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Meet Ahmad Refky: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 8, 2017

Ahmad Refky
Director of Custom & Faculty-Led Programs
CEA Study Abroad

Level of Experience: 10+ years

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

For me, and I know this to be true for CEA as an organization, diversity and inclusive excellence means creating feasible opportunities for students from all walks of life and backgrounds to expand their horizons, and explore life and culture abroad. This includes not just developing a wide array of academically rich programs, but also having a strong network that support these students on their journey, and provides them with the tools they need to achieve their goals.   

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

 My career in study abroad is a cumulative product of my life experiences to date. My first experience living abroad was when I came to the United States as a high school exchange student for my senior year. It was the first time away from my family and support network, which challenged and propelled me on a journey of self-discovery. 

When I returned to Egypt I chose to pursue an education at a liberal arts American university specifically so I can have an environment that not just supports, but also challenges students. I came out during college, and when Egypt proved to be an unsafe place to live, my family from my high school exchange year opened their home and hosted me again in the US. I applied and was granted political asylum as a gay man, and my experience in exile shaped my views about the importance of cross cultural understanding and communication in shaping a more inclusive world. My short-term study abroad experience in The Netherlands with students from across Europe, South America, Africa, and Asia during grad school also cemented my views about the importance of studying abroad and being exposed to other ideas and cultures. 

So with all these experiences, working in higher education in general, and in study abroad in particular seemed like a natural progression of my life’s journey. I started my career at The Rotary Foundation working to send groups of professionals abroad to experience how their vocations are practiced in other countries. I then worked with a Chicago-based non-profit bringing high school exchange students to study in the United States, and from there made the jump to higher education focusing on faculty-led programs, first at IES Abroad, and then at CEA Study Abroad. Looking back at my life over the past 20 years, this career—which sort of chose me, makes perfect sense, and allows me to apply my personal and professional experience to benefit a greater cause.

 What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

 Every day I use the experience I gained on my personal and professional journey to create new opportunities for students to explore life outside their local bubble, push their boundaries, and hopefully become more globally engaged citizens. 

In addition, at CEA I have the wonderful opportunity to put together a diverse team of talented, creative, and strong women that not only push and challenge boundaries and the status-quo, but also make me a better person and stronger team leader. 

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

 I think the most challenging aspect of my current role is channeling the creativity and energy of my colleagues. I work with a very motivated group of strong individuals, and unfortunately the reality of any organization is that not all great ideas make the cut or come to fruition. This can be frustrating, especially for team members who are just starting their careers in study abroad or higher education. 

I have found that the most effective strategy is to not lead from the top down. I strive to create opportunities for my team members to impact strategy, set high level goals, hold themselves accountable, and become invested in the success of the initiatives they helped shape. By helping set goals and shape strategy, everyone is invested and the entire team works in unison to achieve outcomes, meet targets and milestones, and celebrate individual and collective successes along the way.  

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

This is a difficult question for me to answer. Seventeen years ago I immigrated to the United States with no real plan or direction. I had a degree from the top private universities in Egypt, and my first job was as a nigh clerk in a 7-11 mopping floors and stocking fridges. So I am proud of my journey and accomplishments to date, and “pulling myself up by my bootstraps” to make it to where I am today. 

That said, a simpler answer would be that every day I am incredibly proud of the Custom Programs team at CEA. I could not be more proud to work with such a diverse, creative, and strong team of women who bring their a-game to work every day. They put me through my paces, challenge me to be a better colleague and leader, and as a team we help bring to fruition wonderful opportunities for students to study abroad every day.

What do you work toward in your free time?

I recently bought a house, so I spend most of my free time making it into a home with my husband and our ever growing pack of dogs (we're currently up to 4 rescue dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to Pit-Bulls)

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

Pink! Almost every other color goes well with pink, which makes it a nice addition to any palette. Pink adds vibrancy and energy to any drawing, but can also be toned down if needed. I am not a wall flower, but I don't crave attention either. I like to let me work speak for itself, so pink seems like the best fit.

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Co-Chair: 2017-2018 LGBTQI+ Task Force
Member: 2016-2017 LGBTQI+ Task Force
Presenter: 5th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference


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Thriving in Diversity Work in the Midst of Unrest

Posted By Daneen Johnson, Wednesday, August 23, 2017
Updated: Monday, August 21, 2017

Thriving in Diversity Work in the Midst of Unrest

“Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do”. I was frequently reminded of this phrase as an adolescent and it’s one that I’ve carried into every facet of my life, including my work here at Diversity Abroad.

