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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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Meet the Team: Community Engagement Coordinator

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Wednesday, December 28, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Daneen Johnson - Community Engagement Coordinator

 

Tell us about yourself:

 

As a Student Affairs Professional, I have worked with student-athletes, first generation, STEM, honors, low-income, and international students. I have also worked within a university career services department where I assisted both undergraduate and graduate students with career readiness and employability skills. Prior to joining the Diversity Abroad team, I was as an Advisor at Seminole State College of Florida where I worked within a grant program that sought to assist and increase underrepresented minority students pursuing STEM degrees.

 

As a two-time Alumna of the University of Central Florida, I completed my undergraduate degrees in Hospitality and Restaurant Management. During that time I studied abroad in Italy with an Italian Culture and Cuisine program-- which was the experience that changed my future career trajectory. I continued my education at UCF completing an M.A. in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Higher Education. My global experience extended into graduate school when I participated in a mission trip with my church to Cape Town, South Africa.


 

Why did you join Diversity Abroad?

 

In my role at Diversity Abroad, I am able to give back to the local and global community that inspired my career. I studied abroad because of scholarships that were awarded to me. Knowing that someone else invested in my future reminded me of the continued generosity (both tangible and intangible) that has been granted to me throughout my educational journey. We know that education is the gift that can’t be taken away, therefore the opportunity to provide students with resources to expand their knowledge and experiences in our globally interconnected classrooms is my way of “paying it forward”. Diversity Abroad allows me to do that in a very unique way.


 

What do you do at Diversity Abroad?

 

I facilitate outreach for the Passport Tour which is a nationwide campus-based initiative designed to introduce study abroad resources and opportunities to students, faculty and administrators, particularly from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. Additionally, I write content for both the Diversity Abroad Network and our student site DiversityAbroad.com.

 
 

Where do you see global education going in five years?

 

Global opportunities have progressively expanded for students allowing institutions from all around the world to connect and build relationships. Despite challenges in our society, I am optimistic about the future because technology is advancing and accessibility to knowledge about various cultures is rapidly growing. College students now have access to information about their counterparts across the globe, and they’re tenacious enough to be active about building communities that expand across both our similarities and difference. Growing acceptance of diversity gives me hope for the future of global education.


Tags:  community  Diversity  Diversity Abroad Staff  Underrepresented Students 

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