Higher Education Webinar: Equitable Access to Global Education
Andrew Gordon, chief executive officer and founder of Diversity Abroad, leads the conversation on the importance of providing equitable access to global education.
CASA: Hello, and welcome to CFR’s Higher Education Webinar. I am Maria Casa, director of the National Program and Outreach at CFR. Thank you all for joining us.
Today’s discussion is on the record, and the video and transcript will be made available on our website, CFR.org/academic if you would like to share them with your colleagues after today. As always, CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.
We are delighted to have Andrew Gordon with us to discuss the importance of providing equitable access to global education. Mr. Gordon is the founder and chief executive officer of Diversity Abroad, an organization focusing on topics pertaining to access, diversity, inclusion, and equity in international education. He works with higher education institutions, nonprofit and for profit organizations, and government agencies for developing strategies for increasing access to international education for diverse, first-generation, and high financial needs students. Mr. Gordon is a member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators, the Association of International Education Administrators, the European Association for International Education, the National Association of Black Accountants, and the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. He is an alum of INROADS and the Association for the International Exchange of Students in Economics and Commerce.
Welcome, Andrew. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.
GORDON: It’s great to be here. Thank you.
CASA: Can you begin by giving us an overview of what equitable access to global education means and its importance in higher education?
GORDON: Yeah. Absolutely.
First, just want to say thank you, Maria, for the invitation to speak and to CFR Academic for hosting this session, particularly, this important topic. As I delve into my remarks, I’ll give a little bit of background as to the—where my remarks are going to come from.
As Maria mentioned, I founded an organization, Diversity Abroad, that centers diversity, equity, inclusion in global education. And over the last sixteen years had an opportunity to work with higher-education institutions, everything from community colleges to liberal arts, R-1s to Ivy Leagues, on this question of what does equitable access to global learning and global education mean.
And we get this question often and, usually, when I get this question sitting in meetings with academic professionals, I, in some ways, put the question back and I say, well, what’s the benefit of global education and global learning. Why do our campuses invest in infrastructure for global education and global learning, whether that’s sending students abroad, supporting international students, ensuring that global themes are embedded into the curriculum? We often hear in the field of international education the term campus internationalization. Why are we investing in that in the first place?
Well, when we think about global education and global learning and the students that engage in it, one of the organizations that many on the call may be familiar with, AAC&U, puts global learning and global education as a high impact practice, the kind of opportunities that help our students excel academically, grow interpersonally, and also be positioned that much better to thrive professionally once they leave school.
And so taking a step back and thinking of the benefits of global education, we talk about students who engage in global learning opportunities. Many times this helps open their—broaden their perspective of the world as a whole.
If they’re participating in a physical—or education abroad program, many times it helps them in building resilience, a deeper sense of self, having more empathy for those who are, if you will, “different” than they are, embracing difference, something I think we can all appreciate we need that much more so in our society.
So when we think—and we could probably, Maria, spend the entire time that we have talking about the benefits of global education and global learning. But the thing is that we know that—those of us who work in higher education know that and in many ways we are the gatekeepers to the kind of experiences inside the classroom, outside the classroom, that we say will fall under the umbrella of global learning.
So if we know the benefits of these opportunities, we know how it can impact our students, then it is—well, the onus is on us to ensure that all of our students have equitable access to the benefits of global learning.
We can’t, on one side, say these are all the benefits of these phenomenal opportunities and so on and so forth, and then on the other side be OK with only certain students having access to global learning opportunities because, essentially, what we’re saying is, well, this is a great thing that we have but only certain students are able to.
And when we think about what—I would say, for many folks, when we talk about global learning, I would say one of the first things we often go to is study abroad. Study abroad is a phenomenal, phenomenal experience, and we’ll talk about other forms in a moment.
When we think about that particular opportunity that, I would say, is very high profile on many campuses, students graduating from high school going into university, the percentage is that eightieth, ninetieth percentile of students who are interested in study abroad. We know that is one of the global—one of the experiences that would fall under global education.