Even in doing the “right” thing, our efforts can feel like they are falling short. We get discouraged, and without the proper precautions, burnout can creep in. In the face of identity-based hate tragedies, feelings of numbness, disheartening, and anger are exacerbated, and it’s challenging to navigate them while maintaining professional decorum. As the people that others turn to in times of confusion and hurt, we can help others best when we are at our best.

If you are in need of a recharge, here are a few measures I take to ensure that I’m equipped and healthy enough to persist. There is work to be done and we have to stay ready. Here are a few ways to begin that work.

What You Focus On, Grows

Dr. Seuss said “It is better to know how to learn than to know”. Reflections and learning should happen outside of your office. Seek out diversity learning classes in your community whether it’s at the campus your work at or the city your live in. Even as a facilitator of diversity and inclusion conversations, I seek out professional development workshops to grow the depth of my knowledge so I am able to contextualize a situation better. We have to absorb the same rhetoric we tell our students and be comfortable applying it to ourselves. Engage in conversations that are new or uncomfortable. Reflect on that discomfort, journal it, and share it in safe spaces. The public library or local community centers often provide free community discussions. Get involved in community groups if you can.


Be proactive versus reactive in your wellness. I often reflect on the wellness wheel to determine if there are specific areas that are suffering. Take a break and decompress before you react in a way that contradicts how you would want to respond. Social strife can cause adverse health issues, but you have to determine what works for you. Listen to your body; it’s a good indicator of where you are. Utilize the counseling services on your campus, or take a day off and schedule a wellness day(s). Do something that allows you to relax, be reflective, and realign your priorities. Remember: hurting people, hurt people, but when you’re at your best, you can help people the best.


What are you doing to recharge your community? Is it connecting with a place of worship or  calling friends you haven't spoken to in awhile? Is it traveling, or reading a good book? Seek opportunities to assist others in your community. Volunteer with and for your community. Work and lead beside those who identify differently from you. Shifting your thoughts from inward frustration, to outward service is mutually beneficial and restorative.

We all take different personal measures to ensure that we can thrive professionally. While these suggestions may vary for you, the goal is to make sure that you maintain wellness in the midst of turbulent times, when our work is needed the most.


I’d like to hear how your thoughts on how you recharge to continue your work. Send me an email at djohnson@diversityabroad.org.




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The Changing Face of DACA: The Impact of Policy and Rhetoric on Study Abroad Support Services

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Sunday, August 6, 2017
Updated: Monday, August 7, 2017

Written by: the 2016-2017 Diversity Abroad Undocumented & DACA-mented Students Task Force members Carol Reyes, Erica Jorgenson, Erin Santana, and Nicole Desjardins Gowdy.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is “a use of prosecutorial discretion [by immigration authorities] to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, 2016). DACA provides temporary protection from deportation for two years at a time and allows the individual to obtain a driver’s license, a social security number, and work authorization, and also allows the individual to study abroad. Currently, there are over 886,000 recipients of DACA (USCIS, 2017) and approximately 1,932,000 individuals who are eligible (Migration Policy Institute [MPI], 2017). 


Another benefit to DACA recipients has been the opportunity to travel abroad for specific reasons such as: study abroad, research, medical treatment, family member illness or death, attending a conference or training, or a work assignment. DACA recipients have been able to do so with the aid of a travel document known as Advance Parole, which is issued by USCIS. Advance Parole does not guarantee re-entry, however, and it is up to the discretion of the border patrol agents whether to grant the request for parole into the U.S. at the port of entry. 

During the presidential campaign and since his election, President Trump, the Trump administration, and other government officials have given indication of plans to end DACA as soon as possible, thereby making DACA recipients no longer eligible to apply for Advance Parole. Furthermore, if DACA were to be terminated, DACA recipients traveling with Advance Parole would likely not be able to enter the United States. In this climate of uncertainty around the future of DACA, many colleges, universities, and advocacy organizations such as United We Dream have been cautioning students about the risks of departing the country during a time that the end of DACA appears to be imminent. For example, between 2013 and 2016, one institution successfully advised 15 DACA-mented students through the Advance Parole process for semester study abroad in Brazil, Ecuador, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Morocco, South Korea, and the UK . With the momentum and enthusiasm of past recipients providing encouragement, seven more DACA-mented students had planned to study abroad in the spring of 2017, but withdrew before departure upon considering the risks, discussing with family, friends and mentors, and heeding the advice of college administrators and lawyers.

