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Beyond the Rhetoric: What’s Required for Systemic Change?

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

For institutions serious about examining campus climate, listening to student concerns, and mobilizing lasting change, what exactly is needed? How do we go beyond the rhetoric around diversity & inclusion and get to the heart of the very real issues that afflict our institutions? As global educators, what is our role in ensuring that we do our part to create a welcoming climate for students from all backgrounds? We have come along way in articulating the benefit of global experiences. For many of us, the battle is no longer limited to convincing administrators that global competencies are key to success in the uber-competitive 21st century job market. This campaign has produced champions and the statistics demonstrate that participation is on the increase. So, if we believe that thoughtful cross-cultural experiences are an integral aspect of a high-quality education, then we have an obligation to ensure that all students have equitable access to global experiences and are provided with inclusive support from pre-departure through returning home.

Instead of envisioning efforts to improve access and foster inclusive support in global education as yet another initiative, let’s consider aspects of a systemic approach. Mobilizing change from the inside out requires dedication, transparency, and much more. By no means a panacea, here are five things that global educators can implement from the ground up.

1) Honesty and Humility

When we look at the Open Doors Data for study abroad participation, we need to be honest about the disparities. Women are taking advantage of these opportunities at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Why? Statistics for race and ethnicity further demonstrate the pervasive nature of the problem. In 2013/2014, non-white students constituted only 25% of the 304,467 students who received credit for study abroad. Now, there are many reasons why historically underrepresented student populations may choose not to study abroad. Whether it’s our outreach practices, staff demographics, financial aid policies -- to name only a few -- it is imperative that we recognize that institutional practices and policies have a role in influencing a student’s decision to go abroad or not. What efforts are being undertaken to assess our office’s practices and policies? When results are received -- even if they aren’t glowing -- can we set our perceptions aside, engage honestly with the feedback, and develop a meaningful plan to move forward? For more information regarding guidelines for inclusive excellence and assessing progress, check out Diversity Abroad’s Access, Inclusion, and Diversity (AID) Roadmap.

2) Differentiate Between Inclusion & Diversity

There is an important distinction to be made between diversity and inclusion. Often times we focus our energy on diversity without fully addressing inclusion. While it is important to dedicate energy and resources to increasing access to education abroad for historically underrepresented students (diversity), ensuring that students who choose to participate receive equitable support (inclusion) is key to systemic change. Incorporating conversations about health and safety abroad that address considerations for LGBTQ students, students of color, and various religious identities in countries throughout the world may provide a starting point but is certainly not sufficient. Inclusion is more than numbers on a page, it must be at the core of our institutions: “each person and culture that composes the institution’s demographic makeup should be able to see themselves prominently reflected in the fabric of the institution in meaningful ways” (Desegregation Not Same as Diversity and Inclusion, Diverse Issues in Higher Education). Education Abroad Offices may want to reflect on the following questions. Who should be involved in discussions around identity abroad? Can we leverage expertise and relational capital of other campus offices, such as Multicultural Student Life? Is the advising staff trained and comfortable engaging in discussions around identity?

3) Acknowledge the Past

On campuses across the country, protests are illuminating student concerns, especially in regards to race. With the inception of social movements like Black Lives Matter, among others, students are voicing dissatisfaction with the campus climate and treatment of students of color and other marginalized groups. While it’s tempting for institutions to be defensive, this moment in history provides us with an opportunity to critically examine our policies and practices. Part of understanding what’s happening today on our campuses requires acknowledging the complicated history of race relations in the United States, and higher education is no exception:

As we witness racial strife on our campuses, we might begin to acknowledge how the academy’s legacy of bias continues to reverberate. Only then can we hope to honestly face America’s longtime resistance to racial reality and equality, and understand the basis of lingering attitudes today (Academe Must Confront its Racist Past, Chronicle of Higher Education).