We also know that, traditionally, study abroad has not reached a vast—too many of our students, we’ll say, particularly our students of color, those who are first generation, those who are coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. And so I think, in many ways, we’ll get students who we say are—the growing population of students on our campuses are also those that study abroad has not supported, and even when campuses have been more successful in getting students to study abroad they haven’t necessarily been as—we haven’t necessarily been as successful in supporting the success of our students while they’re there.
So, when we think back to study abroad, if you will, being an aspect of global learning, which is a high-impact practice, you know, high-impact practice is only a high-impact practice if it’s properly administered.
So we send students but we’re not prepared to really support our students in a very holistic way, in an inclusive way. Great, we’ve sent them but we’re not really giving them equitable access to the benefits of a global education. And, likewise, global education exists in different parts of the campus as well. Think about what happens in our classrooms. In the curriculum we have a variety of different area—academic areas of focus.
Frankly, how we support our incoming international students—our international students—every student is not going to study abroad, but our campuses are globally diverse environments where our students from all backgrounds exist and our international students and how they acclimate to U.S. culture, how we prepare them to engage with students from a variety of different backgrounds, Americans from a variety of different backgrounds. That’s also part of the global learning that happens.
And so when we take a step back and just, again, think about why is it that we invest in global education and global learning, it’s because we know the benefits of it. We are 5 percent of the world’s population, and I think if anything in the last two years, sort of two and a half, three years, we—it is very clear and currently as well is very clear how incredibly interconnected we are as a globe, even as their call—you hear the pundits and otherwise say, like, oh, well, globalization is dead, and so on and so forth. It was, like, regardless of what those conversations are, we know that as a world we are all reliant on each other, and the world that the students, particularly the younger students, if you will—younger age college students—are going to inherit is going to be that much more interconnected.
And so for us, as a country, the United States, to be able to take on the challenges and the opportunities that the twenty-first century puts before us and to be successful in taking on the—both challenges and opportunities that has to be a global approach because we’re not on this globe by ourselves, and for our future leaders to be prepared to do that it’s incredibly important for them to appreciate the importance of global learning and global education, have equitable access to a variety of those opportunities. And, frankly, we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we only allow our—maybe we say not intentionally but structurally the situation is such that only a certain population of students has access, real access, to these kind of learning opportunities.
And so, I think, as higher education institutions we have to ask ourselves, what does that mean, yes, for the International Education Office, but also what does that mean for our academics in the classroom? What does that mean for our senior administrators who are deciding where to invest funds and otherwise of an institution? What does it mean for our chief diversity officers, for our VP of student affairs, and otherwise, who also were tasked with ensuring equitable access to a variety of opportunities that are available on campus?
And so, when we think about these questions at Diversity Abroad, I think being in association and being able to work with the three hundred-plus institutions that we do on these topics, we really do look at it holistically. What does that mean—global education, equitable access, and education abroad? Global learning at home, what happens in and outside the classroom domestically? Support for our international students? But also how are we also ensuring that the professionals—faculty, staff, and otherwise who are engaged in global educational opportunities or experiences in and outside the classroom—that those faculty members and those staff are reflective of the rich diversity that our students embody?
CASA: Thank you. Thank you for that introduction.
Now let’s open it up to questions. As a reminder, please click the raise hand icon on your screen to request to ask a question. On an iPad or Tablet, click the more button to access the raise hand feature. When you are called upon, accept the unmute prompt and please state your name and affiliation, followed by your question.
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We do have a raised hand from Basilio Monteiro, associate dean and associate professor of mass communication at St. John’s University.
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Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Gordon, for your introductory remarks.
You know, this internationalization of education—oftentimes what happens is I find that students go and stay within the one small bubble instead of mixing up with other students from the country where they go to. That interaction is not there, and oftentimes, it’s not even promoted to go. They will go—they go as tourists. They don’t go as learners to learn, and that seems to be the kind of trend, so I find. And I talk to the students. They’ll say, OK, oh, I went here. I went there. I saw this and I saw that, and that’s it.
