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The Ultimate Week of Conferences, Part 1 of 3: OACAC and IB Conference of the Americas

Maya Grodman is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She also an IB graduate of Collège du Léman International School in Geneva, Switzerland.

Part 1 | 2 | 3

It’s a week of conferences for the IB University Relations team! Marie and I spent Monday-Wednesday at the Overseas Association for College Admission Counseling (OACAC) conference in Tampa, Florida, and then flew back to DC to dive right into the IB’s Conference of the Americas, taking place Thursday-Sunday. It’s quite a week!

OACAC was a very special experience. It was hosted by the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa, and Eckerd College, and we were among 1,100 people from around the world attending the conference. We were an interesting pair; Marie was one of the original attendees and organizers of the OACAC conference 21 years ago, when it was just 11 people sitting around a conference table, has been the president of OACAC, and has attended almost every OACAC conference. I, on the other hand, was a “First Timer,” walking into the conference knowing no one and not sure what to expect. That changed very quickly, as I met counselors, coordinators, university staff and representatives from various organizations at every turn. Indeed, the most striking thing for me about OACAC was how welcoming, genuine and energetic all of the people were! The world of college and admissions counseling is a warm and vibrant place, and I felt very lucky to be there.


 Here’s a beautiful view of Tampa from the University of Tampa!

Marie and I were presenters in three sessions on Thursday, and we were so thrilled with the discussions that resulted in each one. Krista Despotovic-Jacobson and I gave a presentation about the IBCC, explaining the nature of the program, and how the IBCC works at her school in Geneva, Switzerland.  We were happy to have a room full of both counselors and university staff, asking questions about the program and sharing their experiences with it. My biggest takeaways from the session were:

  • The IBCC is a very unique program, that isn’t suited for every student – but it is an amazing opportunity for the students for whom it is a good fit. They are able to experience the rigor of the IB, AND get started in their chosen career, which is a very exciting combination!
  • The IBCC will look different in every school that offers it. It’s very flexible, with the schools being able to choose which career programs and partnerships it offers, as well as the way the students’ schedules are structured, who coordinates the program at their school, and many other elements as well.

Krista and Maya

Krista and Maya after their presentation

Marie was then on the panel for a session about Predicted Grades, alongside Robert Mansueto, Gary Clark, Elisabeth O’Connell, and Shruti Tewari. The large room was packed with people interested in the IB, predicted grades and university admission. The panel identified the difference between predicted grades (the grades that schools send to the IB – NOT to universities – in March/April of each year, used by the IB solely as a learning tool about how the IB functions in that school) and anticipated/expected grades (the grades that schools can send to universities as part of a student’s application, which are not seen or moderated by the IB), and discussed how different schools communicate information about the IB to universities. Some main points from the session include:

  • It’s all about information – what and how. We need to understand the difference between predicted grades and anticipated grades, so universities can view the information communicated to them in context.
  • Schools need to provide universities with as much information as they can about the IB in their school (which courses are offered, how many students are IB students, grade distributions of years past, etc.), and universities need to be in touch with schools about the information that they’re receiving so they can get as full of a picture as possible.


Shruti Tewari presenting at the OACAC conference

Our final session of the day was called Apples & Oranges: Ways in Which AP & IB Can Co-exist and Complement Each Other within an International School Setting. Marie gave this presentation with Barden Keeler from The College Board, Andrew Lowman from Taipei American School, and Laura Vincens from the American School of Paris. People often like to compare the AP and IB programs, asking us how they’re different, or why a student should do one over the other. This session was a great opportunity to explore both programs and how they can work very nicely side by side in many schools. The audience asked a lot of excellent questions; it was a transformative learning experience for many. Ultimately, the session showed that:

  • It’s all about what’s right for each student and family. The programs are very different, and each student needs to be able to find the right fit.
  • The more choices, the better! Different students have different needs, so it’s ideal for a school to be able to offer students as many options as possible so they can end up in the place that’s right for them.
  • It’s important to have good and honest conversations with students and families about their options, so they can be as fully informed as possible.

We were sad to say goodbye to our OACAC colleagues, but late Wednesday night, Marie and I headed back to DC to be ready for the IB’s Conference of the Americas, which started Thursday morning! 1,700 people from across the region (and the world!) have gathered here in the Washington Hilton for the largest conference in IB history. The opening session yesterday featured some incredible student speakers, Blessed Sheriff and Nathalie Brosh, as well as Andy Hargreaves, getting us all thinking about how we view leadership.


The Opening General Session at the IB Conference of the Americas

The sessions began today, and Marie and I have helped organize nine sessions about higher education. We’re so excited to present alongside our College and University Relations Committee (CURC) members and other esteemed colleagues about some issues that are so important to the greater IB and higher education conversation. These are the sessions we have prepared for this year’s conference:

Marketing your IB Students and Program: Friday, July 11, 11:15 – 12:30, Jefferson West

IBA, US and Canada University Recognition Update: Friday, July 11, 11:15 – 12:30, Lincoln West

How to Apply to Canada, the UK and Europe: Friday, July 11, 2:00 – 3:15, Columbia 12

El Arte de Presentar a Nuestros Alumnos: Friday, July 11, 2:00 – 3:15, Columbia 11

Under Fire: Friday, July 11, 3:45 – 5:00, Jefferson West

Predicted Results/Unpredictable Outcomes: Saturday, July 12, 11:15 – 12:30, Columbia 8

Admissions Case Studies: Saturday, July 12, 2:00 – 3:15, Georgetown West

Supporting Underserved Students: Saturday, July 12, 2:00 – 3:15, Fairchild

Relaciones Universitarias – Iniciativas en las Americas: Sunday, July 13, 10:30 – 11:45, Columbia 10

Thank you so much to everyone we met and worked with at OACAC, and for everyone attending the ARC! It’s been an amazing week, and we’re looking forward to finishing strong with the rest of the IB Conference of the Americas this weekend!

Part 1 | 2 | 3

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One Response to The Ultimate Week of Conferences, Part 1 of 3: OACAC and IB Conference of the Americas

  1. Helena Hallden July 12, 2014 at 04:12 #

    Both these conferences seem to have been excellent! Having completed the IB many years ago, I am impressed by how the program has developed and expanded. I am particularly glad to see that it is recognized that the IB is not for everyone, and that schools realize they can successfully offer both the IB and AP. Ultimately, the goal of a school is to serve its students in the best way possible, which is done by giving them choices. But there is no doubt in my mind that the IB offers the best education possible by being well rounded and effectively preparing students for higher education. Well done, IB University Relations team!

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