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A Message to the Diversity Abroad Community

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Friday, November 11, 2016

Andrew GordonTen years ago when I founded Diversity Abroad it was based on the notion that all students should have equitable access to global educational opportunities. Over the last decade, Diversity Abroad has grown into a vibrant community of students and professionals from all racial, national, economic, ability, sexual, and religious backgrounds. We’ve come together, behind this movement, because we share a common vision for the future; one of mutual understanding and one in which all young people have equitable access to the type of educational experiences that will help them appreciate other perspectives, develop empathy, and be prepared to take on the global challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.


There is concern in our community, across the U.S. as well as throughout the world, for what the future holds. Based on the tone of the presidential campaign and the climate on our campuses, even before a single vote was cast, many of our colleagues and students expressed concern and fear. These feelings are real and should not be cast aside. Regardless of one's politics, as professionals we have chosen to work with and support students, domestic and international, from all backgrounds and walks of life. If we are to build trust and credibility with the students we serve we must be there to support our students during challenging times. We cannot hide behind the shield of international education and think that we do not have an important role in supporting our domestic students from diverse and marginalized groups. We all have a role in fostering an inclusive climate where students are able to thrive and succeed. Further, we work with colleagues from marginalized groups who share the same fear and concern that many of our students have. Being an ally and supportive of our colleagues will foster the kind of inclusivity that makes an office or an organization truly great.


It is abundantly clear that now more than ever our work is needed. There is a need to engage with those who hold different perspectives and beliefs and to develop mutual understanding here and abroad. There is a need to renew our commitment to partnering in support of marginalized communities and for self examination as we ask ourselves,“How can I be an ally to my colleagues and students who are from traditionally marginalized groups?” More than anything there is a need to recognize that the work we do isn’t just about student mobility. It never has been. The work we do has the power to change lives. It opens minds and can help young people develop an appreciation for difference and empathy, qualities that are essential if they are to become positive agents of change. This type of understanding is crucial for our society to be one where everyone can feel included, prosper, and be successful.


For Diversity Abroad nothing changes. We will continue to do the following:

  • Lead the field of international education and exchange toward diversity and inclusive excellence and ensure that our policies and practices equitably support all students.

  • Advocate for equitable access to global education at the local, national, and international level

  • Support marginalized groups, domestic and international, before, during, and after participating in an international education or exchange program

  • Provide resources, training, and guidance to the thousands of students, young people, and professionals who are part of our community


One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill who says, “The pessimist sees the challenge in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every challenge.” Yes, we face an uncertain future and challenging times may lie ahead. However, we can choose to remain optimistic and not allow the negative tone to dampen our spirits or our resolve. In doing so, whether we work with education abroad students or international students coming to our campuses, we will find the opportunities to support our students and continue the movement to develop the next generation of leaders by making international education diverse, equitable, and inclusive.


Onwards and upwards.


All my best,



Tags:  Diversity  Elections  Inclusion  International Education  Study Abroad 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: University at Albany - SUNY

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 12, 2016

Institution name

University at Albany, SUNY



Albany, NY


Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000) 

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

Initially we became members when SUNY Global became a member covering the whole SUNY System. After a few events were held in New York and we attended the inaugural conference, we quickly realized that the Diversity Network was something we wanted to remain part of. We particular value the way the Diversity Network has facilitated cooperation between campus stakeholders who are usually not involved in education abroad, such as Multicultural Affairs, Financial Aid, and Student Affairs. 


How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

4 years


What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education? 

The conference, the publications, and most recently the webinars have assisted in training new staff. 


How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds? 

The many ideas and strategies we've picked up from conferences, webinars, and just talking with Diversity Abroad Network staff has offered more tools to better recruit students and has also heightened the interest and excitement of staff in undertaking this challenge. 


Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking.  

We are working closely with our Freshman Experience program to prepare students for education abroad and also offering unique alternate spring break and winter sessions education abroad programs for underclassmen, especially freshmen.  

Tags:  diversity  inclusion  members 

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Getting the Word Out: Is it Enough?

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Monday, July 13, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Through participation in the Global Access Pipeline (GAP) and other venues, many organizations are committed to connecting students from diverse backgrounds to the prospect of international experiences as they move along the “pipeline” from K-12 through college. This “pipeline” provides innumerable opportunities to convey the message that international experiences are valuable and attainable for all students, especially for those from traditionally underrepresented communities. As professionals seeking to advance diversity and inclusive excellence within international education, awareness of how students move through this so-called “pipeline” from K-12 through college is imperative. International Educators at the higher education level often wonder if students are exposed to information about education abroad throughout their educational careers, at different stages along the pipeline. But is it enough to expose students from diverse backgrounds to these messages during their formative years? Or do we also need to consider who is delivering these messages?

