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Meet Eduardo Contreras: Diversity Abroad Community Highlight

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 19, 2018

Eduardo Contreras, Ed.D.
Director Studies Abroad, Office of Studies Abroad
University of Portland

Level of Experience: 10+ years

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

From a personal perspective, my parents valued education, but they did not have the background, financial resources, or frame of references to conceptualize what study abroad meant. Between my mother and father, only my mother had a college degree from our hometown, El Paso Community College. In our family, the way relatives had seen the world was through military service. We often spoke Spanish because of our familial ties to Mexico, and we connected with our heritage in many ways through daily life on the US/Mexico border; however, we also identified as Americans.

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

Today, as a professional, I’m both grateful and frustrated about my path to study abroad. I’m deeply grateful to the professor who took an interest in me and opened my eyes to the opportunity. I’m also grateful that my family supported me even if they were not sure what I was doing. To be fair to them, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. I’m also frustrated that so many students like me may slip through the cracks and never have their eyes opened to the opportunities of international education while they are undergraduates. For these reasons, I think constantly about ways to increase access for students of all backgrounds to study abroad. Access though, is just the first step because inclusion is also essential for the educational benefits of study abroad to impact all students.   

What aspects of your work are you most excited about?

Supporting students to find new opportunities (both in the world) but also in their own personal development. In relation to this work, collaborating with colleagues across disciplines and institutional silos is the most challenging yet rewarding work I am fortunate to do on a regular basis. 

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

Sustaining support in terms of time, effort, and money for diversity, inclusion and internationalization. Our institution has prioritized the work D&I and internationalization in our president’s strategic plan called “Vision 2020.” Supporting and encouraging the long-term financial and human resources to support these important mandates will be a tough challenge. It will also be tough to request time and effort from busy colleagues who are doing good work in other areas to support these vital efforts collectively as a university. To overcome this challenge, I’m lucky to work with a “coalition of the willing” within the faculty, staff, and administration to build greater collective support for this work.

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

I'm proud to have cultivated long-lasting relationships with colleagues in the field--many of whom are doing exciting work in D&I and International Education. I am also proud to see the fruits of my labors in the students who go on to do wonderful things. The truth is though, I am far more critical of my regular output than anyone and I rarely take the time to answer this good question.

Do you have any heroes? Who are they and why?

As cliched as it is, my mother was our family anchor. She was the primary bread winner for much of our lives and her work ethic and humane treatment of others are a model that I aspire to on a daily basis. The Urdu Progressive writer Ismat Chugtai is another hero. She wrote intrepidly (and beautifully) in India on topics such as women's sexuality, social class status, working class dignity, religious pluralism, etc. at a time when no men, let alone women, did such things.

Which two organizations outside your own do you know the most people at and why?

Probably, my previous institutions of employment because I have kept in touch with many former colleagues around the country.

What do you work toward in your free time?

I work toward maintaining my sanity and benefiting from my family support. I'm lucky to have a partner who is thoughtful, supportive, loving and funny. Spending as much time with her, and friends and family is what I do in my precious free time.

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

Brown. I think brown compliments most other colors and can blend in to create a cohesive scene. It's not a bold color that stands out like highlighter pink, but it's not totally innocuous. It's good to have brown in landscapes, portraits, still life's, and most compositions...I hope I'm useful too. 

Recent Engagement with Diversity Abroad

Chair: Annual Diversity Abroad Planning Committee (2016, 2017, 2018) 
Presenter: 6th Annual Diversity Abroad Conference

Tags:  community  Diversity Abroad Conference 

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Professional Development Opportunities to Learn More about Advising and Diversity

Posted By Administration, Friday, May 15, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

As we aim to increase access, inclusion, and diversity in international education, professional development is critical. Our offices and organizations can only be as successful as the level of training that has been provided to our staff who are directly supporting and indirectly impacting the students we serve. To this end, it is important that we begin to identify professional development opportunities to assist us in these endeavors. Although international education conferences are able to briefly touch on subjects of diversity and advising, the wide variety of topics that are discussed do not leave a lot of room for deep exploration of these specific areas.

Here are five conferences (in addition to the Annual Diversity Abroad Conference) to consider adding to your professional development plan to enhance your knowledge of diversity and advising in higher education.

NACADA Annual & Regional Conferences
NACADA is the Global Community for Academic Advising and is focused on building skills, knowledge, and awareness around topics of academic advising. Most study abroad advisors don’t view themselves as academic advisors, which can feel like a disconnect for the student. Consider attending this year’s NACADA conference, themed “What happens in advising, stays with students” to gain theoretical insight and practical tools for advising.
Annual conference typically held in October (though state drive-ins and regional meetings are held throughout the year)

NCORE - National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education
NCORE is a great opportunity to explore issues of race and ethnicity in American Higher Education. With sessions like “Stereotype Threat: A Threat in the Air, Mind and Body,” “Exploring How Faculty in Higher Education Respond to an Assessment of their Intercultural Competence,” and “How to Have Successful Classroom Discussions on Diversity Issues,” it’s clear that this conference can benefit everyone working to improve access, inclusion and diversity in international education from pre-departure to on-site and reentry.
Typically held in May

National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) Annual Conference
Although NADOHE is geared toward campus diversity officers, the rich discussion can also benefit those of us working in areas of diversity in international education. This year’s theme was “Getting It Done: Rising to Opportunities and Challenges in Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education.”
Typically held in March

Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Annual Conference
Although some study abroad offices consider themselves an academic unit and not as part of student services, there is a lot to be learned from the student engagement of student services professionals on our campuses. Since we are all interested in a common goal of crafting a valuable and enriching student experience, NASPA may be an opportunity to connect with your colleagues who work across campus and better understand their practices and learn from their experiences.
Typically held in March

Association for Orientation, Transition, & Retention in Higher Education NODA Annual Conference
NODA can provide insight into one of the key components of serving our diverse students well - preparation and orientation. With topics like “Online Orientation Trends: How To Measure Learning Outcomes & Assess Program Success”, this is sure to be a valuable event for the person responsible for orientation programming.
Typically held in late October/November (regular online learning and regional state workshops are held throughout the year)

We hope that you will consider adding one of these conferences to your professional development plan this year. There are many more conferences in higher education that can help you build knowledge, skills and awareness around topics of advising and diversity. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully this gives you somewhere to start. Have you participated in other conferences outside of international education that have been valuable? Which conferences would you add to this list?

Tags:  advising  diversity  Diversity Abroad Conference  professional development  professional skills 

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Learning and Sharing about Diversity and Inclusion in International Education

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 10, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

In 2012, the Diversity Abroad staff set off on a track to develop a national conference that would allow international and diversity educators a space to talk specifically about how to increase access to and improve services in international education for diverse and underrepresented students. Some three years later, the Diversity Abroad Conference is going strong and provides a space to speak candidly about the challenges and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion efforts in international education programming.

The Third Annual Diversity Abroad Conference took place on March 22-24 and saw an unexpected increase in participation with a more than 60% increase in registration from the inaugural conference in 2013. With professionals representing various institutions, departments, organizations, and providers, this year’s conference was abuzz with conversations addressing challenges and sharing good practices related to access, inclusion, and diversity in international education. Sessions represented a wide range of topics that included addressing the needs of specific student populations, developing collaborative partnerships, developing inclusive advising strategies for all students, and more. The conversations didn’t stop in the sessions, though. Those who were in attendance can attest to the fact that participants carried the dialogue into the hallways and beyond the conference space!

There was also an addition to the conference this year that added an element of insight we haven’t seen at other events. The Global Student Leadership Summit, a student track to the Diversity Abroad Conference, brought 23 students from around the country together to participate in the inaugural summit. Students did not only participate in sessions focused on building up their skills, they also engaged with professional conference goers during several all conference events. They added an energy to the conversation that reminded many of us why we do what we do.

The conversations from the Diversity Abroad Conference didn’t stop after the closing reception on Tuesday, though. Many of the conference participants continued on to participate in the Forum on Education Abroad Conference just down the street, where the topic of diversity and inclusion seems to have also grown. Just since last year, the Forum’s conference schedule included an expanded offering of sessions focused on diverse student populations and institutional diversity and inclusion efforts in international education. For many of us whose work centers on the intersection of these issues, it was refreshing and exciting to see the field take a leap forward in increasing the national dialogue happening around inclusion in education abroad.

To those who weren’t able to join the conference, fret not! Resources and presentations are available in the Resource Library on the site so that you can take a look at some of the conversations that happened in March! And don’t forget, our call for proposals for next year’s conference happening in Atlanta, GA (April 3-5) will be open in May!

Tags:  Diversity  Diversity Abroad Conference  Education Abroad Diversity  global education  inclusion  Study Abroad 

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Making the Most of Your Diversity Abroad Conference Experience

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 13, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Attending conferences can, on the surface, seem like time that you could be spending doing more productive activities in the office. More than just an opportunity to present about your work or connect with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while, conferences can also serve as incubators for new ideas and spaces for like-minded individuals to motivate and energize each other to make change happen on their campus.

The Diversity Abroad Conference is a venue that not only allows higher education professionals to connect with their colleagues in different offices and campuses, it’s a space for people to discuss ideas that often have a way of making it to the sidelines during regular operating hours. Let’s face it, diversity and inclusion in international education or international education in diversity and inclusion efforts aren’t often at the center of the agenda for most offices. In many cases, the convergence of these topics happens only a handful of times throughout the academic year. For this reason (among others) we are excited that for 2.5 days we’ll get to bring these topics to the center of our focus and create actionable plans for how we can all enhance diversity and inclusion efforts in international education.

We’ve pulled together a short list (here’s a more comprehensive list if you’re interested) of ways that can help ensure you gain the most from these 2.5 days of intense dialogue, interactive sessions, and thought-provoking discussion.

Tags:  Diversity Abroad Conference  professional skills 

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Success in Chicago: Highlights from the Inaugural Diversity Abroad Conference

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On April 1-2 Diversity Abroad hosted the first national conference focused on discussing issues of diversity and inclusion in international education. Nearly 200 participants from around the country joined Diversity Abroad on the Loyola University Chicago campus in downtown Chicago for two days of workshops, networking, speakers, and discussions.

If you were not able to join us for this year's inaugural conference, please stay tuned for an opportunity to participate in a webcast that will highlight insights, trends, and topics from this year's conference. Information about this opportunity will be available on the Diversity Network website later this week.

Remember to also save the date for our 2nd Annual Diversity Abroad Conference that will be held on March 31-April 1, 2014 in San Diego, CA! Information about submitting workshop and panel sessions for next year will be available in June. This is an opportunity you won't want to miss.

Tags:  Diversity Abroad Conference 

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