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Why Student Leadership in a Global Context Matters

Posted By Carla Sinclair, Monday, February 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

One of the goals of the annual Diversity Abroad Conference is to share best practices and resources on engaging the next generation of students in international education opportunities. But another key component of the three-day long program is harnessing the experiences of those who have done it already — and pushing them further. The Global Student Leadership Summit, which runs simultaneously to the conference, is a program packed with workshops, networking events, and opportunities for students to put their skills to the test.

The Summit is chaired by a committee of three international education professionals. One of these planners is LaNitra Berger, Director of Undergraduate Fellowships at George Mason University, who said she got involved with Diversity Abroad's Annual Conference and Global Student Leadership Summit due to its approach to diversity and international education.

“The conference is so unique in terms of what it provides for professionals, I felt like providing something for students would be a natural next step,” she said. “It’s very quickly becoming one of the most important conferences in the study abroad field. It’s important for practitioners to be connected in the conference community, but it’s also really important for students to tap into some of these resources. My colleagues are some of the most talented, educated, well-traveled people around, and I think students need to start making these connections and meet those people.

The Summit, in its second year, gives students the chance to take the first step in using their international experience to focus on leadership in a global context. Or, as LaNitra described it, towards more proactive solutions.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that most of these global problems aren’t going to be solved just by people dropping bombs on each other. The more people who have had on-the-ground experience in other countries, the better we are as a country, the stronger we are, the stronger the planet is,” she said. ”Diversity of students, different backgrounds, having that one-on-one time and seeing other students that went through the same thing, that’s important.”

The committee has set up a variety of different activities at the conference for study abroad alumni to explore their skills. “We’re having some networking opportunities to meet each other, there’s going to be a keynote speaker to energize the group,” she said. “We’re doing a career session so they get a feel of using their study abroad experience in a career context, and a fellowship session to talk about postgraduate opportunities.”

“There’s also chances for them to network with the professionals in the conference, as well as a case-study opportunity where students work together to tackle a problem related to the field,” she said. “They won’t only be working on something, but they’ll be working together.”

The case challenge entails groups of students coming together and examining the obstacles that face underrepresented demographics in study abroad, and brainstorming ways to improve both participation numbers and the experiences of these students during their programs abroad. They will then have the opportunity to present their findings at the closing plenary to professionals on the last day of the conference.

“The conference is a really great opportunity for them to realize the significance of what they have done as students who have studied abroad. They’re significant statistics, and students need to understand that they’ve managed to pull off this great thing, that they’ve been able to study abroad,” she said. “But there’s also an expectation that they take that, and make it into something that’s meaningful for them professionally and academically.”

“That’s the opportunity of a lifetime.”

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Race Matters in Education Abroad Blog Series

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 2, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Background on Race Matters Blog Series

Over the past year in particular, colleges around the country have grappled with how to respond and address student protests and concerns about police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and racial tensions that exist on their campuses. Some observers have called attention to a root issue related to the unrest: the fact that many university communities do not know how to constructively talk about racial differences and inequities that affect their students. Of course, this absence of effective dialogue and hesitancy to engage and be honest about the continued role of racial privilege and disadvantage is not unique to higher education. In the U.S. we struggle with talking about race and this uncomfortable reality affects everyone, regardless of background. People in privileged racial positions (such as Whites) tend to either minimize or deny that race still matters and shy away from engaging on the topic, or feel guilty and defensive about their own privilege, leading to a paralysis that prevents any truly productive action. As a result, marginalized races are often denied recognition of their continued experiences of microaggressions as well as very real discrimination that still exists. Additionally, minorities are frequently told that race “does not matter”. This approach denies an integral part of people’s identities and the human experience and prevents any progress towards significant social change. However, despite these difficulties, we believe that college campuses are the perfect place to start building effective and transformative conversations about race because of their stated commitments to diversity and inclusiveness.

So what does this have to do with study abroad? Our Race and Ethnicity Task Force has been charged with composing a series of articles over the next year related to support for racially and ethnically diverse students. When we came together this fall the racial tensions on our university campuses were very much on our minds. We have been discussing how the same lack of dialogue and unpreparedness in handling racial differences is likewise present in many education abroad offices and programs. While we as a field are making incremental changes, and organizations like Diversity Abroad have brought us together and advanced much of the conversations around diversity, much work remains. In the upcoming year, our Task Force will be writing about the various dynamics that prevent us, as a study abroad field and as professionals, from authentically discussing and addressing the role of race and ethnicity in study abroad programming and student and staff experiences.