Current State of Affairs

In the past seven months since the Trump administration took office, individuals with DACA have been detained, despite their temporary protection from deportation. One such case is that of Daniel Ramirez Medina, a young man from Seattle with DACA. Daniel was detained in February of 2017 and was finally released in March after posting $15,000 bond. Many U.S. institutions have changed their policies about students with DACA studying abroad precisely because of this change in practice and the increased number of DACA recipients being detained. 

From when our Task Force started our work last July until now, the state of DACA and the rhetoric from the White House surrounding undocumented people has drastically changed. We recommend staying up to date since policies, laws, executive orders, and support for undocumented people have the potential to change quickly. Here are just a few updates on where the current administration stands with regards to DACA and undocumented people.

The article below was featured in The New York Times on June 16th, 2017, when the current administration expressed that they would not immediately eliminate the DACA program:

‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S. for now, but Long-Term Fate is Unclear

However, the fight to eliminate DACA continues, as is seen in this news article below:

States try to force Trump’s hand on DACA

On July 20th, two senators introduced a new Dream Act that would provide potential pathways for undocumented immigrant youth:

Bipartisan Dream Act Highlights Broad Support for Existing Immigrant Youth Protections

However, President Trump has already stated recently that he will not support the new bipartisan plan:

Trump won’t support new plans to save ‘Dreamers’ from deportation


Survey of Study Abroad Professionals

The Undocumented & DACA-mented Students Task Force conducted a survey in which individuals from at least 29 different cities in 17 different states responded to questions about their work with DACA-mented students. In the survey, the majority of institutions stated that they do not recommend study abroad for DACA-mented students at this time, but ultimately leave the decision up to the student. Many state that their recommendations changed after the November 2016 election. One adviser said, “We were actively supporting, advising, and outreaching to students prior to the election. Our approach has changed since and may change again with Trump’s latest reversal.” 77% of those who responded to the survey said that they do have resources available for DACA-mented students on their campuses and that these resources are developed by a variety of offices on campus and in the community including the multi-cultural center, student success centers, the local Catholic Church, immigration lawyers, the Dean of Students’ office, Legal Affairs, professors, the Diversity and Inclusion Office, and others. The most popular form of support is advising and application support, but respondents also said that they provide resources for funding, institutional support, and legal assistance. While study abroad is widely discouraged for DACA-mented students at this time, a handful of institutions offer a domestic “study away” program as an alternative.

Recommendations for Next Steps 

Based on the updates and the state of the field since the 2016 election, where does the field of international education go from here to continue supporting undocumented students? After reviewing the results of the survey, many of our colleagues asked for the following:

  • Shared resources amongst institutions on institutional policies, waivers, and success stories
  • Ways to get involved in advocacy work
  • Interpretations of the current state of DACA and any political updates
  • Advising resources for applying for Advance Parole
  • Best practices for advising undocumented students and what risks to keep in mind
  • Legal advising
  • More program options and funding opportunities

Diversity Abroad Network Members can access resources in the Member Resource Center, including 5 Tips for Supporting DACA and Undocumented Students and slides from our Community Discussion: Making your institution more DACA-friendly and “undocu-friendly,” developed by this Task Force. In addition, we have published a list of resources and publications on DACA

Based on the results of the survey, the Diversity Abroad Task Force for Undocumented/DACA-mented Students recommends that colleagues in the field continue to develop shared resources and best practices in support of undocumented students to assist institutions in advising and supporting students on their campuses. This can be done either through a developed working group or a shared forum. The members of the Task Force are happy to consult with our colleagues on our institutions’ approaches and share resources developed on our campuses, upon request.

The future is uncertain for undocumented students who are impacted by the day to day rhetoric and policies that are in flux. It is up to us as educators to continue to advocate and come together to provide resources to support our students during this very unpredictable time. 

Works Cited

Dineen, J. (Feb. 8. 2017). If Trump ends DACA, here’s how many students could be affected.
USA Today College. Retrieved from: http://college.usatoday.com/2017/02/08/if-trump-ends-dca-heres-how-many-students-could-be-affected/

Migration Policy Institute. (2017). Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Data Tools. Retrieved from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/programs/data-hub/deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca-profiles 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2016, December 22). Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Retrieved from https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (2017). Number of Form I-821D,Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, by Fiscal Year, Quarter, Intake, Biometrics and Case Status Fiscal Year 2012-2017 (March 31) [Data file attached].

