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article imageOp-Ed: Idealist Grad Fair in San Francisco attracts hundreds Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Nov 2, 2011 in World
San Francisco - Hundreds attended the Idealist Grad Fair in Golden Gate Park at the Hall of Flowers on October 24 seeking direction on future career paths. Over 125 Colleges and Universities were represented all offering advanced degree programs to prospective students.
Universities from across the nation and across the globe, from as far away as the United Kingdom and even China were represented. Dozens and dozens of tables and booths greeted grad fair attendees that evening at the Hall of Flowers in the City & County of San Francisco Exposition building in Golden Gate Park. The building at 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way in the City's Inner-Sunset District, is a busy venue where events like the grad fair are held frequently. The schools represented a variety of programs: professional, environmental, healthcare and MBA to name a few.
The three-hour event was hosted by the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College in Vermont. Included in the schedule were panelist discussions from David Clark of University of California at Los Angeles, Gregg Glover of Harvard University, Jill Stoffers of the Monterey Institute and Melinda Van Hemert of Pepperdine University.
"The event had 1,400 people who preregistered and over 900 attended," said Jill Stoffers, speaking on behalf of the Monterey Institute of International Studies, in Monterey, California. Stoffers is the Executive Director of Enrollment management. The institute specializes in international policy and language studies with a focus on world issues and concerns. "Candidates who apply to our graduate program must be proficient in a foreign language," said Stoffers, as graduates from the institute go on to high level positions such as at the United Nations.
The Monterey Institute became a graduate school of Middlebury College in 2010 after a five-year affiliation founded on the two schools’ common interests in language, international and environmental studies.
Enrollment in the graduate programs at the Institute is close to 800 students.
Stoffers said that the affiliation with Middlebury College of Vermont "has been a great fit." The institute's affiliation with Idealist has been for about 10 years noted Stoffers. "I serve on their graduate school advisory board," she said. While Monterey is a charming spot with scenic coastline "it is too small to host such a large scale event," said Stoffers. This is why the small private grad school sought out idealist.
Idealist was founded in 1994 as Contact Center Network, by Ami Dar who had envision the idea about eight years earlier. Yet it took the help of others and use of the Internet to move the concept along.
In only four years, the network got recognition some more funding and changed its name to Idealist. By 2003 Idealist began reaching out internationally, eventually teaming up with other organizations that had similar goals. It was also around this time that Idealist began organizing conferences and "fairs." The first season of the graduate degree fair was inaugurated in 2004. By 2009 Idealist had surpassed over one million registered members/users.
Besides San Francisco grad fairs are planned all across the United States. Attendees like Katia Chikasuye are looking for a graduate program to enhance their future careers. Chikasuye graduated from University of San Francisco and is currently working at University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. "I want to work in a career that is environmentally focused," said Chikasuye. She has no preference whether the school is private or public as long as the program offered is good. And, Chikasuye mentioned that getting a scholarship is essential as "grad school is expensive," she said.
Local San Francisco artist Cynthia Tom who attended the event that Monday evening estimates that the cost of the graduate program she is looking for will be about $60,000. Tom is looking at the psychology and social service fields.
"I love Idealist, said Tom, what they stand for and the important services they provide," she said. Yet, Tom thought that some of the discussion panels that evening needed more diversity to reflect the varied diversity of the attendees in the audience.
"Including panelists from only the large schools to give us advice, Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine was not balanced," Tom said. She was disappointed with the talk about financial aid. "The guy from Harvard, a snob attitude at best, said we should stop asking them to help us with funding ideas and think of it as an investment in our future." Tom paraphrased her impressions by saying that the discussion left her with the attitude of, "Spend now, make more money later." "It came across as stop your belly aching and pay up," she said.
Tom considers that to be "an old school, upper class way of thinking, especially in this economy, especially in San Francisco," she said. "I am going to school so I can better serve my community," said Tom. "And guess what!" Tom noted, "I am going to make less money doing it." "Fulfilling your heart's mission is expensive," Tom said. Despite the oversight which she said can easily be remedied, Tom believes in the importance of education and the outreach that Idealist provides.
From a network concept to an outreach that connects so many, many people together, Idealist continues to improve and expand its outreach. "We want to help people make contacts in the non-profit fields," said Christopher Machuca, Graduate Education Program Events manager. He noted that Idealist has a perspective of creating a positive change to build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives.
Idealist is independent of any government, political ideology, or religious creed. The work of Idealist is guided by the common desire of its members and supporters to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect.
This focus is what resonates with the various affiliations that Idealist has, as with the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "Our motto is 'be the solution'" said Stoffers. In a complex and troubled world the candidates they seek for their graduate programs must be serious in their dedication and able to face a world of change.
For a complete list of all the Graduate Degree Fairs across the nation visit the Idealist web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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