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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



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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Meet Brandon Bell: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Monday, November 27, 2017
Updated: Monday, December 4, 2017

Brandon Bell photoBrandon Bell
Assistant Director, The Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education
Elon University

Level of Experience: 4 - 10 years

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

Diversity & inclusive excellence is an ideology that guides my work as a student affairs practitioner. It requires a systems approach that negotiates and collaborates with policy to impact the day to day lived experiences of our non-hetero-normative and racially and ethically diverse students. It's a commitment, charge and campaign to continually interrogate the systems in place so that we can become a truly more inclusive body of people. 

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

My own experiences during my undergraduate career, paired with my passions for helping people tap and actualize their potential seemed to prime me for a career in higher education.  

With specific regard to my work in equity, diversity and inclusion my lived experience as a person of color inspire me to work to create more inclusive and conducive systems and support for racially and ethnically diverse students in higher education contexts.  

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

I enjoy helping students plan for the future and navigate their current experiences to foster meaning making. Every time I witness a student realize their own potential I am both inspired and energize to engage the work that much more. 

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

When doing diversity and inclusion work, I have found that a team of friends, mentors and support systems are key in not only moving towards the goal of greater social justice in our communities but in enacting work life balance and ensuring that I create time to reflect and reconnect with things that energize me. 

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

The support and mentorship I am afforded to provide to students is an honor and privilege that I am most proud to engage daily. 

What do you work toward in your free time?

In my free time I work towards sharpening my singing abilities and reconnecting with friends and extended family.

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

Mahogany Alabaster - because my work is to help students shape and mold themselves into the person they envision themselves to be. Alabaster is the wood commonly used for carving and various wooden figurines. Mahogany is added because I am black and proud of it!

Do you have a mentor? If so, please describe this mentorship relationship and how it has benefitted your work. 

I actually have a team of mentors throughout various functional areas of higher education, corporate and non-profit settings. My relationships with them provide different perspectives to utilize in my work towards equity, diversity and inclusion, in addition to providing intellectual balance and nuanced professional development. My mentors have helped me developed the analytical, strategic and empathetic skills needed to be a effective practitioner in the realm of social justice and  advocate, coach and educator to the faculty, staff and students I encounter.  

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Co-Chair: 2017-2018 Racially & Ethnically Diverse Students Task Force
Member: 2016-2017 Racially & Ethnically Diverse Students Task Force 
Presenter: 2017 Annual Diversity Abroad Conference



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Meet Meggan Madden: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 23, 2017

Photo of Meggan MaddenMeggan Madden, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of International Education and Higher Education Administration
The George Washington University

Level of Experience: 10+ years

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

Diversity and inclusive excellence informs my teaching and research. In teaching, I consider how I can practice inclusive excellence in the development of curricula, teaching plans, and assignments. In my research, I am interested in how diversity is supported in international higher education practice and policy and what ways are inclusive excellence practices informing good practice.  

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

My career track is as a professor who is strongly committed to conducting research that can support practitioners of international education. The factors that led me to pursue this career track are my own professional experiences serving students of color and international students as a student affairs professional; recognizing assumptions that staff and faculty make of underserved student populations and wanted to change these assumptions; and the values I hold toward equity, diversity and inclusive student learning.

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

I love teaching and conducting research when I can talk to students about their international education experiences. 

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

I'm still new in my current role. Most challenges have been with being new and unintentionally bumping up against norms of the institution of which I was unaware. The strategies I use are to listen to those who hold certain aspects of the status quo dear, and to find allies who can help me break down some norms that do not serve all students. 

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

I'm proud of the students I have taught and how they have navigated their early careers.   

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Presenter: September 13, 2017 Community Discussion on The Future of DACA  
Co-Chair: 2017-2018 Faculty Development Task Force 

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