16th Annual Conference in Kansas City: FAQs

Dear Forum Members and Prospective Conference Attendees:

I was delighted to talk with so many members at The Forum’s annual conference in Denver this past March and look forward to connecting again at the annual conference next March. In light of the recent law passed by the Missouri legislature that bans abortion at eight weeks’ gestation with no exceptions for rape or incest, The Forum has received questions from members about whether the annual conference will continue to be held in Missouri next spring, as planned. This is a controversial and extremely important issue for many members of our field. After careful consideration, we have decided that The Forum will continue to hold its conference in Kansas City, Missouri, March 25-27, 2020. The following information explains our rationale and is meant to respond to the concerns raised by some Forum Members. I invite you to call or email me directly with any concerns or questions not addressed below.


Melissa Torres
President & CEO

1. When did The Forum reserve the conference site in Missouri?

The contract for the 2020 conference site location was signed on June 6, 2015. The process for identifying locations begins years in advance of each event and once signed, include substantial financial obligations for The Forum.

2. The Missouri law is not in line with past Supreme Court opinions and with national law – why is The Forum supporting a state that is promoting values that are at odds with the law?

The Forum is a non-partisan and non-sectarian organization focused on making high-quality education abroad an integral component of U.S. higher education. As international educators, we all encourage our students to engage with difference and should hold ourselves to the same standard. Our organization promotes intercultural dialogue and hosts numerous events designed to foster inclusive conversations. We believe that our annual conference creates a positive environment for sharing diverse perspectives on many issues and is an important method for providing our local host institutions with a platform to discuss initiatives and issues facing local campuses.

The Forum is also a 501(c)(3) non-profit association and has already applied for and been granted exception from paying state taxes in Missouri.

3. Why can’t The Forum find another location for the conference, as it did after Hurricane Katrina?

The state of Missouri does not consider this to be a disaster as the city of New Orleans did after Katrina, and as such local companies continue to hold organizations financially accountable for reservations and arrangements. We book our conferences years in advance in order to meet our needs for session, exhibit hall, and ballroom space, as well as a sufficient number of sleeping rooms that can be available to attendees at a reasonable rate. We try to avoid scheduling during other conferences and religious holidays, and we try to vary our locations regionally to better accommodate attendees. With all of these factors, moving a conference to another location within such a short span of time would make it nearly impossible to maintain the quality and affordability that Forum Members have come to expect.

4. What is The Forum doing to address holding an international education conference focused on themes of equity, diversity and inclusion in the Missouri context?

In recent years, The Forum has placed increasing emphasis on the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in our field and at the events we host. We will continue to do this in the future. In Kansas City, we will be intentional in our choice of plenary speakers and session presenters who can speak to the work being done in the field to address women’s leadership and rights, and as always, provide ample opportunity for our conference attendees to engage in discussion on this topic.

5. I’d like to propose a session related to reproductive rights for the 2020 conference. Would The Forum be interested in such a submission?

We welcome a wide variety of proposals that align with our Call for Proposals and are directly related to our conference theme, “Education Abroad at a Crossroads: Actions for a Sustainable Future.” This may include sessions that involve education abroad programming related to the issue of women’s health and rights, student support and training, and can represent perspectives on all sides of this issue.

6. Isn’t part of The Forum’s mission advocacy?  What is The Forum doing to advocate for this issue?

The Forum advocates for education abroad and its value and engages the field in critical dialogue, but remains a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization. We invite you to participate in a Critical Dialogue about current issues that are impacting our world and our field during the annual conference next March.

7. I appreciate The Forum, but I feel very strongly about this issue and am personally conflicted about attending The Forum conference in this location at this time. What can you say to me about that?

The Forum is a strong advocate for dialogue. There is no better venue for education abroad professionals to engage in meaningful discussion about critical issues than the Forum conference. It’s important that we consider how this legislation impacts our students and their learning experiences abroad, as well as our colleagues at local institutions. More broadly, the conference provides a venue to discuss how issues of women’s health and rights around the world intersect with our work. There is widespread recognition that one of the benefits of education abroad is achieved by exposing students to viewpoints different from their own. As a field, we need to effectively prepare students to communicate their ideas and opinions about controversial issues but also to actively listen and engage with people different from themselves and who hold different ideas. We strongly encourage you to participate in these conversations and listen to diverse perspectives yourself, as we navigate these and other critical issues together.

We also encourage you to familiarize yourself with local organizations in Missouri and consider getting involved or donating to their efforts.

8. I would like to communicate with someone at The Forum about this. Whom should I contact?

Melissa Torres, President and CEO, at torresme@forumea.org or +1-717-254-8404