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Diversity Abroad Team's Advice on Working From Home (WFH)

Posted By Administration, Friday, March 27, 2020

 

Many organizations, companies, and institutions are transitioning to working remotely during the COVID-19 crisis and face new challenges managing this while remaining productive and successful. As a virtual team since Diversity Abroad’s founding 14 years ago, being remote is in our DNA. We asked our team to share their tips on how to thrive in a remote environment.

Set intentions... 

Everyone has their own methods for working from home. Many people suggest following a morning routine, getting dressed for the day, and setting aside a dedicated work area. This advice comes down to being intentional about how you organize your work-life balance. We are mindful that as many people are navigating working from home for the first time, there may be additional responsibilities to balance such as children, partners, or other family members at home.


Developing a successful routine for working from home can take some time and will look different for everyone. Set intentions about what remote work will look like for you, being realistic about what your situation allows and the unique challenges of this moment. This could be setting a time you want to be online by, how you’ll communicate needs with your family for peace and quiet, where you’ll work, whether you’ll wear full-on business casual with shoes or be more comfortable, or what time you’ll sign off. Switching to remote work is a major lifestyle change that will require some trial and error. Being intentional about your workday and routine will help take some of the guesswork out of what each day looks like. 

...but be flexible

As you adjust to this new reality, be flexible and try out new habits or techniques to see what works best for you, your team, and your organization as a whole. Try out different environments or settings to see where you are most comfortable at home. You don’t just have to be at a desk or your home office, one of the advantages of working remotely many of us have found is being able to change your location during the day. While this used to mean going to a coffee shop or a library, now it might mean moving to a deck if the day is nice or standing up at a kitchen counter for a while. 

Additionally, be open to new systems for organizing work. Whether it’s an online system like Trello or Google Keep, or utilizing video chat or a messaging platform like Slack in a new way. Working remotely necessitates communicating and collaborating differently with each other. Your team will have to set new expectations and intentions about what success looks like in this work environment. How will you manage projects, track progress, and work together?  

This is a time of great change for everyone, whether or not you have worked remotely before. Be open to your work habits changing - it’s all part of the new reality. And look at this as an opportunity to re-evaluate how you work best and discover new habits or techniques that can help you in the future. 

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Working remotely means communication happens differently than in a traditional office. You’re expected to do the same work, but in a new environment where you can’t just stick your head in a colleague’s office or have a face to face discussion. 

 

On a very practical level, you need to make sure everyone knows the best way to stay in touch and collaborate. At Diversity Abroad we have outlined which purposes or situations a communication tool should be used for. Generally, we message each other through Slack to coordinate projects, ask for help, and check-in. Email is reserved primarily for in depth project instructions or external communications and we also have standing organization-wide and smaller team calls to plan for the week, brainstorm, and provide project updates. Setting these expectations requires intentional communication, as well as discussion and re-evaluation.

 

It’s also important to work as a team to discuss what everyone’s needs are during this time. Do you need to run errands or walk the dog during the day? Or will you be starting work extra early in order to spend a few hours later in the morning with your kids or family? People’s hours may change now that they are working from home. Remote work can offer much more freedom and flexibility so people can make their schedules work to their needs. At Diversity Abroad, we keep our calendars up to date with meeting times and focused project times (Quiet Hours) clearly marked or mark off OOO (Out Of Office) so our colleagues know whether we have time to talk or if we won’t be quick to reply to a message.

 Self Care

While working from home is a highly individual experience, it doesn’t have to be a lonely or isolating one. This is a challenging time for many people, and seeking support or expressing how you are doing is important. You miss out on a lot of casual interactions and conversations when working remotely, so set aside time for checking in with each other. Many of our team members have standing one on one meetings with each other to review projects and set goals, but also to catch up and see how each other is doing. Take time to connect with and support your colleagues, while also checking-in with yourself. Go on a walk, do exercises, or just get up and walk around the house every couple hours. Make an effort to disconnect from email or Slack during lunchtime or breaks by reading a book or turning off notifications.

 

We hope these tips inspire you, as you adapt to working full-time from home and make it a successful transition in which your team can support each other. 

Tags:  career  Diversity Abroad Staff  professional development  professional skills  resources 

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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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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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