We begin our four part blog series by discussing the first dynamic of colorblindness, a mindset that we view as detrimental to advancing conversations about race and the related support that we can provide to racially and ethnically diverse students: "Colorblindness" is Not the Answer

Contributed by the Diversity Abroad Network Task Force on Racially & Ethnically Diverse Students. 

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Updates from the Inaugural Task Force on International Students

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 4, 2016
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Guest Post by the Diversity Abroad Task Force on International Students:

BJ Titus (Chair) - University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Stephanie Leahy - New York University
Jacquis Watters - Maryland Institute College of Art

As the International Students Task Force begins its inaugural year, we have started to reflect on why this student population is of particular interest. This task force was created to begin exploring and developing resources for professionals working with international students.

While many colleges and universities have been interested in international students who choose to study abroad (again) for some time, the college experience overall for international students continues to become more and more relevant. When looking at the Open Doors data, almost 1 million international students studied at US colleges and universities last year, it makes sense to start looking at this population more closely than we have in the past. We all have international students on our campus, but once they arrive, how are you working with this population and how does this international student population impact diversity on your campus?

Often times International students are lumped into an identity of international student as their primary identity, but as we all know international students are not monolithic when it comes to their identities. International students may fall into many other diverse categories: student of color, class diversity, or sexual identity among others.

International students coming in to your colleges and universities have a rich narrative. How can we celebrate and use it to educate ourselves and the student body of your campus?

Throughout the academic year, our task force will continue to reflect on these very important questions to compile what we believe to be the “10 Things All Advisors Should Know When Working With International Students.” We have identified why this work is critical -- it’s time to start identifying how we can make a difference.

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Diversity Abroad Awards Over $34,000 in Scholarships

Posted By Administration, Friday, December 11, 2015
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2016

Here at Diversity Abroad, our mission is to increase access, inclusion, and diversity within international education. One of the ways we do that is by partnering with many of you to provide study abroad scholarships to our diverse audience. This semester alone, we have awarded over $34,000 to 15 students to make study abroad possible during Spring, Summer, or Fall 2016. Almost ⅔ of these students indicate that they receive a Pell Grant and 87% identify as a racial/ethnic minority. We look forward to connecting with more of your students to further diversify international education programming. You can find more information about our scholarships and access the Summer 2016 Scholarships by visiting our scholarships page at DiversityAbroad.com. These scholarships would not have been possible without the support of our scholarship partners; thank you to the AIFS Foundation, CEA Study Abroad, CISI, and Semester at Sea for their commitment to diversifying study abroad

This is the first term that we have awarded the Diversity Abroad & CISI Planning scholarship - available exclusively to students attending Diversity Network institutions who may not have made the decision to study abroad just yet. This is a pre-decision scholarship that includes additional support from Diversity Abroad as students identify programs and need access to scholarship money to purchase items such as passports, flights, application fees, and other costs that may be incurred before institutional aid is disbursed.

Please help us in congratulating the Diversity Abroad Scholarship winners from this semester. You can follow along their journeys on the Diversity Abroad blog (blog.diversityabroad.com) and we will be profiling each of them over the course of the next semester.

Semester at Sea Diversity Abroad Scholarship ($5,000 + flight)

Ines Boussebaa, Boston University, International Relations & Journalism

Qian Cen, University of San Diego, International Business

Thu Duong, University of San Diego, International Relations

Kristen Garcia, University of San Diego, Marine Science

Diversity Abroad & CISI Planning Scholarship ($2,000)

Catherine Chenault, Texas A&M University, Special Education

Rita Ebhaleme, The University of Georgia, International Affairs

Austin Mahler, University of California San Diego, Cognitive Science

Andre Ray, University of Michigan, Screen Arts & Cultures

DiversityAbroad.com Scholarship ($500) sponsored by AIFS Foundation

Jamillah Kelly, Berry College, Animal Science

Nadia Lopez, University of California San Diego, Sociology & Social Inequality

Selina Macias, College of Mount Saint Vincent, English

Luis Sanchez Casanova, Universidad del Este, Marketing

Najah Yasin, Temple University, Architecture


CEA Study Abroad & Diversity Abroad Scholarship ($2000)