Download File (PDF)

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Collaboration and Partnership in Higher Education and K-12: the Global Education Access Pipeline

Posted By Administration, Friday, July 21, 2017

Contributed by 2016-17 High School Task Force: Eileen Kelly-Aguirre - School Year Abroad; Laura Eggen - Global Journeys; Kristin Labs - IFSA Butler; Paula Levitt - University of California, Davis; Darin Smith-Gaddis - CAPA The Global Education Network


As the field of global education looks for ways to expand its influence, high schools, K-12 serving organizations and community partnerships will become an increasingly important component. Particularly as we look at diverse groups of students, it is essential to understand the community partnerships that support these students and that have the ability to assist in moving them along the global education access pipeline.  


For an education abroad opportunity, that may not feel clearly linked to a student’s academic trajectory, how do we justify the expense of these programs? How do we talk about cost related to value in the K12 space? Return on investment? Does it contribute to academic credit?

Accessibility in study abroad continues to be an uphill battle. The diversity in student goals and outcomes across the US secondary education landscape ensures that incorporating best practices into the curriculum is applied inconsistently. Building education abroad into a student’s academic trajectory means addressing issues of cost, fit, value and the return on investment.

While institutions of higher education are engaging in a national conversation about the invaluable returns education abroad can bring to students academically and from a professional development standpoint, it remains unclear for K-12 schools how education abroad can be successfully incorporated into the curriculum, timing, and student development outcomes mandated by each state.

It could be argued that the perceived value of education abroad as a high impact practice, and powerful educational tool in the K-12 space, is still widely questioned. Educators face increased oversight, scrutiny and accountability in making sure students meet district and state academic benchmarks. Education abroad is often seen as competing against an educational framework focused on achievement tied to standardized testing, and therefore funding.

Realistically K-12 educators must be persuaded as to the benefits of incorporating additional practices which enhance learning and give students the educational foundation required to grow and succeed outside of the classroom. Even if we are successful at legitimizing and incorporating education abroad more deeply, we must still break down barriers of cost.

Education abroad opportunities are rarely free for participants or families, and for some this may be the first time families are making a significant financial investment in education. Without clearer understanding of the concrete benefits of education abroad, supported by data, and reinforced by the K-12 educational community, increased participation will continue to be an uphill battle.

One barrier to participation is the perception that education abroad at the K-12 level is unnecessary and superfluous. Conversations are often focused, at least at the administrative level, on building pre-professional competencies. As such, many don’t see education abroad as having any material impact on a student's academic growth. How then can education abroad fit in curricularly at the K-12 level, in both the private and public education sectors?

At the Diversity Abroad annual conference earlier this year, a high school focused session addressed the following questions with participants: Why is building partnerships and communities an important factor in K-12 education abroad? How can K-12 education abroad programs engage with local schools and communities? What other partnerships can add value to high school programming? How can professionals build on the global education access pipeline?

During the session, in which presenters represented three different K-12 serving organizations and the audience primarily represented higher education professionals, the dialogue revolved heavily around the need for building awareness of the value of K-12 education abroad programming and building mutually beneficial partnerships along the global education access pipeline. As more institutions of higher education set mandates for inclusive excellence and diversity, the need for partnerships at the K-12 level is logical and necessary. Presentations similar to the Diversity Abroad session this past spring are a starting point for raising awareness and bringing together higher education and K-12 organizations for collaboration, but more platforms need to be created to develop these partnerships.

The discussion generated in the Diversity Abroad session made it clear that there is a need to raise more awareness on the importance of the global education access pipeline and create more opportunities for higher education and high school professionals to connect and build mutually beneficial partnerships. It was also made clear that there is a growing number of K-12 educators who are ready to reach out and begin building these partnerships. The challenge is then bringing together higher education professionals and K-12 professionals and creating platforms for collaboration.         


It could be helpful to first paint a portrait of exactly what is happening at the K-12 level in the U.S. in the related areas of education abroad, global education and perhaps also even the world/foreign language teaching realm, from which most of the teacher advocates for spending time abroad and developing intercultural skills tended to hail traditionally. What work is being done both in schools and by the range of providers? Who is doing this work?  Who are the thought leaders and what are the professional organizations that are slowly but steadily developing so that those committed to this work are not operating in isolation?

