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Reflections on the NACE 2017 Conference

Posted By Christopher LeGrant, Friday, July 7, 2017

Preparing the Next Generation of Global Leaders.  For us at Diversity Abroad, this means making sure students from underrepresented backgrounds have access to global experiences that will allow them to thrive in later stages of life.  But what role do we have in supporting students throughout the entire continuum of the study abroad process, especially when they return home? Recruiters and hiring managers are now recognizing some of the connections between global education and top talent. As educators, we need to actively facilitate these connections for students before, during and after a global education program to give them the best chance to succeed. 

 

To this end, myself and our CEO & Founder, Andrew Gordon attended the NACE conference in Las Vegas between June 6-9, 2017. For those who are not familiar, NACE (the National Association of Colleges and Employers) holds an annual conference that connects career services professionals to recruiting specialists and the business affiliates that serve this community.  As many readers of this blog are aware, Diversity Abroad team members are very active in industry wide conferences and summits for education abroad (including hosting our own conference). However, this was our first time attending NACE in a formal capacity so it was a great opportunity to learn about the intersections of our two fields and to strengthen connections with career service departments and employers that are looking to recruit diverse talent to their organizations.

 

One of the things that struck me during the first day is that the “siloing” of institutional departments in higher education is real. At our exhibit booth, I was approached by career service professionals who worked for institutions that were members of the Diversity Network but were unaware of their membership status. To some extent, this is not entirely unexpected.  We have long spoken about this siloing effect, acknowledging that many study abroad offices can often feel like islands on their own campuses. However, encountering this phenomena during the conference only reinforces that it’s an issue: career service and study abroad professionals that could be pooling their resources and talent to strengthen the links between global education and career mobility are simply not talking to each other.  

A second revelation is that many of the challenges career service departments are currently experiencing are very similar to those found in study abroad. Time and time again, I was told by career service professionals about issues with recruiting, advising and supporting students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Again, this should not be entirely unexpected as the challenges we face concerning diversity and inclusion in our specific fields are reflective of systemic challenges in our society. We also know how global education can help prepare students for working in the 21st century and much of the thought leadership and professional development endeavors we work on in the field can be adapted to address the challenges facing both departments on campus.  

As always, Diversity Abroad looks to address these issues as holistically as possible by connecting directly with students as well as with our colleagues across the academy.  One of our goals for the remainder of 2017 and beyond is to develop a fully utilized career center on DiversityAbroad.com, connecting students with not only internship and graduate school programs but to actual job opportunities. This career center will also make resources available to students to help them better leverage their global experiences in a competitive job market.  Within the Diversity Network, we are continuing to focus on facilitating connections and professional development through the Diversity Abroad Conference, online short courses and our in-person and virtual workshops. Ultimately, attending a conference like NACE helps us align our goals more closely to that of the student: to complete their education and start a successful and rewarding career.  We hope to see you again at NACE 2018!


Tags:  career 

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Making the Connections: Global Education and Career Mobility

Posted By Christopher LeGrant, Monday, January 23, 2017

Making the Connections: Global Education and Career Mobility


For much of the 20th Century, it was generally accepted that one simply went to college to get a leg up, but a diploma is no longer the sole solution to securing a successful career. In an increasingly global and digital economy, it’s important to educate college students on all the advantages their education can afford them.

 

It’s common knowledge that global education opportunities represent a transformational experience for young people everywhere. However, the connections between career mobility and experiences abroad are only now beginning to be discussed and appreciated. Young professionals coming out of undergraduate programs face a tough job market, with the unemployment rate for students who graduated from a four- year institution in 2015 at 7.2%, and an underemployment rate of 14.9% (Economic Policy Institute, The Class of 2015, May 2015).

 

Therefore, understanding the trends within the current job market is the first step in successfully advising students on how to leverage their global experiences.  Millennials are creating career advancement options that don’t involve monotonous tasks, loyalty medals or vertical movement. Indeed, this horizontal movement is not just a simple transfer from one department to another. It is identifying underlying growth and matching it with the individual’s strengths. If a horizontal move is not available within their current company, some young people may simply decide to shift to a different field that’s more in line with their passions, ethics and lifestyle.   

 

Because millennials are choosing companies that value corporate social responsibility, ethical practices and environmental issues, companies have been adapting their culture in an attempt to recruit top talent. The change is notable in hiring practices with approximately 75% of employers citing study abroad as important when evaluating the resume of a job candidate for an entry-level position and 80% of human resources executives stating that study abroad is important when considering a candidate for an overseas job placement (Global HR News and The Scholar Ship. HR executives survey. April 2007).

 

It is therefore important that career service departments make the necessary links and begin advising young college students to participate in global education experiences to enhance not only their resume but to foster their leadership, communication, and problem solving skills. Likewise, it is important for study abroad advisors to be aware of the connection between global education and career mobility and advise students to be conscious of these links when deciding on what type of abroad program to participate in.     

 

It is also consequential for advisors to be aware that different types of abroad experiences are translatable in different ways. In generations past, traditional study abroad was the only option for most people but students now have many choices between study, volunteer, teach and intern abroad opportunities. What works for one student may not be as beneficial to another and a single student may benefit from different types of programs throughout the course of their education. It will be up to the advisors to be aware of the nuances of each type of program and suggest the correct course for success.