So that is—what is your overall national experience at this point on this particular context?
GORDON: Yeah. Thank you for that comment, and you’re right. I think that as the field of international education we have not been as intentional as we could be in ensuring that once we’ve put in the investment dollars, human capital, and otherwise that helps get students overseas that we’re really creating kind of an environment where our students are going to have the kind of experiences that they come back and they really have been able to develop deeper empathy, embracing difference, and so on and so forth.
We think about it here in the U.S., right. The students at our campus, a lot of them are having a good time but they’re still learning. They’re still having very, in some cases—I hate to overuse the word transformative, but experiences that are shaping who they are becoming as people.
That doesn’t have to change when our students go abroad, and so whether we’re talking about programs that are led directly by faculty, I’m thinking about how are we intentionally finding opportunities for our students to engage in the host community; what are opportunities of reciprocity when they’re in country in a certain location so that our students don’t just have a stamp on their passport but they’d have the kind of experience that is changing how they view themselves, how they view the world, and, frankly, how they view both the challenges and the opportunities that lie before all of us.
What is incumbent on, I think, institutions as well as the organizations, institutions that work with a lot of third party organizations to help facilitate study abroad, it’s incumbent on those organizations as well to say, we know our students want to have a good time. They’re going to have a good time. That’s excellent. We want that. But we also—the core reason why our students are engaging in these opportunities needs to be academic, self-development, and otherwise. The fun is going to happen, but that other piece needs to be there because if it’s not then, frankly, we become glorified travel agents, taking students from point A to point B.
I don’t think if you asked anyone in international education what their role is that we would say that’s what our role is because it’s not. But we need to be intentional about ensuring that the kind of outcomes that we want, that we say our students can gain—we’ve built the structure to be able to—for our students to be able to achieve those outcomes.
Thank you for that question.
CASA: Our next question comes from Beverly Lindsay from the University of California system.
Q: Thanks to both of you for your introductory comments, Maria and Andrew, for your statement.
As a former member of NAFSA and a number of other professional organizations, I actually have several questions, but I will limit them. One is, as you know, throughout higher education, particularly in comprehensive research universities, there is an emphasis on the African diaspora, the Latino diaspora. So many of the undergraduate students tend to go to those countries that are African, the Caribbean, or South America, for example.
How do we encourage students, regardless of demographic background, to go anywhere in the world because they would get more experience? For example, when I was the international dean at Hampton we set up a program where the undergraduates could go and do internships at the British parliament, which was really innovative.
The second question I would ask you is to what extent do you involve graduate students through your organization? Now, I realize that they’re often focused on their thesis or, in rare cases, we don’t think of study abroad. We think of research opportunities for our doctoral students.
But to what extent do you involve students from different levels? Because I know in community colleges there is considerable emphasis now in terms of having the Los Angeles Community College system, the Dade County students in the community colleges, go abroad.
So, as I said, I had many but I’ll just focus on those right now. But thank you for your forthcoming answer.
GORDON: Yeah. Thank you for that, Beverly.
I think when it comes to destination, where our students go, again, unfortunately, I think, that our field has an opportunity to go in a different direction as far as a narrative about certain places. I think, unfortunately, in the U.S., when we think of Africa, when we think of the Global South as a whole, it’s often positioned through the lens of deficit of the people, of the governments, health care systems, and so on and so forth. And, without question, there’s work to be done. But there’s a lot that’s happening of innovation in—I mean, Africa, the continent, I mean, obviously, the different countries. Same thing in Latin America.
But if we position these locations as you go here to help, you go here almost in a savior type mentality, whereas if we position locations like Europe and Australia and otherwise, like, well, you go here, this is where you’re going to learn, this is where you go on internships and this is where you’re going to prepare yourself professionally, really, seems like amplifying this narrative of parts of the world are important for learning, growth, innovation. Other parts of the world are more focused on philanthropy, giving, and so on and so forth. And I think that puts us, frankly, as a nation in peril.
