Golden Gate University, San Francisco (retired)
Colleagues in other areas of international education are always a little puzzled when I talk about being a reviewer for CEA. “Why do you do it?” they ask. It's an enormous amount of work—going through the self-study takes many hours, and, depending on the quality of the report can be a frustrating experience, trying to tease out the pertinent information from what can sometimes be astoundingly verbose responses. It's a huge responsibility—being the “eyes and ears” of the commission is an important task, and the credibility of CEA depends on doing a careful and through review of the materials. It's pro-bono – the only recompense for all those long hours is a nice letter from CEA and the somewhat dubious reward of getting to visit small out-of-the-way places that you most likely would never travel to on your own (which is probably just as well, since there's rarely time to enjoy the location with a crammed-to-the-minute schedule of a site review.) Considering the amount of time and effort it takes, why do it?
All those objections may be true, but there are many rewards that far outstrip the “inconvenience” and “long hours.” Being a site reviewer has provided me an opportunity to “give back” to a field that has played such an important role in my personal and professional life. With over 40 years spent in the field of international education and English language teaching, IEP administration and teacher training, I've racked up a lot of “karmic debts”: great people, great experiences and great lessons learned all come with a price. And working for CEA represents a chance for me to repay some of the professional kindness and mentoring that has played such an important role in my life, both personally and professionally.
Being a site reviewer has provided me with a perspective and a breadth of reference that I would not otherwise have gained in my own little program world. It has provided me with an opportunity to hone my analytical skills and evaluate my own assumptions and beliefs. And, most importantly, it has broadened my frames of reference. It has helped me realize that many of the issues and frustrations that plagued my own program were in fact far more “generic” – indeed “universal” – than I had first thought.
Being a site reviewer has allowed me to play a role in the maturing of our profession and assuring that standards of quality are increasingly bench-marked. It has exposed me to a wide range of program types and institutional environments, and allowed me to make a personal, positive impact in the upgrading of our profession and the quality of our programs.
But ultimately I do it because it's interesting and fun. It gives me a chance to work closely with other wonderful colleagues, to learn about programs that I would otherwise not be familiar with, to keep current in a field that I have played a role in forming, and to keep growing professionally. Sure, it's a lot of work, but the rewards more than make up for the time spent. And now that I'm retired, it definitely beats shuffleboard!