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Meet Eduardo Contreras: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 19, 2018

Eduardo Contreras, Ed.D.
Director Studies Abroad, Office of Studies Abroad
University of Portland

Level of Experience: 10+ years

What does diversity & inclusive excellence mean to you in the context of your work?

From a personal perspective, my parents valued education, but they did not have the background, financial resources, or frame of references to conceptualize what study abroad meant. Between my mother and father, only my mother had a college degree from our hometown, El Paso Community College. In our family, the way relatives had seen the world was through military service. We often spoke Spanish because of our familial ties to Mexico, and we connected with our heritage in many ways through daily life on the US/Mexico border; however, we also identified as Americans.

Please describe the factors that led you to pursue your current career track?

Today, as a professional, I’m both grateful and frustrated about my path to study abroad. I’m deeply grateful to the professor who took an interest in me and opened my eyes to the opportunity. I’m also grateful that my family supported me even if they were not sure what I was doing. To be fair to them, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. I’m also frustrated that so many students like me may slip through the cracks and never have their eyes opened to the opportunities of international education while they are undergraduates. For these reasons, I think constantly about ways to increase access for students of all backgrounds to study abroad. Access though, is just the first step because inclusion is also essential for the educational benefits of study abroad to impact all students.   

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

Supporting students to find new opportunities (both in the world) but also in their own personal development. In relation to this work, collaborating with colleagues across disciplines and institutional silos is the most challenging yet rewarding work I am fortunate to do on a regular basis. 

Please describe any challenges you've encountered in relationship to your current role? What strategies have you employed to overcome them?

Sustaining support in terms of time, effort, and money for diversity, inclusion and internationalization. Our institution has prioritized the work D&I and internationalization in our president’s strategic plan called “Vision 2020.” Supporting and encouraging the long-term financial and human resources to support these important mandates will be a tough challenge. It will also be tough to request time and effort from busy colleagues who are doing good work in other areas to support these vital efforts collectively as a university. To overcome this challenge, I’m lucky to work with a “coalition of the willing” within the faculty, staff, and administration to build greater collective support for this work.

As you reflect on different aspects of your career, what are you most proud of?

I'm proud to have cultivated long-lasting relationships with colleagues in the field--many of whom are doing exciting work in D&I and International Education. I am also proud to see the fruits of my labors in the students who go on to do wonderful things. The truth is though, I am far more critical of my regular output than anyone and I rarely take the time to answer this good question.

Do you have any heroes? Who are they and why?

As cliched as it is, my mother was our family anchor. She was the primary bread winner for much of our lives and her work ethic and humane treatment of others are a model that I aspire to on a daily basis. The Urdu Progressive writer Ismat Chugtai is another hero. She wrote intrepidly (and beautifully) in India on topics such as women's sexuality, social class status, working class dignity, religious pluralism, etc. at a time when no men, let alone women, did such things.

Which two organizations outside your own do you know the most people at and why?

Probably, my previous institutions of employment because I have kept in touch with many former colleagues around the country.

What do you work toward in your free time?

I work toward maintaining my sanity and benefiting from my family support. I'm lucky to have a partner who is thoughtful, supportive, loving and funny. Spending as much time with her, and friends and family is what I do in my precious free time.

You're a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

Brown. I think brown compliments most other colors and can blend in to create a cohesive scene. It's not a bold color that stands out like highlighter pink, but it's not totally innocuous. It's good to have brown in landscapes, portraits, still life's, and most compositions...I hope I'm useful too. 

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Chair: Annual Diversity Abroad Planning Committee (2016, 2017, 2018) 
Presenter: 6th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference

Tags:  community  Diversity Abroad Conference 

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Diversity Abroad Conference Attendees Share Their Insights

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Updated: Thursday, January 18, 2018

Carol Reyes | Director of Global Student Programs | Miami Dade College

1. Which Diversity Abroad conferences have you attended? Tell us about your experience(s).

I was lucky enough to attend the 2016 and 2017 Diversity Abroad conferences in a number of capacities: In addition to being part of the 2016 DA Conference Planning Committee and a previous DACA Task Force Member, I am a two-time presenter and I was last year’s emcee! During my first Diversity Abroad Conference, I also represented Miami Dade College as the winner of the Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion in International Education Award (EDIIE), and during my second conference, I received the Diversity Abroad Innovation Award for a study abroad program created specifically for homeless and foster students on our campuses.