There was a recent survey that came out—I want to say it was in the last couple weeks—and it—they surveyed youth in Africa. I can’t remember which countries. But it asked—the question was who has a more positive impact on your country, China or the U.S., or maybe it was a variety of countries. But China eked out ahead the U.S.
So the continent with the youngest population in the world, and we know what that means for the future, of future work and otherwise, views of different countries having a positive impact. We don’t see a lot of study abroad programs on the African continent, for example, or Latin America that are focused on innovation and technology. I can—I can go on and on.
And so I think we have to take a step back as a field of international education—I think, higher education as a whole—and push back against narratives of how certain regions of the world, certain countries, are viewed so that our students are encouraged to want to engage anywhere in the world as they’re looking to deepen their understanding, grow interpersonally, be that much better positioned for their post-degree careers, and so on and so forth.
So that—I think that onus is on us as institutions, as organizations, to increase that perspective. But I also think that that also has an aspect to deal with incoming international students as well. With the incoming international students how are we helping them have opportunity to tell more their story about the countries they come from, the contributions their countries make to the U.S., to other parts of the world, and so on and so forth.
As to the other question as far as how we engage with graduate students, we were—I would say primarily graduate students who are working in higher education programs, international education programs, that are interested specifically in this work will engage with Diversity Abroad in a variety of ways, either participating in one of the communities of practice that we have, coming to our annual conference, Global Inclusion, in a kind of variety of different ways from that perspective.
As far as specifically looking at mobility-based programs for graduate students, that’s not our focus at this time.
CASA: Our next question comes from Hemchand Gossai, associate dean of humanities and social sciences at Northern Virginia Community College.
Q: Maria and Andrew, thank you very much for your comments and also for providing this opportunity.
My institution is very large with a multi-campus sort of setting with seventy-five thousand students. It’s almost ubiquitous among institutions of higher education, particularly in their admissions process, to extol the importance of how many countries are represented at the college or university, and that’s a great thing. We have that as well, and we have a large contingent of international students.
One of the things that has struck me and that you have sort of alluded to, Andrew, has to do with the role of our international students as they arrive on our campuses, and I’m wondering if you can reflect a little bit about how best our large contingent of international students might not only be integrated but might actually interact and shape our local community of first-generation students, of students of color, and so on.
If you would, I’d appreciate it. Thanks.
GORDON: Yeah. Excellent, excellent question.
Let me start off by saying, for us, when we think of international students—well, not when we think of international students—but the process of the experience that our international students have operationally, if you will, in many ways it’s the flip of our students going abroad.
We had a question earlier about how do we better ensure our domestic students are integrating once they’re in country. We’re just flipping that and saying that for our international students. So what we’re saying is that we want the same for both. We don’t want our international students to be seen as, hey, this is a revenue source. You’re here on campus. Now we’re done. No. We want them to be successful, and our international students embody the same identities that our domestic students do. They’re students of color. They’re first-gen, disabilities, come from different religious backgrounds, LGBTQI. They embody all these same identities that we’re trying to support with our domestic students and we want to do the same thing for international students.
So and thinking of what that means is really asking the question is what does holistic support look like for our international students. Too often, our international students once they get on campus, they’re seen as that international student. I mean, simply, that’s their passport. That’s where you’re actually born. They need the same support, and then some additional at times, as our domestic students.
Are we asking them, what contributions do you want in the classroom? Are we appreciating that our international students are coming from a different perspective during certain discussions and are we giving them space to be able to share those perspectives and honor the fact that it comes from a different perspective but that’s still important?
Because that’s part of global learning that our domestic students benefit from as well when you have those rich discussions in the classroom, when you have a variety of different perspectives that are being shared, and we think about being able to hear that, analyze what’s being said, and develop your own sense of, OK, this is my thought on this topic or otherwise.
But when we just have a conversation, for example, in the classroom that’s focused on domestic, even though we have a wide or very diverse population of students that—of international students in our classroom we’re really missing an opportunity to both engage with the international students, help them have a deeper sense of belonging on our campus and, frankly, for our domestic students and all students to be to be able to learn that much more so.
