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The Ultimate Week of Conferences, Part 3 of 3: IB Higher Education Summit on Access

Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.

Part 1 | 2 | 3

Although the ARC wound down Sunday afternoon, the University Relations Team was still hard at work planning our first annual IB Higher Education Summit on Access that took place this past Monday. This Summit was the first stage of our vision to bring together experts in the area of serving underrepresented, low income and undocumented students in the United States, and learning what initiatives and resources the IB could provide to students, their families and educators. The Summit hosted a diverse panel of voices including secondary school counselors, universities and organizations, engaging in meaningful conversation about best practices to serve this IB student population.

The word “value” is something that we here at the IB often contemplate, and when we add “access” in terms of higher education into the mix, we synonymously think to include power into that process right? Who are the stakeholders that influence policies or programs? Are we clearly showing that we value this targeted IB population? As IB staff, admission officers and counselors we ask our students to be reflective in their essays, personal statement etc, so it is important that look at our own work introspectively as well. The Summit was the perfect foundation to do just that.

Our Summit opened up with remarks from Marie Vivas, who introduced our recently appointed Chief External Academic Relations Officer, Dr. John Bader. Dr. Bader briefly addressed the group followed by IB Americas Director Drew Deutsch, Dr. Kedra Ishop from the University of Texas at Austin and Eddie West from the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Lynda Lopez, a former IB Diploma recipient and University of Chicago graduate then set the stage for the discussion. She spoke from the vantage point of an underrepresented IB student who expressed much gratitude for the IB program but felt as though it was missing something and in response created the Socioeconomic Diversity Alliance. She was all book smarts but was not prepared for the “college going culture.” This was one of the resounding themes we heard over and over throughout the day and was definitely something that hit home for a lot of the panelists.


IBA Staff, Panelists and Summit Guests listened as opening remarks were made

The first panel included secondary school professionals: Marie Turner from South Lakes High School, Shayne Swift from Parkdale High School and Patricia Sanford from Rock Hill High School. This enthusiastic and passionate group spoke about the demographics of the schools they serve, the challenges they face as coordinators and how the IB works in their respective schools and regions. It was great to put a face to all the coordinators that work so hard in IB World schools. Some of the major points from this panel were:

  • Students in the IB program experience many cultural differences and this can create barriers in accessing higher education.
  • Underrepresented students from the IB require scaffolding mechanisms to help them along the way, life for them oftentimes isn’t a one size fits all.
  • Early intervention is key! IB students are just like any other high school senior and need to be prepared for all that college comes with outside of the books!


Marie Turner, Shayne Swift and Patricia Sanford represented secondary schools from the region

The summit then moved into the universities portion with Brian Spittle from DePaul University, Tiffany Speaks from American University, Sheila-Mills Harris from The George Washington University, Jeffery Smith from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Jaime Briseño from Georgetown University. With secondary school coordinators sending their students off to some of the same schools that were represented at the summit, it was exciting to hear the dialogue. I know I was impressed with how supportive the university reps were in advocating for more professional development and training for high school coordinators. These individuals also spoke about programs that their institutions offer to accommodate underserved students from bridge programs to mentorships but also provided some understanding of how we actually define what the underserved population is. Important things to note were:

  • Oftentimes underrepresented students from the IB program have lost their “voice” and are afraid to speak up or reach out to the services campuses offer.
  • Timing is everything and universities need to coordinate times with secondary schools to reach out to potential college going IB students.
  • Students often view the IB as a close knit community, so it is important for campuses to maximize on IB Alumni networks and ensure that sentiment transitions to college.

Unis Panel From Summit

Brian Spittle, Jaime Briseño, Tiffany Speaks, Sheila-Mills Harris, and Jeffery Smith on the universities panel

Here in the University Relations Department, since we work mainly with universities, we do not get as much interaction with other non-profit organizations. But after hearing from Eddie West from NACAC, Chelsea Jones from the Center for Student Opportunity, Kevin Hudson from Story to College, and Cheryl Scott- Mouzon from Jack Kent Cooke Foundation we quickly realized that their perspective is a crucial part of our work and can’t be forgotten. A few takeaways from this panel included:

  • Students and parents need a better understanding of the landscape of IB and the value-added it creates.
  • The IB Americas recent move to Bethesda presents an ideal platform to create networks with other organizations that are familiar with the population of students we are trying to reach


 Non-Profit Panelist Kevin Hudson and summit guest Elizabeth Hart share thoughts during the coffee break

Paul Campbell closed the Summit by leaving panelists and IB staff with the charge of brainstorming two ambitious but achievable tasks that will further the goal of meeting the needs of underserved students. The Summit clearly showed that this cannot be done alone and takes collaboration on many fronts. Want to join this charge or have ideas? Post them below!

Part 1 | 2 | 3

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