2. What are the most valuable aspects of the conference, in your view?

In my experience, the most valuable aspects of the conference are its size and its focus. Even though the Diversity Abroad conferences continue to grow each year, it is still manageable enough that participants are able to create meaningful bonds, have in-depth conversations, and can engage with colleagues from around the world in a more intimate setting. The conference seems to be designed very intentionally and, although the conference offers a plethora of presentations and speakers, it is not an overwhelming affair. In terms of its focus, I appreciate that Diversity Abroad focuses on diversity, inclusion and access, and does it well – it also touches on those three points in a number of ways and is one of the few conferences that invites student panelists to share their experiences with colleagues in the field.

3. How have you applied learning/networking from the conference in your current work?

My participation in Diversity Abroad’s first conference lead to me taking a significant role in the second conference both as the conference’s main emcee, presenter, DACA Task Force Member and Innovation Award Competitor. The access to colleagues in the higher education, non-profit and government fields, has helped me create a much larger network that I can call upon during the year when I am thinking of building new partnerships or launching new programs. My participation in the conferences has also given me national exposure and has helped me become a thought leader in many topics, including DACA and undocumented students in study abroad.

4. What suggestions do you have for how someone can make the most of attending a Diversity Abroad Conference?

I would suggest that attendees review the list of colleagues coming to the conference from around the world, research them and reach out to different people to set up coffee chats or short meetings. I would also suggest that people attend a presentation or a panel that is unrelated to their current work but that seems interesting for some reason – this is a great opportunity to learn something new and to hear from some of the top leaders in our field. Finally, Diversity Abroad gives members and non-members many ways to get involved throughout the year: If you want to become a leader in a specific topic, join a Task Force. If you are interested in publishing an article or a more academic research piece, reach out and ask about the ability to submit it for publishing. If you want a challenge and want to get involved in planning one of the top conferences in the country, join a conference planning committee. Diversity Abroad truly gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in familiar or unfamiliar topics and grow as international educators – why only attend the conference, when you could be learning all year long? 

5. Who do you believe can benefit the most from attending the Diversity Abroad Conference

The beauty of the Diversity Abroad Conference is that it has something for everyone – whether you work at a community college, a minority serving institution, a private university, a public research institution, a liberal arts college… if you are committed to increasing access and reducing barriers for underrepresented students, then this is the conference for you.

7. What excites you about the 2018 conference (if anything)?

I am most excited about the Women of Color Empowerment and Leadership Lunch & Learn (Sunday, April 9th 12:30-1:30pm). As a Hispanic woman in the international education field, I sometimes feel underrepresented myself, and I look forward to hearing from other women of color about their challenges and struggles, as well as their success stories and hopes for the future of the field. As international educators, we are the driving force behind the international education industry, so empowering and educating ourselves is just as important as attending sessions to learn about the newest trends and hot topics.

 

Mark Lenhart | Executive Director | CET Academic Programs


1. Which Diversity Abroad conferences have you attended? Tell us about your experience(s).
 
I’ve attended every one! It’s been exciting to watch the conference grow and set new standards every year. I also enjoy returning and reconnecting with colleagues I have met over the years.
 
2. What are the most valuable aspects of the conference, in your view?
 
I love the fact that this is a small conference focused on one topic—diversifying global education. The people who attend are all committed to sharing best practices as we pursue this goal, and I always leave the conference with new ideas and solutions. I think the Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS) is a critical conference element, and it’s something that sets Diversity Abroad apart. No other study abroad conference gives such a platform to students. Of course conference attendees like me learn so much from our interactions with GSLS students. But the program is also transformational for the students themselves. We’ve seen that to be true for CET alumni who have participated.
 
3. How have you applied learning/networking from the conference in your current work?
 
I think I have a much clearer understanding of the issues, and that knowledge helps in my day-to-day decisions about student or staff policies. We made Diversity & Inclusion training the focus of an annual meeting, and we’ve used new knowledge from hiring and marketing workshops in our Diversity & Inclusion efforts.
 
4. Who do you believe can benefit the most from attending the Diversity Abroad Conference?
 
I can’t think of anyone working in higher education or global education who WOULDN’T benefit!
 