Even for the most well-intentioned and educated among us, unconscious bias is a reality that impacts our everyday interactions. Furthermore, our work is carried out within larger systems such as offices, institutions, communities, etc, that contribute to our perceptions of how things “should” be done. As global educators, what steps are we taking to critically examine our own perceptions and perspectives to identify areas of bias? How might the campus climate shift if our office made this is a priority? How is institutional and systemic bias addressed honestly and openly in our work (see #1)?

4) Acknowledge the Present

Many marginalized young people, including students of color, have developed their own support networks as a means of thriving on-campus despite our institutional failings. As global educators, understanding the specific experiences and concerns of these students will lay the groundwork for developing more inclusive support structures. In his recent piece Black Lives Matter Abroad, Dr. Aaron Bruce provides insight on his experience working with African American male students in global education. Among other recommendations, Dr. Bruce encourages Education Abroad Offices to hire more black males and incorporate a cohort model that maintains a student’s support network when developing new international programs. How are we educating ourselves to understand the unique concerns for all student groups, such as LGBTQI+ identifying students and DACA-mented students, to name only a few? How might the present political climate, national discourse, and other factors impact these students within the context of our global education outreach and programming options?

5) Develop a Vision for the Future

In our efforts to move beyond the status quo, let’s consider the future of global education as more historically underrepresented student groups increasingly choose to participate in global opportunities. Thoughtfully designed international experiences provide unique spaces to encourage cross-cultural understanding. Similar to college admission discussions, however, that challenge the notion that a more diverse student body will automatically result in increased intercultural learning (see Admissions is Just Part of the Diversity Puzzle, Chronicle of Higher Education), it is incumbent upon global educators to reimagine an off-campus learning environment that would support mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse learners. What conversations can we incorporate into pre-departure discussions with students that would encourage learning and cooperation among diverse cohorts? How can these conversations continue upon return to campus? How are we preparing faculty to facilitate positive group dynamics and collaborative learning within the cohort? What best practices already exist as models for inclusive program design?


Global educators can implement meaningful change on our campuses to promote a positive climate for all students. While the five principles mentioned above only scratch the surface, a systemic approach is required if we truly want to move beyond the rhetoric.


Tags:  diversity  education abroad  global education  inclusion  systemic change 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: Arizona State University

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Friday, September 23, 2016
Updated: Friday, September 23, 2016

Institution name

Arizona State University


Arizona; Online


Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000) 

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

Arizona State University (ASU) joined the Diversity Abroad Network because as an institution, we have a commitment to representation and inclusion is prevalent in the university’s Diversity Plan. In addition, ASU is committed to excellence, access and impact in everything that it does. Currently, the Study Abroad Office is in the middle of a five-year strategic plan and one of our eight "Strategies for Growth" is "increase the number of underrepresented students going abroad." Due to this strategy, we felt we have been sought out additional resources to help the office make study abroad more accessible to ASU's diverse student population and the Diversity Abroad Network has been instrumental in supporting us and providing invaluable tools for both our students and faculty.


How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

2 years


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

We have thoroughly enjoyed the webinars that the Diversity Abroad Network has provided to our staff and colleagues. We also had the privilege of spending a day with Diversity Abroad's Founder and President, Andrew Gordon, in which he helped us take a deeper look at how we can continually improve upon our services for underrepresented students as it relates to study abroad resources. Our advising teams also utilize the country diversity climate notes and the diversity/inclusion advising manuals. Lastly, we are going to complete the Access, Inclusion, Diversity (AID) Roadmap this fall 2016 semester.


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

As members, we attended our first Diversity Abroad Conference in 2015 and left the conference with a list of 30 ideas that we heard from other institutions focusing in on diversity and inclusion. From that list, we have already implemented many of the ideas, and are working on the others. For example, our website now contains material for the following populations of students who are considering study abroad: Online student, First-Generation students, GI-Bill Benefit recipients, International Students, LGBTQIA students, Non-Traditional students, Racial & Ethnic Minority students, Student Athletes and Students with Disabilities. 


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

Here are a few innovative initiatives that we have developed over the last couple of years related to diversity and inclusion.