Once there is greater awareness and clarity around what is happening in these K-12 spaces we can then look to see how to make the higher education realm aware of the richness and the growth in this sort of curricular and programmatic work.

Given the cavernous gap in professional sharing and collaboration between K-12 and higher education professionals in general education it is not a surprise that the right hand of K-12 and the left of higher education are operating largely in isolation of each other. There is no need. There are students from a range of backgrounds going abroad at younger and younger ages and being powerfully impacted by their experience. It is likely that the vast majority of these students are college bound and, if given the chance, will look to go abroad again during their degree course of study.

How to move towards understanding ourselves as a continuum of professionals supporting this work, a continuum that might expand eventually to include pre-K and global ed-minded parents on one end and the employers that are, increasingly, seeking but not always finding people with the kinds of competences and skills that education abroad are particularly well-suited to develop.

A Three-Pronged Context - Learning Abroad, Global Education and World Language Study:

On the one hand there is study/service/ed travel and adventure abroad of different types, referred to here are “learning abroad”.  These experiences tend to favor high schoolers and are dominated at present by multi-week summer and short term experiences through providers and schools themselves, though there are a handful of long-standing yearlong academic study opportunities of varying designs, from a single student taking a deep dive into a local high school and homestay (AFS, Rotary International) to a credit-granting year of US-based study with a focus on language acquisition and homestay with a cohort (SYA/School Year Abroad). None of these longer programs are free, of course, and SYA for example is priced comparably to a year of boarding school. While substantial need-based financial aid is provided in order to ensure accessibility there is always more demand than funding.

In addition there is the growing trend in K-12 schools towards global education, which is a relatively new curricular movement in schools during which a student may likely never physically leave the country, but through curricular means students develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions considered essential for life in the increasingly interconnected, interdependent work and life reality.

Last but not least is also the realm of K-12 foreign/world language study, which had traditionally been the academic department source of encouragement to K-12 students to spend time abroad and where curricular standards are directly supportive of the many rich outcomes of learning and living abroad.

Diversity/inclusion work, global programs and the independent school sector:

It is not uncommon in a well-resourced independent school for there to be a professional on the staff working on issues of creating an inclusive community, culturally sensitive classrooms and a safe environment for all to learn and grow. These schools often also provide need-based financial aid and other kinds of financial support to students of promise with little or no means. Increasingly these same schools are also developing global programs of their own, leaning on providers to help them design an experience that is in some way more mission-aligned than a typical pre-packaged travel or service abroad experience. This trend has spurred the creation of a new professional - global education coordinators and even directors. Given the smaller scale of these institutions (as compared to large colleges and universities) and the considerable overlap between cultural competency that drives diversity work and the intercultural and language skills at the heart of global education initiatives, these professionals are beginning to talk to each other. The Global Educators Benchmark Group (www.gebg.org) is a professional association that grew out of the need for these global programs professionals to build a knowledge base (including of critical incident responses) and a collegial support network. Global programs leaders in independent schools gather annually at the Global Educator Benchmark Group (GEBG) conference, hosted each year by an institution doing exemplary work in this realm.  

Global Access Pipeline (GAP): One non-profit that is facilitating dialogue between K-12, higher education, diversity, global and language professionals is the Global Access Pipeline. Their mission is to “enhance the quality and diversity of participation in international affairs”. The map of their consortium outlines the K-12 members who ‘expose’ young students to the field of international affairs, the organizations that serve as conveners, providers of internships and scholarships, as well as mentoring and PD as they get closer to the professional world where the ‘end users’ include governmental agencies, NGOs and private businesses.

The Asia Society is currently gathering educators from the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) for an annual conference. ISSN’s two-part mission is to “close the achievement gap for low-income and historically underserved secondary students and address the growing opportunity gap between what American schools typically teach and the knowledge, skills, and dispositions required for full participation in a global economy”. Their belief that “a rich, global curriculum that engaged students in investigating and addressing real-world problems could..provide a more efficient route to college and career preparedness”.

Global education-focused elementary language educators might find support through, for example, Global Language Project, a consortium member of the Global Access Pipeline. The mission of Global Language Project is provide underserved communities the chance for their students to begin studying a world language as young as possible. The major professional organization for language teachers in the US, ACTFL, is a commitment member of the Institute of International Education’s Generation Study Abroad initiative, dedicated to greatly increasing SA participation while also increasing diversity of participants and reducing any obstacles in their way.

