Category: Study Abroad

Mapping the Synapses of International Office Management

Jason Baumgartner, key developer of Sunapsis and Director for International Services in the IU Office of International Services, presented the keynote address at this year's conference.

The International Office management system that came to be called Sunapsis was conceived in 2003 when the U.S. government implemented new rules that required much closer tracking of foreign students studying in the United States.  Increased tracking meant larger and more complex data management; it also meant that a minor failure of reporting could seriously compromise a student’s right to study in the U.S.  To complicate matters, the data that needed to be managed resided in two separate places—one in Homeland Security computers and one in university computers. 

            The earliest version of the software that became Sunapsis provided an innovative link—a synapse—between these two massive sources of data.  Developed by the IU Office of International Services, that office quickly realized that far more than immigration status could be effectively managed with the software tools that were becoming part of Sunapsis.  Orientation and data collection could begin as soon as students were admitted.  Student advising could be more focused and functional in a system that remembered advising sessions as well as important personal data.  International admissions, with its own deadline and tracking needs, could also be served by these tools—and in turn serve to collect vital information for active-student tracking later on. 

            Sunapsis thus became much more than a solution to Homeland Security regulations.   In addition to serving the technical reporting requirements of international visitors better, Sunapsis provided ways to assure that their needs didn’t fall between the cracks and to enhance their experience in the U.S. by reducing the time to sort out red tape and expanding communication and so allow students and scholars to be more fully a part of campus life.

            The unique features of Sunapsis attracted the interest of other institutions and IU found itself heavily lobbied to make the product available to others.  Since 2007, the number of institutions using the software system has grown from one (IU) to 23, representing major universities all over the United States. Once a year, Sunapsis users get together to compare notes and hear about new features. 


Jason Baumgartner, left, is chief architect of the international office management system.

           This week, the Frangipani Room has standing room only crowd, more than a hundred participants from 40 institutions, each participant with laptop in hand, to hear about checklists, encryption, e-forms, and user management.  These new tools assure that documents don’t get stuck in someone’s inbox, that collecting information from students and scholars can be handled electronically and managed without expert intervention, and that messages can be programmed to be sent automatically when needed or desired. 

            The group will also be introduced to a new module that expands the system’s service to students studying abroad.  The module manages students throughout the study abroad cycle, from program search, through application processing and dossier review, to completion and standardized reports.  Photos: Rendy Schrader


Vice President for International Affairs addresses the Sunapsis Conference 2012.


Cultures Ancient and Modern, Connections Old and New

SE Asia Debriefing

               Four countries, 13 days, 9 campuses, multiple meetings with government officials, hundreds of IU alumni.   “It was work,” David Zaret said at a briefing on the trip in the Grand Foyer of the IU Auditorium.  Zaret, vice president for international affairs, and President Michael McRobbie led an IU delegation to Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia in May.

             “We went to Southeast Asia for the same reason we have visited other regions of the world—to advance strategic priorities of the IU international plan,” Zaret explained.  “We would like to have more agreements with top quality universities across the world, agreements that provide opportunities for faculty and students to go back and forth.  We want to expand opportunities for undergraduates to engage in study abroad experiences. Finally, we were looking for ways to help our Indiana alumni reconnect to the university.”

             When they returned, they had recognized an “odd discrepancy,” Zaret said.  “Among American universities, we have some of the oldest ties to universities in Southeast Asia.  We have 10,000 IU alums in the four countries we visited, possibly more than any other US institution. Yet, though we have many active programs in area studies, Southeast Asia is perhaps the one region of the world where we do very little.  The president and I agree that it really ought to be an institutional priority to develop a thriving program in Southeast Asian Studies.” 

The campuses visited:
National Institute for Development Assistance, Bangkok
Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
National University Singapore
Yale-National University of Singapore
Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta
Universitas Indonesia, Jakarta
University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur
Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam

All the alumni receptions attracted a rambunctious crowd. I was overwhelmed by number and enthusiasm and affection they feel for Indiana University.--David Zaret

Sideli Elected to CIEE Board

Kathleen Sideli with committee chairs at the CIEE Conference 2010

For more than 60 years, the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) has been at the center of high school and collegiate international exchange, with study abroad programs for undergraduates, teaching abroad for faculty, seminars, and work and internship opportunities.  CIEE announced in June that Kathleen Sideli, IU Associate Vice President for Overseas Study, has been elected to the CIEE Board of Directors.  The appointment will mean not only that IU will have access to the latest developments in international exchange, it will also have an impact on future directions of global education.

“Having direct access to CIEE decision making will help IU,” explains Sideli.  “We currently send 200 students a year on CIEE programs all over the world.  We have a vested interest in ensuring that the programs are affordable and of high academic quality and that they will provide a safe and secure environment for our students.”