The other part of the question I mentioned, and kind of tying back to what I mentioned a second ago of how our international students embody so much of that—so many of the identities of our domestic students, you know, when we have programs for first-generation college students are we just thinking about our domestic first-generation college students? Our international students can be the same way.
When we think about our disability services, when we think about programs that are maybe related to race in ways, are we thinking intentionally about that? Yes, an African American and an international student from Africa who’s from Africa and who’s Black and has grown up in Africa their entire life very well are—some shared experiences, but very different. Are we thinking about opportunities for learning and growth from that way?
So as I would say it’s the intentionality in the programming and the intentionality in thinking of what is our role in—and, obviously, helping our students be successful, but particularly from an equitable access to global education, we have all the ingredients to the salad, if you will. What’s our role in making sure that this comes together and this works in a way that serves our students, our domestic, our international students—frankly, serves the institution.
And so there’s broader goals that we have in higher education around learning but also preparing a generation of citizens that are thoughtful not just about home but thoughtful about the relationship between home and abroad and how our world is broadly interconnected and reliant on each other.
CASA: Thank you.
Our next question comes from Mojúbàolú Olufúnké Okome, associate professor in the department of political science in Brooklyn College.
Q: Good evening. I’m calling from Nigeria now. And I’m a professor, not associate.
I was wondering if there is a two-way stream in terms of the way in which international education is conceived of thinking about students coming from foreign countries as exchange students, and I’m particularly interested in this from an African perspective.
It’s unbelievably difficult for many African students to come to the U.S. as exchange students. They face formidable visa barriers, and for many of them that are from socioeconomic backgrounds where they are not flush with money it is actually an impossibility.
So, I mean, is there any kind of thinking about how skewed the pool is that the educational institutions in the U.S. is joined from, given all the constraints that are put in the way of students from the Global South, especially Africa—
Q: —who want to just come to the U.S. just like our students go to those places?
GORDON: Yeah. Yeah. No. Wonderful, wonderful question, and I’d kind of bifurcate my answers.
I think with respect to visas, I think that’s a question—offices handle that at State and I think there has to be a broader question of are we creating enough opportunities for students or making it easy enough for students or talented students that want to come take advantage of the rich diversity and the academic opportunities, some professional opportunities that exist in the U.S. Are we making it easy enough for those students to come to our shores? And I think that’s a question that—State has to continue to be evaluated from that aspect.
I’m not by any means an expert with visas, so I’m going to—I’m going to stay in my lane to an extent. But I think, broadly speaking, is we do—I think as a nation have welcomed and want to continue to welcome talented folks from all over the world to be able to come.
And then I think the second part of the question, what’s the role of institutions, I think similar to our—to domestic students, we know who our students are. We know what the challenges they have and being able to access opportunities that we have. And so we say—going back to what I mentioned earlier, we say we know what these—we know the benefits of these kind of opportunities. We’re the gatekeepers to that.
We know who our students are, and we know the challenges they have and this includes international students that are interested in coming, be it exchange or otherwise. How do we in higher education create more opportunities for talented students to be able to take advantage of these opportunities that we’re very clear the benefits to them?
And so from an exchange standpoint, looking and saying are we building exchanges—do we have the infrastructure, are we investing in the infrastructure so that we can have more exchanges with the Global South? Because many times exchanges, while not always cost neutral, is usually much more cost neutral than a paid study abroad or otherwise.
So are we creating those kind of opportunities? Again, realizing that that benefits the student—the international student, the domestic student. It benefits our campus community and our broader community as a whole when our international students are out and engaging with the broader community around the universities and otherwise. So are we investing in that?
And then when it comes to fully matriculated students, whether at the undergraduate, graduate, or doctorate level, are we doing enough? Is there more we should be doing to ensure that if funding is a challenge that the funding is—funding schemes that are available to better create opportunities for students to be able to come, and then also like we’ve mentioned in the last question is our campus infrastructure—our campus set up in such that our international students feel like they belong, the campus is thinking about them, and this is a place where they want to, frankly, stay and contribute their knowledge or insights, their experience, and otherwise, which, again, benefits them, benefits the campus, and benefits the community and the nation as a whole.