A quick review of the demographic background of public school teachers and faculty members across the country indicates that students from diverse backgrounds are taught primarily by white educators. The National Center for Education Statistics indicates a mismatch in today’s classrooms. Now that “minority” students constitute the majority of public school students, the teaching force remains over 80% non-Hispanic white. Within higher education, faculty statistics are even more dismal. Not only is the faculty predominantly non-Hispanic white, Native American faculty member participation has been stagnant while faculty participation among Black males has actually been decreasing in recent years. Anecdotally, we know that students from diverse backgrounds are often drawn to study abroad when they are encouraged to do so by a faculty member, particularly when the faculty member represents the student’s background.

While research examining the academic impact (see here and here) -- often measured through test scores -- of same-race teaching instruction is inconclusive, many argue for other benefits.  

Leslie T. Fenwick, Dean of the Howard University School of Education, outlined some of the benefits to African-American and Hispanic/Latino students in schools with large percentages of same-race teachers in her recent Diverse Issues in Higher Education article entitled “Who’s Teaching Whom?”:

Tremendous benefits accrue to African- American and Hispanic/Latino students who attend schools with high concentrations of African-American or Hispanic/Latino teachers. These students are less likely to be expelled or suspended; more likely to be recommended for gifted education; less likely to be misplaced in special education; and more likely to graduate high school in four years.

Likewise, in the recent New York Times article “Where are the Teachers of Color?”, professor of education at Stanford University, Thomas S. Dee, said, “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you.”

Professor Dee’s statement is particularly relevant to our efforts to encourage students to consider international opportunities along the pipeline. For many of the traditionally underrepresented groups within international education, students are coming to college as the first in their families. This often means that they have not had role models at home who have pursued international study and other such opportunities. It is paramount, then, that the International Education community (from K-12 to higher education) prioritize hiring and retention practices to ensure that student backgrounds are proportionally represented amongst their educators. If we are taking the statistics and related implications seriously, there is no time to wait. Here are some areas for consideration:

What other resources and initiatives have been effective at your institution/organization to promote diversity and inclusion within global opportunities?

Tags:  global education  inclusion  Minority Students  Outreach  Study Abroad 

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First, But Not Alone

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

As many organizations and institutions align with the Generation Study Abroad Initiative to double study abroad participation over the next 5 years, it is imperative that the international education community continue to reach out in effective ways to the student groups who have traditionally been disproportionately underrepresented in study abroad, such as first-generation college students (first-gen students). Study Abroad participation statistics nationwide, while slowly shifting, continue to mirror socioeconomic and racial disparities also present in the US higher education system. While not always the case, first-generation college students often identify as racial/ethnic minorities and/or with low income backgrounds.

For the purposes of this blog post, first generation college student, in line with the  federally-funded TRIO programs definition, will refer to a student whose parent(s) (adoptive/birth/custodial) did not complete a bachelor’s degree. Much of what we already know about increasing access to college for first-gen students is also applicable when addressing education abroad opportunities for these students. As we consider new strategies to increase involvement in education abroad among first-gen populations, both access and support are crucial factors. 

Often, although not always, finances are a big concern for first-gen students. Despite the availability of funding options for education abroad through a student’s home institution, the Gilman Scholarship Program, among many other funding sources, the belief that education abroad is out-of-reach financially still persists for many first-gen students. Maintaining a job (or several) while pursuing a college degree, and sending money home to the family, are often of primary concern for first-gen students. A study abroad experience may be perceived as a luxury or an expensive “vacation” that doesn’t fit into a first-gen student’s budget or tight academic plan. What strategies and policies exist within education abroad offices to address these concerns? How might education abroad offices adjust messaging campaigns to more effectively communicate with first generation college students? How is the value of a study abroad experience, especially as it relates to future career plans, demonstrated in campus outreach efforts? Where, on campus and beyond, would messaging reach first-gen students?

In addition to finances, first-gen students are sometimes hesitant to leave the “comfort” of the college community to embark on an overseas experience. The New York Time’s recent piece entitled First-Generation Students Unite, describes a national movement, primarily among the more elite US institutions of higher education, where first-gen students are “coming out” on their college campuses to create communities of belonging. On many campuses across the country, institutional culture assumes that students understand how to navigate the college environment. For first-gen students who may not have been previously exposed to college life through family members, navigating the college environment and its many unspoken norms can be overwhelming and even isolating. Programs such as the federally-funded TRIO program and the POSSE Foundation are including community-building components into the college experience for first-gen students in an effort to address this. These efforts often include intensive summer pre-seasons for incoming first-years to build a cohort of student and staff support that can be accessed throughout a student’s college career. As demonstrated in the New York Times article, first-gen students are also forming their own student groups, even across campuses, to create this needed community. With this in mind, education abroad can seem like a step in the opposite direction, potentially severing ties with a close-knit community on-campus. Study abroad can be intimidating and possibly even threatening, especially when time and effort have been invested in cultivating a supportive community on-campus.

These represent only a few things international educators may consider as we work to provide access and support to the first-gen communities on our campuses. How are we adjusting our messaging and support to address implicit bias? What do we currently understand about first-generation college students? Where do we need to invest in further research? What cohort or other community-supportive models for study abroad may appeal to first-gen students?

Tags:  Education Abroad Diversity  first generation students  inclusion  Study Abroad 

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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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