1. ASU Planning Scholars: The ASU Study Abroad Planning Scholarship provides first-generation college students with the opportunity to also be the first to study abroad by reducing the financial barrier that may prevent some students from considering study abroad. If an ASU student receives the Planning Scholarship, the student will have five (5) semesters to use it after his/her freshman year. A team of two professional staff from the ASU Study Abroad Office facilitate 2-3 workshops per semester for the recipients and are the point of contacts from our office. We just awarded 60 scholarships to cohort

2. Cohort 1 (awarded in July 2015) has already experienced a lot of success with 1/2 of the recipients already studying abroad since receiving their scholarship. We designed a new position for the Study Abroad Office - Management Intern for Diversity and Inclusion - and had it funded starting in academic year 2015-2016. The same intern is now on year two with us and her entire 20 hours a week is focused on activities and initiatives related to diversity matters. She presents to underrepresented study abroad student populations about study abroad, makes sure that our marketing materials include all students, works to educate the Study Abroad Office professional staff on offices on our campuses that work with underrepresented student populations and so much more.

Tags:  Diversity  education abroad  members 

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Global Student Leadership Summit Alumni Profile: Carmeisha Huckleby

Posted By Administration, Friday, August 19, 2016

GSLS Alumni Profile: Carmeisha Huckleby

Where do you call home?

Detroit, MI

Where are you currently living?

Albany, NY

Where did you go to school for undergraduate/graduate studies?  

Michigan State University 

Please describe your current career/educational endeavors. Where are you currently employed/studying? What are your future plans?

I'm currently a study abroad program coordinator at the University at Albany SUNY 

Please describe your past international experiences. How have these experiences impacted your current career/personal goals?

I've studied abroad in Japan, but have also visited Dubai, Egypt, Ghana, Abu Dhabi, China, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Taiwan, and Canada. These experiences prepared me for my current position by helping me gain intercultural competence, teaching me about the challenges people face while abroad, and showing me how much personal growth can happen while abroad. I am excited to be able to share these experiences with my students. 

When did you attend the GSLS?

I attended the conference in New Orleans in 2015.

Please describe how your experience at GSLS has impacted your current professional path. 

Attending the conference not only gave me the chance to meet professionals in the field and network with them, but it also provided me with the opportunity to improve my presentation skills. 

What advice would you give to college students about taking advantage of international travel?

In a globalized society, taking advantage of international travel is very important because it prepares you for diversity within the workforce, helps you gain cultural understanding and patience, and is a great opportunity for personal growth. 

Tags:  education abroad  global education  Global Student Leadership Summit  professional skills 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: University of Minnesota

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Institution name

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 


Minneapolis, MN 


Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000) Asian-serving Institution  

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

Before Diversity Abroad existed, there was not a space to have discussions solely focused on diverse student identities. It was something that wasn't really discussed in the field. We found that Diversity Abroad aided us in enhancing what we were doing in regards to inclusiveness and engaging under representation which has been a part of our Curriculum and Career Integration work. Lastly, we at the Learning Abroad Center believe in this work and want to be at the forefront of these discussions. 

How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

Since Diversity Abroad's inception 


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

The resource that we have most taken advantage of would be the webinars presented by the Diversity Network. After watching/listening to the webinars, we have had many discussions post webinars that have helped drive future diversity initiatives at the University of Minnesota.  


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

Membership to the Diversity Network has given us better insight and understanding of the various identities of the students we are trying to support. 

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

One of the initiatives that we are proud of is our Dialogues on Diversity series. In these Dialogues, we invite a cultural informant from one of the countries/cultures come into the office to speak on what makes up diversity in their country and address the complexities that students may face in that location.