5. What suggestions do you have for how someone can make the most of attending a Diversity Abroad Conference?
 
Don’t skip the sessions! They’re really a great source of information and inspiration. Also, this is one of the friendliest conferences I’ve attended—a great place to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself.
 
6. If relevant, how have your students benefited from attending the Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS)?
 
In many ways the GSLS experience is an extension of students’ study abroad experiences—it helps students step outside their comfort zone and think about things from a different angle. CET alumni have gained confidence, new contacts, and a sense of purpose.

 

 

 

 
 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 21, 2017

Institution name

DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia

 

Location

Copenhagen, DK and Stockholm, SE

 

Institutional Profile

Small (under 5,000 students)

 

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

DIS was established in Denmark and roots its academic identity in the progressive values of its two host cities: Copenhagen and Stockholm. Our curriculum is designed to bring a Scandinavian perspective to the burning issues of our time - examining preconceived notions and diving into topics like gender equity, sexual identity, and human rights. We strive to construct high-quality living and learning environments and believe a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds - in our students, in our faculty, in our staff - must be central to that endeavour. The Diversity Abroad Network is an important partner in both connecting with a diverse student body, and most important, interacting with a community of practice that helps us ensure students with a wide variety of lived experiences feel comfortable and supported while studying at DIS. A diverse student composition benefits all by enhancing the experience in the classroom and the overall environment for our students, faculty, and staff.

 

How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

DIS is a founding member of the Diversity Abroad Network.

 

What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education? 

Over the past five years, DA’s annual conference has been has been an important tool for our professional development and knowledge sharing strategy. It is an excellent forum for us to dialog and explore best practices, connect with campus stakeholders both within study abroad and beyond, and deepen partnerships.

 

How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds?  

The Diversity Network is an essential source of information and community in our ever-evolving work to build accessible and inclusive learning environments. Knowledge we garner from conferences, newsletters, and webinars feeds back into our processes and policy discussions, providing ongoing opportunities for us to reflect and improve.

 

Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking.  

Initiative 1:
DIS believes individual student identity development is a key component of the study abroad experience, and awareness of that process that should begin before students arrive on-site. Each semester, we conduct ~60 in-person pre-departure orientations with incoming students,  during which we are currently piloting exercises designed to spark student reflection on their unique identity, explore how that identity may be challenged while abroad both in Scandinavia in general and at DIS in particular, and cultivate compassion for their fellow students as they move through their own development. 

Initiative 2:
The majority of our faculty are active professionals local to Scandinavia and often don’t come to us with a nuanced understanding of the current identity landscape in the US, and US institutions of higher education in particular. We have expanded our faculty training to include more context designed to broaden the cultural foundation of our faculty members and help them better recognize and address identity tension in the classroom and ensure they don’t inadvertently add to it themselves.

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Meet Irene Scott: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Updated: Friday, December 8, 2017

Irene Scott Photo Irene Scott
Program Coordinator, Study Abroad Programs Office
Texas A&M University

Level of Experience: 10+ years

What does diversity & inclusive excellence mean to you in the context of your work?

Diversity and inclusion excellence in the context of study abroad calls international educators to refine processes, services, program designs, and policies. In the pursuit to make high-impact, transformational international experiences accessible to all students, it is not enough to obtain representation of diverse and underrepresented populations in study abroad. Program participants’ retention and the quality of their experiences are equally important. Furthermore, to achieve diversity and inclusion excellence, it is a shared responsibility of the study abroad office and campus constituents. It takes a collective effort of many to make a sustainable impact. 

Please describe the factors that led you to pursue your current career track?

As the first female in my family to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then later a master’s degree, I am grateful for a network of supportive individuals who contributed to my success and opportunities that pushed me out of my comfort zone (e.g., studying abroad). In working at an institution of higher education, I strive to be a resource and collaborate with various entities to remove barriers affecting others in their pursuit to achieve personal, academic and career goals.  

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

It is a blessing to be part of a team committed to selfless service, excellence, and inclusion. Aspects of my work that make me smile include the opportunity to serve students and assist them in successfully participating in their respective international experiences. Complex inquiries and new projects excite me, as they create an opportunity to navigate uncharted territories, collaborate, learn, gain insight to refine processes, and/or establish new partnerships. 

Please describe any challenges you've encountered in relationship to your current role? What strategies have you employed to overcome them?

