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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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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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Getting the Word Out: Is it Enough?

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Monday, July 13, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

Through participation in the Global Access Pipeline (GAP) and other venues, many organizations are committed to connecting students from diverse backgrounds to the prospect of international experiences as they move along the “pipeline” from K-12 through college. This “pipeline” provides innumerable opportunities to convey the message that international experiences are valuable and attainable for all students, especially for those from traditionally underrepresented communities. As professionals seeking to advance diversity and inclusive excellence within international education, awareness of how students move through this so-called “pipeline” from K-12 through college is imperative. International Educators at the higher education level often wonder if students are exposed to information about education abroad throughout their educational careers, at different stages along the pipeline. But is it enough to expose students from diverse backgrounds to these messages during their formative years? Or do we also need to consider who is delivering these messages?

A quick review of the demographic background of public school teachers and faculty members across the country indicates that students from diverse backgrounds are taught primarily by white educators. The National Center for Education Statistics indicates a mismatch in today’s classrooms. Now that “minority” students constitute the majority of public school students, the teaching force remains over 80% non-Hispanic white. Within higher education, faculty statistics are even more dismal. Not only is the faculty predominantly non-Hispanic white, Native American faculty member participation has been stagnant while faculty participation among Black males has actually been decreasing in recent years. Anecdotally, we know that students from diverse backgrounds are often drawn to study abroad when they are encouraged to do so by a faculty member, particularly when the faculty member represents the student’s background.

While research examining the academic impact (see here and here) -- often measured through test scores -- of same-race teaching instruction is inconclusive, many argue for other benefits.  

Leslie T. Fenwick, Dean of the Howard University School of Education, outlined some of the benefits to African-American and Hispanic/Latino students in schools with large percentages of same-race teachers in her recent Diverse Issues in Higher Education article entitled “Who’s Teaching Whom?”:

Tremendous benefits accrue to African- American and Hispanic/Latino students who attend schools with high concentrations of African-American or Hispanic/Latino teachers. These students are less likely to be expelled or suspended; more likely to be recommended for gifted education; less likely to be misplaced in special education; and more likely to graduate high school in four years.

Likewise, in the recent New York Times article “Where are the Teachers of Color?”, professor of education at Stanford University, Thomas S. Dee, said, “When minority students see someone at the blackboard that looks like you, it helps you reconceive what’s possible for you.”

Professor Dee’s statement is particularly relevant to our efforts to encourage students to consider international opportunities along the pipeline. For many of the traditionally underrepresented groups within international education, students are coming to college as the first in their families. This often means that they have not had role models at home who have pursued international study and other such opportunities. It is paramount, then, that the International Education community (from K-12 to higher education) prioritize hiring and retention practices to ensure that student backgrounds are proportionally represented amongst their educators. If we are taking the statistics and related implications seriously, there is no time to wait. Here are some areas for consideration:

What other resources and initiatives have been effective at your institution/organization to promote diversity and inclusion within global opportunities?

Tags:  global education  inclusion  Minority Students  Outreach  Study Abroad 

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Learning and Sharing about Diversity and Inclusion in International Education

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 10, 2015
Updated: Thursday, July 28, 2016

In 2012, the Diversity Abroad staff set off on a track to develop a national conference that would allow international and diversity educators a space to talk specifically about how to increase access to and improve services in international education for diverse and underrepresented students. Some three years later, the Diversity Abroad Conference is going strong and provides a space to speak candidly about the challenges and opportunities related to diversity and inclusion efforts in international education programming.

The Third Annual Diversity Abroad Conference took place on March 22-24 and saw an unexpected increase in participation with a more than 60% increase in registration from the inaugural conference in 2013. With professionals representing various institutions, departments, organizations, and providers, this year’s conference was abuzz with conversations addressing challenges and sharing good practices related to access, inclusion, and diversity in international education. Sessions represented a wide range of topics that included addressing the needs of specific student populations, developing collaborative partnerships, developing inclusive advising strategies for all students, and more. The conversations didn’t stop in the sessions, though. Those who were in attendance can attest to the fact that participants carried the dialogue into the hallways and beyond the conference space!

There was also an addition to the conference this year that added an element of insight we haven’t seen at other events. The Global Student Leadership Summit, a student track to the Diversity Abroad Conference, brought 23 students from around the country together to participate in the inaugural summit. Students did not only participate in sessions focused on building up their skills, they also engaged with professional conference goers during several all conference events. They added an energy to the conversation that reminded many of us why we do what we do.

The conversations from the Diversity Abroad Conference didn’t stop after the closing reception on Tuesday, though. Many of the conference participants continued on to participate in the Forum on Education Abroad Conference just down the street, where the topic of diversity and inclusion seems to have also grown. Just since last year, the Forum’s conference schedule included an expanded offering of sessions focused on diverse student populations and institutional diversity and inclusion efforts in international education. For many of us whose work centers on the intersection of these issues, it was refreshing and exciting to see the field take a leap forward in increasing the national dialogue happening around inclusion in education abroad.

To those who weren’t able to join the conference, fret not! Resources and presentations are available in the Resource Library on the site so that you can take a look at some of the conversations that happened in March! And don’t forget, our call for proposals for next year’s conference happening in Atlanta, GA (April 3-5) will be open in May!

Tags:  Diversity  Diversity Abroad Conference  Education Abroad Diversity  global education  inclusion  Study Abroad 

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Report Highlights Challenges HBCUs Face in Their Internationalization Efforts

Posted By Andrew Gordon, Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, July 26, 2016
A new report from the American Council on Education published this week highlights the challenges that HBCUs face in their internationalization efforts.
 
A link to the full report is included below as well as a summary from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

While many of these challenges may not be new, the report highlights some interesting and good work being done at the seven institutions that participated. 

This is also a good reminder that HBCUs and minority serving institutions play a valuable role in the diversification of education abroad activities because they serve a large portion of racial/ethnic minority students enrolled in higher education (for a quick snapshot of these numbers you can read the recent report from Excelencia in Education and UNCF titled "Black + Brown: Institutions of Higher Education").
 
For those of you working in and with the HBCU community, please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.

Report Links:

Tags:  Education Abroad Diversity  global education  HBCU  HSI  research 

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