K-12 schools and program providers do not have their own professional association. NAFSA and FORUM on Education Abroad and IIE provide standards, resources and conference opportunities, but they are either overwhelmingly or exclusively devoted to higher education. NAFSA, though beginning to expand conference sessions for K-12 professionals focus only on issues of import to those working with inbound students. Beyond attending the excellent annual conference, FORUM on Education Abroad does not yet offer K-12 education abroad professionals a way to formally join the rich professional dialogue between member institutions taking place there via some appropriate level of membership.    

It is still a surprise to the large majority of people that a high school student can do sustained study abroad, so inextricably linked is this idea to the college experience and to the mistaken notion that you need to be a young adult to successfully navigate that challenge. It is, however, becoming more commonplace for K-12 schools to organize their own educational travel for their own students. While an encouraging trend here, again, funding can become a significant obstacle for some students, as well as the effectiveness and inclusiveness of the outreach. Global programs that are only accessible to students whose family has financial means can add yet another of layer to the structural inequities already existing in school systems in the U.S.


UC Davis has presented on the concept of study abroad at several high schools during a college preparation day. There is a great opportunity for collaboration when high school students come on college campuses, too.  UC Davis, perhaps like many other campuses, collaborate with K-12 students on college preparation programs: https://www.ucdavis.edu/admissions/undergraduate/academic-preparation

While each of these programs above have a different focus, there is an opportunity to start to introduce global engagement possibilities into these college prep programs hosted by universities.  This can include coordinating school visits with other global events on campus and adding on a visit to the study abroad office to campus tours for K-12 groups.  


It is clear that there is interest among a core group of higher education professionals and K-12 professionals to partner and build upon a global education access pipeline. The inaugural year of Diversity Abroad’s High School Task Force in 2016-17 is proof of that interest. The Diversity Abroad conference session on this topic in spring 2017, proposed by this task force, proved to be a great platform for raising awareness and creating partnerships, and hopefully in building momentum to create even more space for collaboration to blossom. In moving forward, the High School Task Force will continue its work in 2017-18 to propose more sessions, create resources, and host community discussions. The hope is to bring more voices and perspectives to the conversations with a goal to bring the global education access pipeline to the forefront of conference dialogues, funding discussions, and strategic partnership development.   

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Diversity Abroad Welcomes New Team Members

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Friday, July 21, 2017

Diversity Abroad is growing! We are excited to introduce three new fellows and one new intern who will be supporting Diversity Abroad initiatives over the course of the 2017-2018 year. In its first year, the Diversity Abroad Fellowship Program invited graduate students and new professionals interested in pursuing careers or gaining professional development experience in global education to apply for the 1-year program. After a very competitive review process, Diversity Abroad is delighted to welcome three fellows to join the Diversity Abroad Team. Fellows will be collaborating with the Diversity Abroad team within the following areas: Student Support Services, Educational Resources & Member Engagement, and Event Coordination. In addition to the fellowship program, Diversity Abroad welcomes a new intern to support the Diversity Abroad Network. 


Student Support Services Fellow

Lorelle Babwah

Lorelle Babwah

Lorelle Babwah is Diversity Abroad’s Student Services Fellow.  In her day-job, Lorelle serves as Assistant Director of Student Services for the Professional Masters Programs at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. Her work focuses on improving student experience and creating opportunities for intercultural learning for domestic students and international students studying in the United States.

Lorelle is a proud double Tar Heel, holding a JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law and a BA in Psychology with a focus in Behavioral Neuroscience, also from the University of North Carolina.  Prior to working in higher education, Lorelle was in private practice focusing on immigration and criminal defense. 

Although she has adopted North Carolina as home, Lorelle’s family hails from Jamaica, Trinidad, and the US Virgin Islands.  She also grew up as an army brat, living in Panama and all over the US before landing in her current home of Durham.  As an undergraduate, Lorelle studied abroad in Botswana, and most recently spent time in parts of the Middle East and Asia for her work in support of international students.  She is excited to contribute to the Diversity Abroad community 


Educational Resources & Member Engagement Fellow

Robert B. Peterson, Ph.D.

