainability was present prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now takes on a particular urgency.  How will international higher education engage the challenge to provide greater access to programs and demonstrate the value of the degree?  What is the role that higher education can and should play with regard to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals and addressing global challenges? How will internationalization evolve to address issues of equity and inclusion? What do our students need to learn within this global context?  What is the role for the SIO to lead on these issues?

  • Multilateralism v. Unilateralism

As a global health emergency, the COVID-19 outbreak makes our global interconnectedness manifest. Yet, countries that have long championed multilateral views and deeds have been increasingly challenged by internal social, economic, and political issues during the pandemic. Some governments may choose to remain inward-looking long into the aftermath.  In a post-COVID-19 era, how will higher education’s leaders manage the balance between multilateralism and unilateralism? 

  • Partnerships and Collaborations

Establishing successful collaborations and partnerships abroad has been a key aspect of internationalization for many higher education institutions. While managing these critical relationships will remain essential for the resilience of higher education, we must ask: What may have changed?  How can we reimagine the ways that higher education will engage with traditional and non-traditional partners to address global issues, including those within our institution and local communities?  How can partnerships advance other aspects of internationalization, including curricular innovations?  What is the role for regional university collaborations? What is the future of international research collaboration in an era of de-globalization? How can innovative SIOs build and maintain critical relationships when physical mobility and exchange may be limited?

  • Future of Mobility in International Education

The disruption in global travel and swift closure of national borders had an immediate impact on the field, and continues to contribute to uncertainty.  How will restricted global mobility and exchange affect long-term trends with international students and scholars?  What might education abroad look like in a period of limited international travel?  What will be the role of technology in redefining global learning? What would a focus on global learning and intercultural competence look like in this new era? How will this period of restricted mobility affect how international higher education responds to issues of climate change?

  • Transformative Leadership and the Role for the SIO

The impact of the pandemic on global higher education will reshape the role for the SIO. At a time when institutions are challenged to redefine the very nature of their global collaborations, what are examples of highly innovative leadership in response to the pandemic? What is the role for the SIO in leading resilient institutions forward into the post-pandemic era?  How might innovation enhance the various aspects of SIO responsibilities, such as managing partnerships, risk management, recruitment, curriculum, education abroad, intercultural learning, faculty engagement, and working with students, administrators, staff, and other stakeholders?  How might SIOs lead internationalization that also responds to local needs?