Sideli will be one of only two study abroad professionals on the board.  She brings 30 years of study abroad administrative experience as well as nationally recognized expertise in policymaking and data collection and analysis.  “CIEE has had many upper-level staff leadership changes, and I hope to be able to assist the board as they ponder new directions in the coming years.”

It Takes a Village

Jason Baumgartner and the future of immigration management software


It was not quite a decade ago that Jason Baumgartner proposed a renegade solution to managing the immigration and visa issues of international students and scholars.  No major software developer was attempting to capture information made available through the federal government’s data systems to institutions with international students and then weave that data together with institutional data to produce something that would spare advisors both the constant need for cross-checking and the worry that an inadvertent slip could result in a student’s being sent home.  The thought was too radical.  It couldn’t be done.  No institution the size of Indiana University should build its safety nets from homespun threads.  Too much was at stake.

Christopher Viers, the director of international services at that time and now the associate vice president for international services, went to bat to make Baumgartner’s system the foundation of the immigration services that IU provides to international students and scholars.  Formerly an advisor himself, Viers saw the potential and efficiency of this new approach. “I knew at the time it was either going to be the best or the worst decision I ever made.”  If only Baumgartner could make it work.

Make it work, he did, and the Office of International Services has relied on it for several years now.  Viers relates that “no one thought when the decision was made that other institutions might benefit from such a solution,” but Ron Cushing of the University of Cincinnati saw its potential when it was demonstrated at a regional conference.  He kept after his colleagues at IU to share the product, and his office became the first outside client of the product, now dubbed Sunapsis.  “I was sure at the time that it was the best solution around, and I have never regretted adopting it,” Cushing said.

Now, 23 institutions use Sunapsis, which has become a complete advising management tool and has extended its reach to study abroad and international admissions.  As more and more institutions signed on, it became apparent that their collective experience was exactly what was needed to grow and expand.  Representatives gathered in Bloomington this week for the first annual Sunapsis User’s Conference. They shared their separate experiences, learned new techniques, and listened to Baumgartner explain some of what the future holds for the software system.  It is a future which that group was helping to define, Baumgartner said  at the beginning of his keynote address, for the conference  was “building a community so that we can all resource together.”

For more information see the press release and the Sunapsis website.

DanceJerusalem, by Leah Boresow

 Leah Boresow spent last spring studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in a new program that combines intensive training in dance with study of the Hebrew language and Jewish Culture.  Here is the report she prepared for the first issue of DanceJerusalem Journal.  We thank that journal for giving us permission to reproduce the article here.

Leah Boresow is the first dancer on the left. Photo credit: Melissa Strain


I started studying dance when I was about 3 years old. I knew that I wanted to be
a dance major towards the end of my high school career. I am receiving a B.S in
Dance through Indiana University’s Department of Kinesiology, a Hebrew Minor, a
certificate in Arts Administration, and a minor in Non-Profit Management. I
chose DanceJerusalem for a few reasons; first, I had already traveled to Israel
in the summer of 2009, and really loved my experience there. I couldn’t wait to
go back. Second, there are very few study abroad opportunities for university
level dancing today. So, when I heard that I could have the opportunity to go
to Israel and dance while still receiving college credit, it was like a match
made in heaven.

Adapting to life in Jerusalem was definitely an interesting experience. I learned very
quickly that I was going to have to be very self-sufficient, knowing that the
“system” of the city was a very busy and crowded one. Eventually, I got the
hang of things, with the support from my fellow DanceJerusalem participants. My
pursuit of studying the Hebrew language has helped me immensely to adapt to my
life in Israel. Even though I have early mornings with Hebrew that start at
8:30a.m., I really enjoy learning the language of the land that I am living in.
Not only do I learn the Hebrew language, but in doing so I have also learned so
much about the history and culture of Israel. Not to mention that it has been
great to speak to Israelis and interact better with my surroundings. In the
beginning of the semester, we took a group trip to the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi
area of Israel, and it was so much fun. It helped me to further realize what
natural treasures Israel has. We have also taken trips to historical areas in the
North of Israel, such as Tzfat. It has been so wonderful to travel to different
parts of the country.

One of my favorite courses at the Academy is my Ballet Repertoire class that meets
once a week. I come from a very strong ballet background, and it has been such
a joy to be able to learn many famous ballet variations and perform them in
class. I can say that because of my dancing experience in the Academy, I have
even further expanded my perspective on global dance. I believe now more than
ever that dancers should be aware that the world of dance is so much bigger
than one dance company, or one region of known dance studios. It is a gift to
be able to be exposed to dance traditions and techniques of all kinds.
Participating in DanceJerusalem is a great opportunity to experience a
different life and culture, and to learn more about yourself. I have grown in
many ways. First, I have grown to be even more self-sufficient and independent
than I was before, because I had to figure out so much on my own, and I have
grown as a person because of it. I have also become more confident and sure of
myself. I know now more than ever who I am and what I want, both as a dancer
and as a regular person.