The Texas A&M Study Abroad Programs Office has made significant progress in its processes, services, program offerings, and diverse personnel; however, our work is never-ending. In adjusting to significant growth in students served and programs developed, it is a challenge to work efficient and strategic with available resources. 

A few strategies employed in my current role include being flexible and adjusting project goals based on current realities and office priorities; participating in campus and national task forces to keep abreast of the latest; and benchmarking among peer institutions and professional organizations to make informed decisions and effectively advocate changes. 

As you reflect on different aspects of your career, what are you most proud of?

I am most proud of our collaboration with the Texas A&M Department of Disability Services (DS). The inclusive practices of DS have afforded several students the opportunity to participate in rewarding international experiences. 

DS does its best to arrange and fund whatever reasonable accommodation students with disabilities need abroad taking into consideration the program structure and available resources in the host country. Examples of ways DS has supported program participants with disabilities include providing course materials in alternative format, arranging a sign language interpreter to accompany Deaf students, facilitating a cost analysis and funding the increase in transportation expenses for a wheelchair user to participate in required program activities, and collaborating with on-site staff to identify available academic/medical resources. Our approach is: just because it has never been done, does not mean it cannot be done.  

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Member: Diversity & Multicultural Professionals Task Force (2017 – 2018) 
Member: Access for Disabilities Abroad Task Force (2016 – 2017) 
Member: Students with Disabilities Task Force (2015 – 2016) 

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Global Student Leadership Summit: A Practice in Innovative Reentry Programming

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Global Student Leadership Summit: A Practice in Innovative Reentry Programming

 

 

By: Trixie Cordova - Diversity Abroad

 

When international educators explore ways to improve programming for students going abroad, we often focus our energy by examining four core stages of the student experience: outreach and recruitment, pre-departure, in-country, and reentry. Institutions and providers have developed many creative solutions to address each of these phases in depth, often creating new and innovative ways to address the questions:


What can we do to reach a broader, more diverse student population?

How can we improve pre-departure orientation to accommodate different student identities?

What type of resources exist in-country for students to feel safe while they’re abroad?

What has not gained as much focus is a more in-depth and supportive reentry model to encourage students to think critically and process their experience abroad. Often, discussions on the topic of reentry programming focus on gathering student feedback. Through surveys, focus groups, and evaluations, there is much to understand about the ways we can improve our processes and offerings by asking students how supported they felt by program staff, the academic fit and affordability of their program, as well as their growth on metrics such as intercultural learning, global awareness, adaptability, and independence. Data collection is a critical component to improving how inclusive our practices are, and creates an opportunity for institutions and providers to make data-driven decisions in program design.


But evaluation and assessment aside, where and how are we creating intentional spaces for students to reflect on the ways in which their global experience impacted how they view themselves as global leaders? Specifically, what opportunities exist for diverse and underrepresented students to unpack social and cultural attitudes that informed the way they were treated by their peers, host families, program staff, and random encounters, and how might this inform how they view themselves, as well as their future career aspirations?


Ethnically diverse college students make up more than 40% of the student population enrolled in secondary education in the U.S. Their struggles of belonging and feeling othered have often been researched across campus types for many years (see examples of studies here, and here). The latest Open Doors report found that students of color still make up less than 30% of the overall U.S. student population studying abroad, so It is inevitable that this lack of belonging extends to their overseas experiences. This, coupled with global perceptions and attitudes as to what it means to look/sound/be “American”, can leave a lasting impression on students. Creating an evaluation form or hosting a 1-hour focus group can help in uncovering the root of this issue, but is it enough?


In an article, titled “Study Abroad Could Be So Much Better”, author Stacie Berdan examines this more closely, stating:


“Most students reported even greater difficulties and lack of support upon returning home. They felt less comfortable with their new selves on their old campuses and had trouble reintegrating. They didn’t understand how to leverage their experiences abroad to help them in their remaining studies and in their lives after graduation, whether academically or professionally.


Many students reported feeling frustrated in their relationships with friends and family, often feeling isolated and alone. Although most students seemed to muddle through, chalking up the strenuous readjustment to part of the learning curve, it doesn’t — and, in fact, shouldn’t — have to be that way.” (Berdan, 2015)


For many “first abroad” students, and particularly students of color, there is so much to process throughout all four study abroad phases. From making the decision to go abroad and getting parental support, to meeting with program and academic advisors and submitting the appropriate forms; it’s a lot to take in. Program staff, advisors, and faculty spend hours aiding students through the process of applying for programs and funding, all with the hopes that students will commit and go abroad. And the work doesn’t stop there, as we continue to find ways to ensure they feel healthy and safe while they’re overseas. The questions that remain, however, are: “Are we spending as much time allowing students to unpack their global experiences upon reentry as we do preparing them to go abroad? If not, what prevents us from providing this space?”