Robert B. Peterson, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and leads the Morehouse Pan-African Global Experience II (MPAGE) Brazil in the Department of Sociology at Morehouse College. He was recently awarded a Diversity Abroad Graduate and New Professional Fellowship from the Diversity Abroad Network. His interests in education abroad began during his undergraduate years. As a NIMH-COR Fellow he was able to conduct intensive sociological field research in Cape Town, South Africa on HIV/AIDS and educator’s knowledge, attitudes and beliefs. Dr. Peterson’s research and teaching interests focuses on issues of the intersectionality of Race, Class, & Gender; The Sociology of Health & Illness; HIV/AIDS; Sexual Violence & Sexual Consent; Gender Expression (Masculinities) & Health Outcomes; & Internationalization & Education Abroad.

Dr. Peterson has proficiency teaching several courses and is experienced with planning, developing, and executing programmatic events related to study abroad and gender/sexuality programing. Particularly, he gained executive and programmatic experience by serving as a Program Manager for a Ford Foundation Funded Faces of Manhood Initiative and currently serves as one of the Associate Directors of the MPAGE Ghana 2014 and MPAGE II Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador and Ghana Study Abroad Programs. Recently, Dr. Peterson was selected to assist in the Faculty-Led Alternative Spring Break to Haiti Education Abroad Experience guiding 14 young African American men abroad. 

Specifically, his ongoing service to the college and the sociology department has been in the planning, organizing, execution, and assessment of successful MPAGE study abroad programs. The Brazil program commenced the first ever study abroad experience to Bahia, Brazil in summer 2015 with 10 students and two faculty members. Dr. Peterson’s extensive experience with the logistical and organizational structure of study abroad programs lead to an increase awareness and participation in MPAGE Bahia. He organized interest meetings and Study Abroad Fairs that increased recruitment efforts, established a more efficient on-line application infrastructure that streamlined and recorded data of applicants, and created a new financial model that increased the number of student participants in the program. He has experience with education abroad programs that include service learning, curriculum based, and civic-engagement. 

Dr. Peterson received his B.A. in Sociology from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and received his Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. During his personal time, he enjoys cooking (& eating), traveling, community involvement, watching/reading cable news programs (political/social commentary) and socializing with family, fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi, Inc.) and friends. He self-identifies as a relatively private person (as much as a Scorpio can be ☺) and in 2017 he joined Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram—although not a fan--yet.


Event Coordination Fellow 

Lauren Griggs

Lauren is the Diversity Abroad Graduate & New Professional Event Coordination Fellow. She assists in the organization and execution of events such as the Annual Diversity Abroad Conference, Regional Workshops and Online Webinars. Lauren supports Diversity Abroad’s presence at the global education conferences and aids in the planning and development of the Global Institute for Inclusive Leadership. 

Lauren received her B.S. in Engineering Science, with a concentration in Nanomedicine from The University of Virginia in 2012. Currently, Lauren is working towards completing her doctoral studies in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Her work in the Cell and Matrix Biomechanics Laboratory at VCU involves investigation into the mechanism governing how cells interpret mechanical signals from their surroundings and use those signals to grow new tissues. Lauren published this work in the journal Matrix Biology and has presented her research at several national conferences, including the Biomedical Engineering Society Annual Conference, where she received the Innovation and Career Development Travel Award. She was recently awarded the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship through the National Institute of Health. 

Lauren also serves as the Program Coordinator for the VCU Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program. In this work, Lauren strives to increasing the number of underrepresented minority students earning baccalaureate degrees and matriculating to graduate school. Lauren’s passion lies in working directly with students, serving as an advisor, inspiring others through meaningful career discussions and helping others to gain confidence as well as succeed in their chosen degree fields. Upon completion of her doctoral degree, Lauren plans to continue to develop her commitment to outreach and diversity, with aspirations of pursuing a career in university administration and research. 


Diversity Abroad Network Intern 

Shayna Trujillo

Shayna is currently serving as the Diversity Abroad Network Intern while completing her Master’s Degree in International Education Management from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. She is working specifically with the Diversity Abroad Network to refine materials for the Access, Inclusion, and Diversity Workshops. 

Throughout her career, Shayna has fostered understanding of, collaboration with, and opportunities for underserved and underrepresented populations. Before coming to the field of international education, she worked in early childhood education, community organizing, and institutions of higher education. Shayna is interested in issues of gender equity, intercultural competency, and working with educators to create high quality, high impact programs at home and abroad.  She has lived, conducted university-level research, worked, and volunteered in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and the United States. She is fluent in English and Spanish, and is working towards fluency in Russian.  Shayna is thrilled to be joining the Diversity Abroad team and looking forward to contributing to the great work that they do every day. 

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