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Pushing the Envelope - Diversity Abroad Initiatives for 2015

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Friday, January 16, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Back in 1989, director Robert Zemeckis and the rest of the filmmakers for Back to the Future II made some pretty exciting predictions about what life would be like in 2015. While hoverboards and flying cars have yet to materialize as modes of transportation, 2015 is still set to be an exciting year, especially for those of us in international education. For Diversity Abroad, 2015 marks eight years of operation, and it promises to be a year with new opportunities for engagement, enhanced resources for students and professionals, and broader initiatives that will impact diversity and inclusion efforts in international education and exchange.

Here are a few developments to look out for from Diversity Abroad that will impact access, inclusion, and diversity in international education.

1. Launch of new DiversityAbroad.com

On January 20th, Diversity Abroad will relaunch its flagship website, DiversityAbroad.com. The new site has been designed and developed with one goal, “Preparing the Next Generation of Global Leaders.” Through articles, student stories, resources guides, online events, and exclusive scholarships, DiversityAbroad.com gives students and parents from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds the tools to make meaningful international education experience a reality. DiversityAbroad.com has been and will continue to be the most robust free online rescouce for connecting students and recent graduates to international study, intern, graduate, and career opportunities. Visit DiversityAbroad.com on January 20th to learn how our new resources can help more of your students go abroad

2. Release of version 1.0 of the A.I.D. Roadmap

In February 2015 the Diversity Abroad Network will officially roll out version 1.0 of the Access, Inclusion, and Diversity in International Education (A.I.D.) Roadmap, the most comprehensive evaluation and benchmarking tool targeting access, inclusion, and diversity in international education. After nearly two years of development, this innovative resource will give institutions and organizations clear guidance on the types of practices that should be employed to increase participation and better serve the needs of diverse and underrepresented students in education abroad. Learn more about the A.I.D Roadmap.

3. Inaugural Global Student Leadership Summit

On March 22 - 24, 2015, while hundreds of professionals are gather for the 3rd Annual Diversity Abroad Conference, a group of exceptional students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, all with international experience, will gather in New Orleans for the inaugural Global Student Leadership Summit. Students from around the country will participate in hands-on trainings and student leadership sessions, identify and share emerging trends in international education, engage in critical dialogue, stay abreast of relevant and new resources, establish and maintain relationships with like-minded student leaders, and connect with higher education professionals and professionals from various public and private institutions and organizations. Learn more about how to nominate your student for the Global Student Leadership Summit.

4. Expanding the pipeline - K-12 Engagement

It’s no secret, the earlier students are exposed to global opportunities, the more likely they are to participate in them. While Diversity Abroad has always had resources for high school students, in 2015 and going forward direct outreach to high school students and their parents, as well as providing training and resources to K-12 educators, will be an essential aspect of our work.

5. New Projects & Services

2015 would not be complete without Diversity Abroad rolling out new services to its members and higher education community. What are they? You’ll have to wait and see, but what I can say is that we will continue to develop and fund new and innovative ways for students to connect to international opportunities. We will also expand opportunities for international, diversity, and other professionals to connect and have the resources to serve all of their students.

2015 will be a busy year for Diversity Abroad and everyone committed to increasing access and promoting diversity and inclusion in international education. We’re looking forward to partnering with you and your colleagues as we continue to lead the field of international education toward diversity and inclusive excellence. Do you have questions or suggestions for us? Interested in getting involved in these efforts? Send us a message and let us know your thoughts on access, inclusion, and diversity in international education: 
(members@diversitynetwork.org)

Tags:  AID Roadmap  Education Abroad Diversity  Outreach 

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International Exchange: Stepping Away from Cultural Tourism

Posted By Lily Lopez-McGee, Thursday, December 9, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stepping out of a long tour bus, a group of American students work their way into the common area of a small non-profit in San Lucas, Nicaragua. After hearing the organization’s director speak about its work with the local community and the challenges facing Nicaraguan youth, the students ask a few questions and are hurried back out to the bus to make their next stop. The dialogue stops there. The students go on with their courses and are unlikely to discuss the organization or their experience again.

In preparing for international study, students are generally advised into setting academic and professional goals for what they would like to gain from their experience. Though these are worthwhile goals, rarely do you find that emphasis is placed on true immersion into the local culture.Instead what is often the case is that students are conditioned to act as cultural tourists.This means that though they live near local students, they interact primarily with other foreigners.This is in part due to the pre-departure readiness of students, but it is also a result of program design and implementation. In an ideal scenario, a program provider would integrate true immersion through activities that allow study abroad students to peer into the real lives of their local peers.

A relatively new documentary titled Crossing Borders demonstrates one director’s attempt to create such an environment for American students.The goal of the film is to “support the development of intercultural empathy and critical thinking skills, and initiate dialogue between students of different cultures” outside of the classroom. Director Arnd Wächter’s Crossing Borders documentary challenges the traditional approach of study abroad programs that place American students with other American students, a method that rarely results in students engaging young people from the host country. International exchange should be more than simply taking classes in a different country; it should be an opportunity to truly exchange ideas, experiences and beliefs to better understand our differences, and more importantly, share our similarities.

Through the documentary, Wachter tries “to overcome the artificial separation between ‘Us’ and ‘Them.’” In a system where economic, diplomatic, and military exchanges require a deeper cultural understanding of one another, international programs should work to expose participants to other cultures and ways of thinking not only through academic training but also through personal interactions with the local community. Homestays and cultural site visits alone cannot take the place of thoughtful conversations between study abroad students and their peers in the host country.

In addition to offering students on both sides the opportunity to explore other perspectives, students are able to reflect on their own beliefs, experiences, and ideas - something Karen Rodriguez describes as “an awareness of how one is informed by one’s own culture and makes sense of cultural differences subjectively.” These skills - empathy and critical reflection - though hard to measure, are imperative to a student’s successful entry into a global job market.

As educators, program providers, advisers, and mentors, we must encourage young people to have these conversations. There is a great opportunity to change the way young people see the world and communicate with those who think differently. Moving away from cultural tourism and stepping toward models of true cultural immersion will have a positive long-term impact on the next generation of international leaders.

Lily Lopez-McGee currently serves as Program Manager with the UNCF Special Programs Corporation in the Institute for International Public Policy division. Among her many duties, Ms. Lopez-McGee manages student internships, language institutes and social media outreach.  She is fluent in Spanish and has traveled through parts of Latin America and Western Europe. She is a graduate of the University of Washington Evans School for Public Affairs, where she earned her Master's of Public Administration.

Tags:  100000 Strong Initiative  AID Roadmap  career  China  culture shock  Diversity  International Exchange  International Students 

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