As American Higher Education Alliance’s new president, it is a privilege to pen my first blog on behalf of the organization. AHEA is a ‘new kid on the block’ in higher education non-profits, and we have a unique purpose that is reflected in our mission statement: We drive equity in higher education by connecting the global community through collaboration and shared learning experiences. What exactly does this mean? It means two things. First and foremost, AHEA exists to support the heart of each institution – teaching and learning. And secondly, we do so on a global scale. We see higher education through an international lens, and this drives what we do and how we interact with and support higher education.

If you are around my age (ahem, no comments publicly, please!), you may remember a certain charge card company which popularized the phrase “membership has its privileges™.” This slogan was the cornerstone of their member acquisition campaign for years, and the statement implied that members had exclusive benefits and services in exchange for their annual fee. It’s the same premise that member-driven organizations have operated under for decades, and while AHEA may be a newer organization, this tried-and-true membership model works well for us. Well, almost. We’re different. A “2.0” version of a member organization, if you will. What’s so special about AHEA?

Our first distinguishment as an organization is in who we serve: those involved in academic administration, teaching and learning. Yes, we’re giving a shout out here to faculty, international student affairs educators and administrators, department chairs, academic deans, provosts, and chief academic officers. And of course, students! Though we serve other campus-wide constituents as well, we really wanted to focus first on the literal heartbeat of an institution. Because the interests and needs may vary greatly at institutions around the world, AHEA has membership plans designed for individual faculty and academic administrators; academic departments and their students; and institutions at large. This approach offers the most flexibility and affordability to members, and enables growth based upon demonstrating our value to this audience.

A second distinguishing factor for AHEA lies in the composition of our member benefits. We’ve taken a slightly different approach to our benefits because of who we serve. Our benefits include a variety of services designed to support faculty engagement and growth, particularly for international education. From an exclusive course on COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) and mentoring to help professors gain skills and confidence to teach online and to international students, to scholarships and grants, we want to help faculty be prepared to teach in a global classroom. We’ve also designed templates and standardized methodologies grounded in accreditation standards, or what we call Quality Assurance Measures (QAM) for course, certificate and curriculum development. And, reflective of the times, we have offerings to help institutions launch virtual exchange programs to broaden their student diversity and provide culturally enriching classroom experiences despite the inability to study abroad right now.

There are so many more benefits for individual members, departments, and institutions. The most unique value-added offering, though, is the inclusion of an open source, cloud-based platform with our membership.We are providing a collaboration solution to make it easy for faculty to identify their professional interests, network, get matched with project partners, and work together – no matter where they are located, what languages they speak, or what software they use on their respective campuses. Imagine the course creation, longitudinal research, academic paper authoring and virtual exchange program development that can take place when geographic and technologic barriers are eliminated!

But wait, there’s more! Yes, that is another famous commercial line that has been used in perpetuity. The collaboration for development of content is only one aspect of the platform AHEA provides to members. Departments and institutions wanting to offer courses to a variety of students may do so through our LMS; this makes it easy for the faculty who collaborated on the course creation to teach it together to a combined, international classroom. This approach eliminates barriers that can exist with determining which school’s LMS will be used, difficulties in registering students from another institution into that course, and much more.

I could go on and on about the technology we are providing our members, but I think seeing it is so much more effective. If I’ve piqued your curiosity and you would like to learn more, please take a look at the AHEA Demo Library where you can view short, recorded demonstrations based upon persona. I hope that, after watching a few of the demos, you will feel as inspired as I do about this platform and how it can literally change faculty engagement, teaching and learning in higher education.

In closing, it is important to note that I’ve only highlighted a few of AHEA’s benefits to members. To see a more defined list, and inquire about membership, click here. Our organization is excited to be launching our membership levels and the unique benefits that support faculty, international student affairs educators and administrators, department chairs, academic deans, provosts, and chief academic officers – and students. Yes, our audience is different, so our membership approach is different as well. This is not a “one and done” effort, though. We have exciting plans to launch more benefits and platform offerings in the next few months as well, so I do hope you’ll keep tabs on us.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and your questions about our membership program. You may reach me at .

I’m here and I’m listening,

Karli Grant, M.S.T.M., M.Ed.