Ten years ago when I founded Diversity Abroad it was based on the notion that all students should have equitable access to global educational opportunities. Over the last decade, Diversity Abroad has grown into a vibrant community of students and professionals from all racial, national, economic, ability, sexual, and religious backgrounds. We’ve come together, behind this movement, because we share a common vision for the future; one of mutual understanding and one in which all young people have equitable access to the type of educational experiences that will help them appreciate other perspectives, develop empathy, and be prepared to take on the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.
There is concern in our community, across the U.S. as well as throughout the world, for what the future holds. Based on the tone of the presidential campaign and the climate on our campuses, even before a single vote was cast, many of our colleagues and students expressed concern and fear. These feelings are real and should not be cast aside. Regardless of one's politics, as professionals we have chosen to work with and support students, domestic and international, from all backgrounds and walks of life. If we are to build trust and credibility with the students we serve we must be there to support our students during challenging times. We cannot hide behind the shield of international education and think that we do not have an important role in supporting our domestic students from diverse and marginalized groups. We all have a role in fostering an inclusive climate where students are able to thrive and succeed. Further, we work with colleagues from marginalized groups who share the same fear and concern that many of our students have. Being an ally and supportive of our colleagues will foster the kind of inclusivity that makes an office or an organization truly great.
It is abundantly clear that now more than ever our work is needed. There is a need to engage with those who hold different perspectives and beliefs and to develop mutual understanding here and abroad. There is a need to renew our commitment to partnering in support of marginalized communities and for self examination as we ask ourselves,“How can I be an ally to my colleagues and students who are from traditionally marginalized groups?” More than anything there is a need to recognize that the work we do isn’t just about student mobility. It never has been. The work we do has the power to change lives. It opens minds and can help young people develop an appreciation for difference and empathy, qualities that are essential if they are to become positive agents of change. This type of understanding is crucial for our society to be one where everyone can feel included, prosper, and be successful.
For Diversity Abroad nothing changes. We will continue to do the following:
Lead the field of international education and exchange toward diversity and inclusive excellence and ensure that our policies and practices equitably support all students.
Advocate for equitable access to global education at the local, national, and international level
Support marginalized groups, domestic and international, before, during, and after participating in an international education or exchange program
Provide resources, training, and guidance to the thousands of students, young people, and professionals who are part of our community
One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill who says, “The pessimist sees the challenge in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every challenge.” Yes, we face an uncertain future and challenging times may lie ahead. However, we can choose to remain optimistic and not allow the negative tone to dampen our spirits or our resolve. In doing so, whether we work with education abroad students or international students coming to our campuses, we will find the opportunities to support our students and continue the movement to develop the next generation of leaders by making international education diverse, equitable, and inclusive.
Onwards and upwards.
All my best,