Presenting at the CIS Global Forum: A story of personal development and growth
By Bryn Will, High School Counselor, Anglo-American School of Moscow, Russia

Taking place this year in Vienna between 8-9 November, the CIS Global Forum on International Admission and Guidance is a leading annual conference bringing together more than 800 university admission officers and school career/guidance professionals. We are currently accepting session proposals for our peer-led professional development sessions.

Read about Bryn’s experience and consider submitting a proposal of your own.

I did not even have to open the e-mail to see the first line.

“Dear Bryn, Congratulations! I am writing to inform you…”

In most circumstances, the word “congratulations” inspires excitement, pleasure, a sense of accomplishment. Perhaps I did experience those emotions, but they quickly succumbed to the stronger feelings of trepidation and fear. As an introvert, the prospect of standing up in front of a room full of colleagues filled me with dread. Students, I can handle. Parents, no problem. But trying to pretend like I know something worth sharing with my professional peers? I had my doubts.

However, I felt a strong conviction that there was a conversation that needed to be had. Having attended presentations on application case studies and how to write compelling counselor recommendations, I experienced dismay every time I heard that universities only seemed to want the outgoing, vivacious, talkative, so-called leaders. To describe a young man or woman as “quiet” in a reference only served to sound the death knell for that student’s application. Yet, I know from experience that quiet comes in many different forms. Yes, certainly quiet can sometimes signify timidity, anxiety, or mental “checking out.” But for many students, quiet gives room for deep reflection, thorough production of ideas, and profound engagement. Sometimes the quiet kids are the ones most involved in the process of learning! So why do they get overlooked so often by educators and admissions personnel? And what can we, as professionals, do to change that trend so that we can value the contributions of every member of our diverse student populations? In my attempt to answer those questions, my session, “Quiet is not a dirty word” was born.

I confess that in writing my proposal I knew very little about introverts in schools, but I recognized that I wanted to learn more. The acceptance of my session proposal gave me the impetus I needed to extensively research a topic about which I feel very passionate, and in fact, I found that leading a session provided even greater opportunity for professional development than simply sitting in on someone else’s presentation. Although I always learn a great deal of useful information as a conference attendee, presenting my own topic gave me an occasion to self-direct my learning, and really focus on an area that I felt could inform my daily interactions with students and colleagues.

Another especially helpful aspect of professional development was the opportunity to process my research through conversations with my co-presenter. As part of our preparation, we spoke at length (thank goodness for free phone calls on the internet!) about what we learned regarding personality and its effect on learning and performance in schools. We also discussed how personal bias shapes teachers’ views of students, as well as admissions representatives’ impressions of their applicants. Through this dialogue, I could share my understanding of the high school side, while my co-presenter could give me greater insight into how personality differences play out in the university selection process. Both of us strongly felt that, as a result of our research and ensuing discussions, we could already make changes to our own approaches to our jobs and students/applicants. Thus, the experience of leading a session became not just about the final presentation, but about an ongoing process of personal development and growth.

I strongly feel that presenting at the CIS Global Forum increased the value of an already enriching conference, and I highly recommend taking the initiative to propose and lead a session. I picked an area of focus about which I wanted to deepen my understanding, and I look forward to putting forth another topic that I would like to have the opportunity to research and share with my global colleagues. There is still so much I want to learn, and leading a session at CIS is a great way to make that learning possible!

After completing her undergraduate degree in Russian from Haverford College, Bryn Will worked in Moscow, Russia for ACTR/ACCELS, for which she coordinated application review and selection for the FSA FLEX high school exchange program. She also worked as a Resident Director for university students studying Russian abroad, organizing cultural programs as well as providing social/emotional support for participants. She returned to the United States in order to complete a Master’s degree in Counseling and Guidance at New York University, and in September 2001 she began her formal high school counseling career at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, NY. Ms. Will worked at Midwood for six years—the last two as one of two college counselors for classes of 800 graduating seniors. Returning to Russia to join the Anglo-American School of Moscow in 2007, Ms. Will has enjoyed working at an international school with globally mobile students, expanding her knowledge of educational options in Europe, Asia, and beyond. She greatly appreciated the opportunity to lead a session at the CIS Global Forum with her co-presenter, Aaron Zdawczyk, from Northwestern University.