Tags:  education abroad  members 

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Where Do We Go From Here? - Reflection on Open Doors 2015

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Every year, international educators have the opportunity to review trends related to student mobility. The Open Doors Report, administered by the Institute of International Education, provides necessary data to help us understand the status of study abroad participation among US college students and incoming international students. As an organization solely focused on access, diversity and inclusion in international education, every year Diversity Abroad eagerly awaits the release of the Open Doors report to see the impact that our member institutions and others have had in creating equitable access for all students to education abroad. Similar to other years, the 2015 Open Doors Report contains encouraging results and also highlights continued areas for growth with respect to participation of diverse and underrepresented students. Here are a few observations from the perspective of diversity and inclusion within education abroad:

  • Year over year participation of students from non-white racial and ethnic backgrounds increased to 25.7% in 2014 from 23.7% in 2013.

  • African-American, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino/a and Multiracial students saw increases in the rate of participation year over year, 0.3%, 0.4%, 0.7% and 0.6% respectively

  • There has not been any notable increases in participation among students identifying as American Indian and Alaska Native over the past 10 years.

  • Students in the STEM field made up 23% of the study abroad population

  • Participation based on gender identity has remained static over the past 10 years with roughly 65% female and 35% male participation.

  • With a record 10% increase in international student enrollment (over the last year), more students from this demographic will likely pursue education abroad while studying at US institutions.

The results are encouraging. In 2014 students of color comprised 25.7% of the study abroad population, their largest proportion of the overall study abroad population to date. STEM related majors are now the most represented majors of study abroad participants. As organizations, institutions, and professionals who have been committed to ensuring more diverse and underrepresented students have equitable access to education abroad we should be proud of our contribution to this growth. What we’re doing is working. The message that study abroad is for everyone and when done right, is an investment in one’s future and not a luxury, is beginning to resonate with students of color and their families as well as with other underrepresented populations. However, as we continue to extol the benefits of education abroad to students, parents, and the public and private sector, and frame education abroad as an essential experience that can prepare young people for success in the 21st Century, the question arises; are we doing enough to achieve equitable access to education abroad for all students?

Getting to the Tipping Point

The excitement of seeing more diverse students participate in education abroad is tempered by the reality that we have a long road ahead to achieve representative participation by diverse students in education abroad. To reach participation goals in education abroad, be it doubling the numbers nationally or more modest goals set by individual institutions, and for these increases to reflect the rich diversity of students at US colleges and universities, institutions and organizations must develop strategic approaches to diversity and inclusion. Individual activities, be it targeted diversity scholarships, marketing campaigns, etc, while impactful on a micro scale, will not lead us to our goals. To reach the tipping point where diverse students are seeking education abroad as an investment in their future and participating in representative numbers, we as higher education professionals must address access, diversity, and inclusion in education abroad, not as a separate initiative or campaign, but as a strategic imperative and an integral part of every facet of our work. What does this look like? For many years the challenge of increasing access to education abroad among diverse students has been addressed by specific initiatives or campaigns. Through such initiatives or campaigns there has been relative success in increasing participation among diverse students at a particular institution or within a specific organization. However, such initiatives are often an extra, separate tasks added to the workload of increasingly busy professionals, instead of being woven into the fabric of every aspect of our work in education abroad. This ‘strategy’ is not a recipe for success. If, however we evaluate the overall education abroad process and integrate diversity and inclusive good practices into the fabric of the education abroad process, we will develop an environment on our campuses that will foster increased participation of and support for diverse students in education abroad. Innovative and accessible tools, such as Diversity Abroad’s AID Roadmap have been developed to help institutions develop holistic strategies that weave diversity and inclusive good practices into eleven strategic areas of education abroad.

Meaningful education abroad has the potential to be a transformative experience that can change the lives, not only of the students who participate, but their families and communities as well. In an increasingly interconnected world where the skills developed through education abroad can determine who is successful in the labor market and who is not, we as educators must continue to our upmost to ensure all students have equitable access to international education. There is no silver bullet. Through strategic planning and continual and intentional implementation of diversity and inclusive good practices we will reach our goals of increasing participation, achieving representative diversity and adequately supporting all students in education abroad.

Tags:  education abroad 

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