Examples of excellence on display at inaugural INTO Scholarship Conference

Examples of excellence on display at inaugural INTO Scholarship Conference

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The INTO Sponsor Projects team initiated a new tradition earlier this month, virtually hosting their first-ever Scholarship Conference. John Phillips, Director, Sponsor Projects, and Luke Sikorski, Assistant Recruitment Director, Sponsor Projects, led the event on 9 February, connecting professionals who work in overseas scholarships at ministries, cultural offices, and other organizations across the Middle East with representatives from our partner universities in the United States and the United Kingdom. The conference introduced attendees to INTO CareerFirst (ICF), our new, all-encompassing employability initiative for international students, and reinforced INTO’s steadfast commitment to students and their sponsors.

Michael Lynas, Vice President, INTO CareerFirst, kicked off the conference with a keynote presentation on ICF, which launched just this month.  Citing a fundamentally changed career landscape—one in which a growing number of graduates face increased competition and demands from employers for advanced technological and social/emotional skills—Lynas outlined INTO’s plans to “partner with universities to help provide students with more of those skills.”  Attendees learned about ICF’s unprecedented, comprehensive approach to employability, which complements university academics and takes students on a journey from career discovery to career success over the course of their studies. 

“What we’ve brought together is a unique and high-quality program—something that can support students in a highly personalized and curated way,” Lynas said.

In addition to debuting ICF to a new audience, the Scholarship Conference was an opportunity to familiarize sponsors with INTO centres’ unique offerings to students from around the world.  Those in attendance moved between six sessions moderated by representatives from INTO Manchester, INTO Newcastle University, and INTO Queen’s University, Belfast, in the U.K., and from INTO Oregon State University, INTO Saint Louis University, and INTO University of South Florida in the U.S.  From preparing students at INTO Manchester for prestigious academic pursuits at 16 of the U.K.’s leading universities, to the support network and experiential learning opportunities that put Oregon State in the top 1% of global universities, sponsors got a taste of and student service and success across INTO centres.

After informational sessions concluded, sponsors had the chance to meet one-on-one with representatives from INTO’s partner universities during a virtual networking session, which was meant to foster connections between universities and sponsors at a time when the ecosystem of scholarships is changing.

“A main goal of ours was to help build direct connections between key sponsors and our university partners to further promote our offerings,” Sikorski explained.  “As we see the decentralization of scholarships in key regions, it is ever more important to build direct relationships with sponsors.”

Of course, the Scholarship Conference was completely virtual, having taken place as the COVID-19 pandemic continued to limit international travel.  Although key markets tend to be oriented around in-person relationship building, the Sponsor Projects team’s initial attempt to replicate that experience online successfully expanded their network of sponsors in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, and other countries, and feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Face-to-face will always be the primary channel,” Sikorski said.  “However, with the success of the virtual event, we will be looking to run a few per year, which will only increase our visibility with sponsors and diversify the opportunities we offer to bring our university partners directly to the table with sponsors.”

As Phillips put it, this was the team’s “first virtual event, but not the last.”  The conference was hosted on the event technology platform Hopin.

With so many examples of excellence on display, sponsors left the Scholarship Conference with a strong sense of the many ways in which INTO already provides unparalleled support to students and their sponsors, as well as the ways in which ICF will extend that support from enrollment to employment. 

Phillips summed it up best:

“INTO should be the first choice for sponsors, not only in terms of our academic quality, but also in preparing students for the workplace of tomorrow.”

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