The reality is that we know study abroad advisors or program providers have limited time and resources to facilitate the level of dialogue necessary to help students process their experience abroad. In his study on “holistic assessment and the study abroad experience”, Doyle of Central College found:


“The campus community rarely gets a good sense about how students grow and change during their semester(s) studying abroad. By the time students reenter the flow of campus life their distinct memories have faded or they have processed the experience to the point where it is not in the foreground of their life any more. When asked to put their experiences studying abroad into words, students usually can only respond with such unsatisfying phrases as ‘it was great, life-changing,’ or the truly vacuous ‘it was awesome.’ King and Baxter Magolda argue for a more holistic approach to assessing the study abroad experience that can move beyond the vague, attitudinal responses and delve more deeply into student progress toward intercultural maturity.” (Doyle 2009).   


Developing effective re-entry programming for diverse and underrepresented students going abroad can positively impact the ways in which students process their experience and how they view themselves and their place in the world. Diversity Abroad’s Global Student Leadership Summit is an intensive three-day re-entry program designed specifically for this purpose. We bring together diverse and underserved students who have previously studied abroad, and invite them to reflect on the ways in which their global experiences impacted their personal identities and professional aspirations. Spending three days with likeminded peers, many of whom identify as ethnically diverse, first-generation, high financial need, and first abroad, allows students to be fully honest and transparent about the impact of these experiences on their evolving identities. Being around non-institutional program staff and advisors also lends itself to creating an environment that allows students to be completely honest and feel safe when processing their experiences.

 

group picture


The GSLS -- held parallel to the annual Diversity Abroad Conference -- provides students with the opportunity to engage in challenging conversations among peers, and to hone their skills to effectively articulate how their global experiences have prepared them for what's next academically and professionally. The ability to make connections with students with whom they can relate helps to alleviate a persistent sense of otherness, and finding community alongside other diverse study abroad alumni can be just as transformational as going abroad, particularly for those attending a predominantly white institution (PWI). Below are just a few thoughtful student reflections on how and why GSLS was such a necessary experience for many:


“I am glad that we were given this opportunity to connect with students who had similar experiences, studied abroad, and have a community to support one another. I learn so much from my peers and also from professionals who have the same values as me. I also love having deep conversations with others and this conference provided that space. Overall, I came back with a broader perspective and so much knowledge about leadership, how to bring it back to campus, and how to help others succeed.”


“A major take-away for me is now being able to properly speak about some of the issues I've encountered abroad, while also using these experiences to develop myself professionally and personally. I also have useful tools that will allow me to encourage other students to take the leap to study abroad as well.”


“Speaking about my identity and hearing others speak about theirs helped me to conceptualize how I view myself as a multi-ethnic young woman in America.”


"I left the Summit with a level of confidence, self-awareness and professional proficiency that I did not have before attending."


"It was powerful! Felt like therapy with people who understood me. A much needed experience."


"Hearing everyone's perspectives during their time abroad and voicing my own helped me to thoroughly process everything that I experienced for the first time."


"I am so grateful for all of you at Diversity Abroad for committing yourselves to helping students like me become their best selves. Thank you for bringing us all together."


To read a full student reflection, please click here

 

GSLS is just one example of an innovative reentry program, and student feedback suggests that it is a crucial and necessary, yet rarely provided opportunity for reflection. As International Educators, we should push ourselves to facilitate similar levels of engaging dialogue to aid students who are otherwise unable to attend. Reentry programming, much like pre-departure and in-country support, is of equal importance for our study abroad alumni to get the type of holistic support necessary to readjust into life back on campus and in the U.S.  

 

We encourage you to consider nominating a diverse study abroad alum to participate in this one-of-kind reentry opportunity. Early bird registration for the 4th Annual Global Student Leadership Summit is currently open and accepting nominations. You can read more about nominating students here.

Tags:  Global Student Leadership Summit  leadership  re-entry  returnee 

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