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First Lady Michelle Obama Encourages Study Abroad to China With 100,000 Strong Initiative - Special Emphasis Put on HBCU's & HSI's

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Thursday, January 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

With China’s President Hu Jintao in Washington for a State Visit, First Lady Michelle Obama used the occasion as an opportunity to encourage American high school, community college and university students to pursue study abroad. Speaking at Howard University, Mrs. Obama pressed the importance of American students pursuing study abroad as a whole, and specifically study abroad in China.

“Studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well rounded educational experience,” Mrs. Obama said.“It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy.”She also emphasized that study abroad does not just help individual students, but also the United States as a whole. “Studying in countries like China is about so much more than improving your own prospects in the global market… When you study abroad you’re actually helping to make America stronger.”

While the First Lady did an excellent job in highlighting the individual student and national benefits to study abroad, she was also keenly aware of the challenges we face in increasing the number and diversity of students studying in China. “There are too many students here in the United States that don’t have that chance (to study abroad) and some that do are reluctant to seize it. Maybe they feel that study abroad is something only rich kids do or maybe kids who go to certain colleges.” The Diversity Network agrees with the Obama administration that not only is study abroad to China important, but also that it is essential that diverse and underrepresented students take advantage of international education opportunities to China and other countries.

Reaching the goals of the “100,000 Strong Initiative” to increase the number and diversity of students studying in China will require that we as international educators accept the challenge and work to be more effective in recruiting and advising underserved students for study abroad to China. To be successful in this endeavor, we must do a better job in communicating to diverse students and their parents the positive impact a study abroad experience can have on their future academic and career goals. Reaching the 100,000 Strong goals will also require the nation’s Hispanic Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges and Universities to increase capacity to provide more of their students with international education opportunities to China.

The 100,000 Strong Initiative’s goal to increase the number and diversity of American students studying in China is exciting. To fully realize this goal will require innovative approaches for reaching underserved students who traditionally have not taken advantage of international education opportunities. The Diversity Network and its members are committed to supporting the 100,000 Strong Initiative and any other initiative, which aims at diversifying the locations and the students who pursue international education.

Andrew Gordon is the founder and president of Diversity Abroad. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco, where he studied business, economics and Spanish. He has studied, traveled and worked throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and South America. He started Diversity Abroad in 2006 with the focus of increasing global awareness and engagement among students and young people with an emphasis on diverse and under-served populations.

Tags:  100000 Strong Initiative  China  Education Abroad Diversity  First Lady Michelle Obama  HBCU  HSI  Minority Students  Study Abroad 

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Changing the Face of International Educators

Posted By Administration, Thursday, October 28, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

As the international education field strives to address issues of diversity and equity, what we cannot overlook is the lack of diversity among international education professionals. The demographic of international educators does not reflect the diversity of the students we aim to serve. Given that so many education abroad professionals are former study abroad participants themselves, the lack of diversity in the study abroad student population has a direct impact on the demographics of professionals in the field. The implications of this cannot be ignored. While we recognize that direct outreach to underserved students and their parents is essential to diversifying education abroad, it is equally clear that these students and parents may respond more favorably to advisors and education abroad representatives with whom they can identify.

Although I do not subscribe to the notion that one has to share the ethnic background of a student to effectively advise them, I do believe that these connections can enhance the relationship between advisor, student and their parents. This is particularly true when working with parents of first generation students and of students from certain ethnic backgrounds. That said, the reality is that few institutions are in the position to maintain a professional staff that reflects the diversity of the students on their campus and despite recent growth in international education, the number of diverse applicants for new positions remains relatively low. So what can be done?

First, we have to look for opportunities to partner with professionals of diverse backgrounds at our institutions and leverage these relationships to assist in reaching underserved students for international education opportunities. Although this does not directly diversify the field, it does help encourage more diverse students to study abroad by identifying its importance among diverse faculty and staff with whom students trust. Thus this increases the diversity among study abroad participants, which in turn increases the pool of potential candidates from diverse backgrounds for future international education positions.

