I’m pleased to advise that our first USA Universities Expo this past Saturday appeared to be a great success. Over the course of the five hours that the doors were open at Auckland’s Aotea Centre more than 2,600 interested Kiwis came to talk with recruiting officers and alumni representing thirty-four major American universities, liberal arts colleges, and institutes of technology. The atmosphere was electric throughout the day, with packed aisles in the exhibition space, a steady buzz of activity, and standing-room-only audiences for the general topic presentations upstairs.

On the exhibition floor, at the Yale booth.

On the exhibition floor, at the Yale booth.

When we first began planning the Expo, we had hoped to attract 15 recruiters and about 400 prospective students. Even with the expanded number of schools committing, we thought that we would likely attract somewhere around 600 people, so more than quadrupling our target was a nice surprise. The significantly larger attendance caused a few hiccups – on the fly we had to persuade Centre staff to move a couple of folding walls so that we could accommodate everyone in the presentations, and a few of the recruiters ran short of brochures and other materials near the end of the day. But those were great problems to have.

My colleague Drew starting a presentation about athletic scholarships  before we moved the walls.

My colleague Drew starting a presentation about athletic scholarships
before we moved the walls.

I had no formal role at the Expo other than to rally the recruiters with welcome remarks and then open the doors. I spent the rest of my time mingling with the students and parents, answering questions, and occasionally jumping in to assist the recruiters in extolling the virtues of their institutions. Represented in the room were both of the universities from which I graduated, several of the schools that I have profiled on my blog, and schools from many other locations where I have worked, lived, or visited, so I was able to add some color commentary.

On the main floor just after the doors opened.

On the main floor just after the doors opened.

The recruiters didn’t seem to tire, although I noticed quite a few hoarse voices after five hours of nonstop talking. That evening our friends from Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei honored the recruiters with a powhiri at the University of Auckland marae, followed a reception with local secondary school educators, iwi leaders, and other special guests. I particularly enjoyed meeting the Samoan students whom we flew down from Apia to attend the Expo. It was a warm, moving, and thoroughly enjoyable way to end a great day.

The bottom line is that the experiment seemed to work. Once Drew completes a few follow-up meetings and gets all the recruiters to the airport for their return flights, we plan to start planning USA Universities Expo 2014. So stay tuned.