Q: Next we have a comment from Pamela Waldron-Moore, a professor at Xavier University of Louisiana.
You have touched on this topic but you might want to go a little deeper. She writes, as a professor at Xavier University of Louisiana, I know that this is a helpful conversation. One area of global education that does not seem to have had much exposure is the opportunity for national institutions to provide exchange opportunities that allow low-income students to appreciate diverse education. For example, students can learn much from institutions located in naturally global environments—New York, DC, California, et cetera.
Many U.S. institutions are teeming with international students who are happy to interact with a wider body of learners.
GORDON: Yeah. I’ll just comment on that briefly, and I know Xavier does great work with our national exchange as well as with international.
But your point is right on. When we think of the globally diverse cities that exist in the U.S., they’re learning labs. I’m from the Bay Area. I like going to San Francisco. I go to places in Oakland and otherwise. These are learning opportunities.
I think when you think of the flow of migration to certain areas within the country, there’s so much to learn there for our domestic students as well as for our international students. And so when we think of global learning holistically, as much as—I started Diversity Abroad based on study abroad. I’m a fan of study abroad, absolutely.
But I think when we think about global learning, we have to get—mobility from the standpoint of getting on a plane, crossing an ocean, and using your passport is not the only way. And when we think about the institutions, where our institutions exist, what does the community look like? How globally diverse is our local community?
Are there opportunities for us, thinking of co-curricular activities, to better engage with our local communities as well, because part of the broader goal that we talked about, the benefits of global learning, those benefits can be gained—different benefits, different places, in different ways, but can be gained locally but also can be gained abroad.
So, an excellent point.
CASA: Again, as a reminder, please click the raise hand icon on your screen if you would like to ask a question, or write it in via the Q&A icon.
Andrew, can you talk a little bit about the specific activities that Diversity Abroad engages in as an organization?
GORDON: Yeah. Absolutely. Happy to.
So Diversity Abroad founded in 2006. We’re a member-based consortium, around three hundred and fifty colleges and universities. As I mentioned, it ranges from small liberal arts to community colleges, Ivies to R-1s, and, really, we—our focus is looking at diversity, equity, and inclusion within internationalization and global education.
And so what does that mean? We look at four key areas of our work. It’s education abroad, international students, global learning at home, and then career and organizational advancement, and we—the actual practices of the work that we do focuses heavy on learning and development. So everything from our annual conference, Global Inclusion, to our DEI certificate for folks who are engaged in global education or are interested in global education, as well as a leadership certificate for student leaders who want to embed DEI, global, into their leadership.
We publish a set of good practices called the Global Equity Inclusion Guidelines, it’s a set of policy practices for embedding DEI into a campus’s global education operation, and then there’s a ton of thought leadership that we do, collaboration with organizations. We have a phenomenal team that is always working to continue to push this conversation forward, and maybe more than moving the conversation forward, to push forward resources, learning opportunities, and otherwise to ensure that, frankly, as a field a decade from now we’re not having this same conversation but that we’ve made some real tangible progress in going forward.
So, much harder to execute on a daily and weekly basis than to kind of go over in a couple of seconds. But I’m really proud of the work that we’re doing and always interested in collaborating with professionals and institutions that share—frankly, share our vision of equitable access to global educational opportunities.
Our next question comes from Krishna Garza-Baker from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She’s assistant director of experiential learning.
Q: Hello, Maria and Andrew. Thank you so much for this conversation. I’m actually a current member of Diversity Abroad and absolutely love all their resources. I’m there on a daily basis.
So I would like to reflect back to the idea on promoting the benefits of global learning. As much as I promote the benefits of global programs to my students—I work specifically with business students at the Alvarez College of Business—what are some ways in which you have seen or experienced navigating the topic of the financial investment into educational experience and what are some other barriers to global learning that you have seen for domestic students?