We also have new opportunities to diversify the field each time an international education position becomes available, be it study abroad, international student services or other international education positions. When our administrative budget allows for a new hire, who are we encouraging to apply?Are promoting these opportunities to the same audience that we always have? By proactively promoting these opportunities to professionals who enhance and are committed to diversity, we will increase the number of diverse applicants for international education positions and we send a strong message to our peers about our institutions’ commitment to diversity among international educators. Many institutions have a diversity office that is responsible for maintaining a diverse workforce on campus. Be sure that you’re liaising with them when new positions open. Our colleagues in these offices can lead us to resources for reaching diverse candidates. There is also the Diversity Network Career Center, which was created as a platform for institutions and organizations that are serious and committed to recruiting diverse candidates to fill international education administration, faculty, and staff positions.

By creating and supporting efforts to diversify the field, collectively we can change the face of international educators and the study abroad students. This is no small task; it requires us to be open to new ideas and approaches in order to reach more diverse communities.The field of international education is comprised of creative, cosmopolitan and compassionate professionals who do this work, in large part, for the intrinsic value that it brings.As we look to the future, we must continue to display these qualities in our approach to diversifying the field of international education.

Andrew Gordon is the founder and president of Diversity Abroad. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco, where he studied business, economics and Spanish. He has studied, traveled and worked throughout Europe, South America and Middle East. He started Diversity Abroad in 2006 with the focus of significantly increasing the number of non-traditional students who pursue international education opportunities.

Tags:  career  Diversity  Education Abroad Diversity  inclusion  International Exchange  Minority Students  mission  Outreach  professional skills  Resources  Study Abroad  Underrepresented Students 

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"We have to find ways to extend (global) opportunities to as many young people as possible"

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Updated: Monday, July 18, 2016

Michelle Obama gave a resounding endorsement of study abroad and global engagement during her recent commencement speech at George Washington University. The First Lady not only discussed the importance of study abroad and global experiences, but encouraged those graduates who had studied abroad to “convince the students behind you to try study-abroad programs — especially students from communities and backgrounds who might not normally consider it.”

What kind of students don’t “consider” study abroad? Turns out Michelle Obama (then Michelle Robinson) had been one.

“I grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, where the idea of spending some time abroad just didn’t register,” the First Lady told the 2010 graduating class. “My brother and I were the first in our families to go to college, so we were way more focused on just getting in, getting through, and getting on with our lives. So I just never considered that I needed to take an additional journey or expand the boundaries of my own life.”

Michelle Robinson Obama’s story is not unique. Many first-generation college students can relate to her experience; the idea of studying abroad just isn’t part of their academic plan. But that’s generally not the students’ fault — many of them lack awareness about the benefits and opportunities that study abroad can bring, and many think that study abroad just wouldn’t be possible for them.

If no one is informing and educating the students about the opportunities, how would they know? And if they don’t know about the benefits of study abroad, why would they go?

At a time when global engagement is more important than ever for young people, we as academic professionals must do our part to ensure that all students have equal access to global opportunities. 

This doesn't mean that all students will take advantage of study abroad and other international educational opportunities. It means that we must do our part to ensure that students and parents know about the availability of study abroad, how it could impact their lives, and then make it accessible.

Mrs. Obama summed it up by saying “As quickly as the 21st-century global economy moves, we have to find ways to extend those (global) opportunities to as many young people as possible.”

The “we” she speaks of includes all of the academic community. I invite all you to join me and Diversity Abroad as we work to increase diversity and access in study abroad and other global education programs.

Andrew Gordon is the founder and president of Diversity Abroad. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco, where he studied business, economics and Spanish. He has studied, traveled and worked throughout Europe, South America and Middle East. He started Diversity Abroad in 2006 with the focus of significantly increasing the number of non-traditional students who pursue international education opportunities.

Tags:  education abroad  global education  study abroad 

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