 

Shared events and pooling resources on outreach efforts are simple ways that study abroad and career advisors can begin to collaborate in more meaningful ways.  However, making sure these crucial programs are fully accessible and inclusive to all students is vital. All too often, diversity outreach efforts have been an additional campaign, added to the workload of increasingly busy study abroad and career service professionals. Only when diversity and inclusion efforts are baked into the fabric of all that we do on campus will we see start to see truly representative diversity in our global education programs and consequently, in the 21st century workforce.


Tags:  career  global  mobility 

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Language Matters

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

Over the last several years, the discourse about the availability of language proficient professionals in the U.S. workforce has expanded beyond the international education community. Congressional members, heads of multinational corporations, and foreign policy experts have joined the dialogue giving a sense of urgency to a matter that has traditionally been viewed as an education issue, not a question of foreign policy. Where the conversation was once defined in terms of student learning and cultural competence, we now hear about language acquisition as an issue of national security and U.S. economic competitiveness. The challenge, though, has not necessarily been about getting the public to buy into the idea that these issues are important (“seventy-five percent of Americans believe all students should know a second language”). One of the most immediate issues in increasing the availability of language training opportunities is turning rhetoric into policy and providing funding to support those policies.

The Council on Foreign Relations recent Policy Innovation Memorandum No. 24 and their March 2012 report on U.S. Education Reform and National Security state the need for making these issues top priority on the U.S. policy agenda. They also offer a host of recommendations for how to implement reforms needed to train young people in less-commonly taught languages and issues of global importance. Funding for any reform, however, will rely heavily on congressional action in favor of internationally focused programming. Unfortunately, the most recent cuts to Title VI programs within the Department of Education demonstrate how steep the climb will be to get federal funding to support existing language programs let alone funding for new initiatives.

Creating a space for multiple stakeholders to strategize how to change the landscape of language education will be important. Generating the momentum that presses Congress to act will, however, be the only way to ensure there is a long-term commitment to making these opportunities available across the U.S. 

The Diversity Network sends its sincere thanks and appreciation to Lily Lopez for sharing her thoughts on language education.  If you would like to share your thoughts, email us at members@diversitynetwork.org.

Tags:  career  language  professional skills 

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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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Funding for International Education: Why It's Important

Posted By Lily Lopez-McGee, Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Updated: Thursday, July 21, 2016

With tuition rates on the rise and budget cuts to nearly all areas of spending in higher education, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that international education programming support has come under increased criticism and funding is at a serious risk of being reduced. Some political candidates have even stated publicly their intent to cut spending in the some “75 internationally focused programs that fall under the U.S, Department of State and U.S. Department of Education”. If nothing else has, this recent attack should mobilize professionals in the field to effectively communicate the importance of international education programming to the general public while ensuring that current support is being used effectively.

If we are to effectively defend against current threats to international education spending cuts, though, we must first take a serious look at the source driving criticism. We must face the reality that we are experiencing one of the worst economic crises since the Great Depression.This crise has been felt in all sectors of society and many of our offices have already experienced cuts to staff, budget, travel, etc.However despite this reality we must also remind ourselves and others that we have an economy that is inextricably connected to global markets. That means we have to develop and train language -proficient, culturally competent professionals. Furthermore, we should better champion the message that proclaims the current funding for international education programs is crucial to maintaining the U.S. economic strength and security.

There are certainly people who will be skeptical in hearing this message, however it is clear that if we don't fund opportunities that prepare U.S. students to be competitive in the global market, other nations will look to fill that void. There are 670,000 international students from across the globe studying at our institutions of higher learning in the U.S. alone. This number far exceeds the 260,000 U.S. students we send abroad annually (IIE 2009 Open Doors Report), a figure that clearly indicates the need to expand opportunities for students to go abroad.

As a nation, we need to encourage students to pursue language and study abroad that will prepare them for a globally-competitive job market. The current Open Doors figures highlight that we must also place particular focus on expanding these opportunities to underrepresented student groups. As a field, international education should not only expand how many students we send abroad, but also widen the types of students who have access to international opportunities. There is a vital need to send students abroad who represent the diversity reflected in our nation, and now is certainly not the time to reduce funding that currently supports those initiatives (ex. Gilman ScholarshipRangel Fellowship, and Institute for International Public Policy Fellowship).

After we have spread the message of why funding for international education programming is important, next we have to re-examine how we are utilizing the current support we receive.

Similarly, to justify that the current spending is meaningful in these tough economic times, we need to make sure current funding is working efficiently and demonstrates that students are benefiting academically, socially and professionally from these programs. We need to provide concrete evidence, in the form of program analysis that highlight the real impact of these programs. Programs should be evaluated in a meaningful way that holds faculty and providers accountable for the successes and shortcomings of their programs, and not simply to produce data. If we are to protect the future of international education funding, we must take the necessary, sometimes difficult, steps to ensure that every dollar spent on such programs is effectively being used.

International education is critical to developing the next generation of leaders, and we as international educators need to support initiatives that protect current spending while promoting innovative approaches to attracting more public and private support in these areas.

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:  career  Funding  global education  International Exchange  Outreach  professional skills  Resources  Scholarships 

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