One Awardee


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Where Do We Go From Here? - Reflection on Open Doors 2015

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Every year, international educators have the opportunity to review trends related to student mobility. The Open Doors Report, administered by the Institute of International Education, provides necessary data to help us understand the status of study abroad participation among US college students and incoming international students. As an organization solely focused on access, diversity and inclusion in international education, every year Diversity Abroad eagerly awaits the release of the Open Doors report to see the impact that our member institutions and others have had in creating equitable access for all students to education abroad. Similar to other years, the 2015 Open Doors Report contains encouraging results and also highlights continued areas for growth with respect to participation of diverse and underrepresented students. Here are a few observations from the perspective of diversity and inclusion within education abroad:

  • Year over year participation of students from non-white racial and ethnic backgrounds increased to 25.7% in 2014 from 23.7% in 2013.

  • African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino/a and Multiracial students saw increases in the rate of participation year over year, 0.3%, 0.4%, 0.7% and 0.6% respectively

  • There has not been any notable increases in participation among students identifying as American Indian and Alaska Native over the past 10 years.

  • Students in the STEM field made up 23% of the study abroad population

  • Participation based on gender identity has remained static over the past 10 years with roughly 65% female and 35% male participation.

  • With a record 10% increase in international student enrollment (over the last year), more students from this demographic will likely pursue education abroad while studying at US institutions.

The results are encouraging. In 2014 students of color comprised 25.7% of the study abroad population, their largest proportion of the overall study abroad population to date. STEM related majors are now the most represented majors of study abroad participants. As organizations, institutions, and professionals who have been committed to ensuring more diverse and underrepresented students have equitable access to education abroad we should be proud of our contribution to this growth. What we’re doing is working. The message that study abroad is for everyone and when done right, is an investment in one’s future and not a luxury, is beginning to resonate with students of color and their families as well as with other underrepresented populations. However, as we continue to extol the benefits of education abroad to students, parents, and the public and private sector, and frame education abroad as an essential experience that can prepare young people for success in the 21st Century, the question arises; are we doing enough to achieve equitable access to education abroad for all students?

Getting to the Tipping Point

The excitement of seeing more diverse students participate in education abroad is tempered by the reality that we have a long road ahead to achieve representative participation by diverse students in education abroad. To reach participation goals in education abroad, be it doubling the numbers nationally or more modest goals set by individual institutions, and for these increases to reflect the rich diversity of students at US colleges and universities, institutions and organizations must develop strategic approaches to diversity and inclusion. Individual activities, be it targeted diversity scholarships, marketing campaigns, etc, while impactful on a micro scale, will not lead us to our goals. To reach the tipping point where diverse students are seeking education abroad as an investment in their future and participating in representative numbers, we as higher education professionals must address access, diversity, and inclusion in education abroad, not as a separate initiative or campaign, but as a strategic imperative and an integral part of every facet of our work. What does this look like? For many years the challenge of increasing access to education abroad among diverse students has been addressed by specific initiatives or campaigns. Through such initiatives or campaigns there has been relative success in increasing participation among diverse students at a particular institution or within a specific organization. However, such initiatives are often an extra, separate tasks added to the workload of increasingly busy professionals, instead of being woven into the fabric of every aspect of our work in education abroad. This ‘strategy’ is not a recipe for success. If, however we evaluate the overall education abroad process and integrate diversity and inclusive good practices into the fabric of the education abroad process, we will develop an environment on our campuses that will foster increased participation of and support for diverse students in education abroad. Innovative and accessible tools, such as Diversity Abroad’s AID Roadmap have been developed to help institutions develop holistic strategies that weave diversity and inclusive good practices into eleven strategic areas of education abroad.

Meaningful education abroad has the potential to be a transformative experience that can change the lives, not only of the students who participate, but their families and communities as well. In an increasingly interconnected world where the skills developed through education abroad can determine who is successful in the labor market and who is not, we as educators must continue to our upmost to ensure all students have equitable access to international education. There is no silver bullet. Through strategic planning and continual and intentional implementation of diversity and inclusive good practices we will reach our goals of increasing participation, achieving representative diversity and adequately supporting all students in education abroad.

Tags:  education abroad 

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