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Diversity Abroad publishes articles on a variety of topics relevant to underrepresentation and equitable support for diverse student populations in global education. These in-depth and well-researched articles contribute to the national conversation to advance diversity & inclusive excellence in global education and related fields.
As the new academic year kicks off it’s heartening to know that an increasing number of colleges and universities are engaged in initiatives - from robust scholarship programs to assessing the education abroad office’s diversity practices - to increase participation in education abroad and other global education opportunities. Increasing student participation in meaningful global education programs is essential for their engagement with and success in our interconnected world. Expanding participation is also requisite if the field of education abroad is to be considered part of the solution to ensuring equitable access to high impact practices, the type of practices that promote student success for all students, particularly those from diverse backgrounds. Yet, our success in these endeavors does not merely depend on the quantity of students we send abroad. We must also consider the quality of their experiences. The relation between inclusion and quality must be regarded with the same level of commitment as the relation between diversity and quantity.
The last two years of data from the IIE Open Doors Report have provided a glimpse into how education abroad has become more accessible for students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). In fact, the percentage of students majoring in STEM who go abroad is now on par with the percentage of students in higher education majoring in STEM (23%) (IIE, 2015; NCES, 2014). The combination of factors needed to make this happen has not been happenstance, and there are several lessons education abroad professionals and policy makers can take from this experience to support diversity efforts in education abroad more broadly.
In a world of instant news, hashtags, and trending themes, it often seems as though scholarly research is slow to catch up. Over the course of the last ten years the conversation around diversity issues in education abroad has seemingly expanded rapidly with the growth of events and online resources dedicated to discussing topics related to access to and diversity in education abroad. The platform where this is published is one of the clearest examples of national resources dedicated to discussing timely and relevant issues of diversity and inclusion in international education. Still, the body of empirical research and scholarly publications that explore good practices in access, inclusion, and diversity in education abroad leaves much to be desired.
While more students of color are enrolling at higher rates in U.S. colleges, their presence in study abroad programs has not, unfortunately, kept up with their gains in enrollment. Indeed, research has shown that students of color are sorely underrepresented in study abroad programs, with less than 10% attending a study abroad program (Sweeney, 2013). This is unfortunate as the National Survey of Student Engagement has noted that study abroad is an important high impact practice for students in higher education (Kuh, 2008). This is particularly the case for students of color who, when they do go abroad, experience a number of positive gains, and have a greater likelihood of graduating from college than their peers who did not go abroad (Malmgren & Galvin, 2008; Metzger, 2006).
Race issues continue to be difficult for our country to address and we have found various ways to handle our associated discomfort over time. As our country transitioned from widespread blatant racial discrimination and segregation, which clearly made evident that race should be taken into account when determining a person’s worth, we made major advances in creating a more equal society.
In education abroad questions of diversity and under-representation are nearly always properly co-related. In simple terms, a consequence of the exclusion of certain regions, groups and disciplines leads to a relative lack of diversity on education abroad programmes. This is the basic reality with which we need to engage at a level beyond rhetoric.
Community colleges have been involved in the field of Education Abroad since the early 1970s. Over the decades, they have been challenged with issues related to faculty, and administrative support, health, safety and risk management issues, lack of funding, lack of full-time personnel, and of course, student attitude. These issues remain important today along with new challenges stemming from the declining economy.
Study abroad organizations (often referred to as “providers”) can play an important role in the challenge of diversifying study abroad. With substantial revenues and sophisticated marketing programs, they promote their programs to hundreds of thousands of students annually utilizing a wide variety of techniques including social networking, participation in campus fairs, online advertising, and the creation and distribution of posters, catalogs and fliers.
International education offices at colleges and universities are instrumental in recruiting students for study abroad; however, many students who participate in education-abroad programs first hear about the opportunity from a faculty member.
Early in my career I remember meeting Diversity Abroad’s founder, Andrew Gordon, at a NAFSA reception and connecting over the promotion of accessibility and diversity in study abroad. I was inspired by the knowledge that there were others out there that shared the same goals and excited about the prospect of connecting with colleagues to find support in this challenging but crucial work. I have long believed that study abroad should be accessible to all students, not just to young people of privilege.
CAPA International Education‘s President/CEO John Christian spoke at the inaugural Diversity Abroad Conference in Chicago earlier this month. The conference, with the tag line “Changing Landscapes: Strategies and Opportunities for Greater Access”, offered a platform for new ideas on this enormous topic to circulate and conversations to begin. His speech posed the important question: “What if we are successful?” What happens if we reach our diversity goals?