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Alejandra Parra recognized by NAFSA with International Excellence Award
Alejandra Parra, Ed.D., Executive Director, FIU Global Mobility

Alejandra Parra recognized by NAFSA with International Excellence Award

November 14, 2022 at 10:00am

Alejandra Parra, Ed.D., executive director of FIU Global Mobility, received the NAFSA Association of International Educators Region VII 2022 International Excellence Award.

This highly competitive award recognizes the dedication and contribution to the field of international education of professionals with more than 10 years of service. The Association of International Educators, also known as NAFSA, is the world's largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange in more than 150 countries.

Parra was honored during the NAFSA Region VII All-Region Summit Business Meeting and Award Ceremony held in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Supporting international visiting students and scholars

FIU Global Mobility consists of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and the Office of Education Abroad (OEA). The ISSS supports between 3,000 and 4,000 international students 24/7, 365 days a year. Even before students arrive in the United States, the ISSS team is in continual communication with students in matters as varied as visa issues to health certificates to class selection. When students arrive on campus, the ISSS team helps with everything — from health and immunization requirements to immigration laws to educational standards as well as internship and employment opportunities. Each student comes with a unique background so this support requires constant adjusting in alignment with domestic as well as foreign policy changes.

Parra has guided the university through various immigration policy shifts and is instrumental in ensuring that FIU is up to date with the federal immigration database, Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). In addition, Parra implemented the latest software to serve students’ needs and their academic progress while also implementing virtual appointments to streamline one-on-one interaction.

Outbound programming, coordinated by the OEA under Parra's purview, aims to offer students optimal learning experiences across the globe. This includes faculty-led study abroad group trips, third-party study abroad programs, exchange semesters for individual students at partner institutions, internships abroad and more.

Utmost priority is placed on the safety of our students which requires that faculty directors as well as students are cognizant of potential risks and how to minimize them. In addition, academic standards must be met for every student to ensure that the investment in time abroad counts toward prompt degree completion. Partners and vendors must be vetted; safety protocols followed; and student pre-departure preparation takes up much of the time for the Education Abroad team. In this field, too, ever-changing policies and requirements keep Parra and her team busy.  

Global Mobility during a global pandemic

FIU relied greatly on Parra’s expertise to guide the institution through the unprecedented hardships that ensued during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bringing students safely back from abroad and guiding our international visitors on campus through the many uncertainties from 2020-2022 presented endless challenges.

Parra and her teams rolled up their sleeves and found new ways to serve their constituents. When asked what she considers her greatest achievements as the executive director of FIU Global Mobility, Parra said: “COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a devil in disguise. At first, the global travel restrictions seemed an insurmountable obstacle. Working remotely, however, taught us to be creative and to design several mechanisms that kept us closer to our international students and scholars than ever before. The innovative set of virtual services we implemented for our international visitors enabled us to advise and support them more efficiently (more than 46,000 virtual contacts since 2020). This Virtual Office remains a popular option.

"In terms of Education Abroad offerings," she added, "prior to COVID we would have never considered a portfolio of virtual options. To meet our students’ hunger for global experiences, however, we worked with faculty to design Virtual Study Abroad (we have about 1500+ students who have embarked in a Virtual Study Abroad Experience since 2020), and coordinated virtual internships as well as virtual exchanges. While these technology-supported services and learning programs are never a full replacement for the in-person contact and engagement abroad, they are attractive options for many of our international visitors as well as our native students and we will continue them.”

An internationalization leader

“Dr. Parra is the ultimate champion for our students and faculty who seek meaningful learning experiences abroad and, on the flipside, those who come to FIU from across the globe for exactly the same,” said Pablo Ortiz, vice president for Regional & World Locations. “She has consistently provided excellent leadership and service, which is evident in our record of safe and sound programs abroad and our international visitors being in good standing and graduating well prepared for their careers.”

Parra joined FIU in 2017 as the senior director of ISSS. In 2018, she also assumed responsibility for the OEA and was promoted to executive director of FIU Global Mobility. Aside from her duties on campus, Parra has been an active leader and member of NAFSA’s South-East Region VII and served as an Academy Coach among other capacities. In Florida, Parra served as the chair of the Florida Association of International Education (FAIE), which bestowed her with the “You Make a World of Difference" Award in February. 

Prior to joining FIU, she held leadership positions at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), first as assistant director of the International Career Development Center at the Fischler College of Education, then as associate dean for International Affairs, and finally as associate director for the Office of International Affairs. She earned her Ed.D. in instructional technology and distance education from NSU. Parra is a native of Cordoba, Argentina.

A. Parra NAFSA Region VII Award