GORDON: Krishna, thank you for that comment and happy to have you as part of the Diversity Abroad community.
So finance is interesting. Without question, finances can be a barrier to students engaging in global educational opportunities, particularly mobility-based ones. What’s interesting, though, is that at times when you ask a student, are you interested in studying abroad, for example? They say, no, I can’t afford it. And I was, like, well, do you know how much it costs? Well, I’m not actually sure. Are you sure how your financial aid works and how your financial aid can support? It was, like, no, I’m not actually sure.
So you have students sometimes that see study abroad and there’s an interest, but for a variety of other reasons, maybe they’re becoming a little bit more hesitant, and finance is an easy one to go to say, oh, I can’t afford it.
And so I think it’s important for, one, us to understand, from a financial standpoint, A, is the students—can they really not afford it? How are we addressing that? Or is this a question of, I’m interested and I’m on the fence and so on and so forth and I’m just kind of saying financial.
I think for the aspect of students not being able to afford it, as an institution, again, we have to go back and say what’s the value of global educational opportunities. We know that students who are statistically—we’re saying that students who study abroad graduate sooner, graduate with higher GPAs as well. So that is hitting part of a broader goal that we have of higher education about persistence and completion.
And so as an institution are we investing in the kind of activities like global education opportunities that are supporting the broader goals that we have as an institution around persistence and completion, and that is something that’s strategically at institutions that—are questions we have to ask ourselves.
We say, you know, yes, global, you know, the importance of all these opportunities to study abroad and so on and so forth. Are we investing in it in a way that any of our students that are interested finance is not going to be the barrier that pushes them back?
Now, I think, on the other aspect of it with respect to finance and being able to talk with students and their families, students and their families who are from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. They’re on campus, and they’re on campus, in a way, because they’ve seen being a student at your campus as an investment, something that is valuable enough to either, personal finances—going out and fundraising in a variety of different ways because they see the value in that.
The question, I think, that we have as—in higher education and particularly in international education are we positioning global education as this is an investment? And this goes back to a comment that was made a little bit earlier about, hey, you know what, we’re sending these students abroad. They’re not really engaging with the populations. It’s kind of like it’s just vacation.
OK. Well, if I’m a serious student and I’m concerned about finances, and I have to make choices about what I invest in, if study abroad is positioned as, you know, go have fun abroad I’ll say, well, listen, I’ll go on vacation at another point in my life. I’m focused on getting in school, doing the kind of things that’s going to position me to be able to thrive, support family, and otherwise.
So in education abroad and study abroad, the onus is on us to make sure that the way we’re talking about these opportunities, the way that opportunities are actually taking place, is such that a student that has to make that decision looks at study abroad or other global opportunities and says, you know what, this is where I want to invest my time, my resources, and otherwise because this is something that’s going to help me continue to grow with the broader goals that I have.
CASA: Our next question comes from Maggie Mahoney, director of global engagement at the University of Houston.
Q: Good afternoon, Maria and Andrew. Nice to talk with you. Hello from Houston, Texas.
Andrew, my question is about our teams, because we want to bring the best of our teams to our students. We know that burnout is an ongoing issue. We’ve had the pandemic. We’ve had the murder of George Floyd that kind of shifted things even more for the bigger focus of DEI and that has become exhausting, not to mention in Texas we face our own Texas state issues and now inflation changing.
So there’s a lot of stress on our teams, and in institutions of higher ed we should have offices that mirror the diversity of our students. But we don’t always have that.
Do you have any recommendations for our diverse staff team members and their self care in the face of this burnout and too often being turned to in the support of DEI efforts whenever we should all be doing the work? And do you have any recommendations for team leaders on how to continue doing our work while supporting our diverse team members, as we know they’re overwhelmed?
GORDON: Yeah. Thank you for that comment. And that’s—I think a very important point is that we can’t ignore—when we think of—we think of some of the organizations that we’ve looked AT and say, hey, these are great companies or great organizations that I’ll support.
The folks who are at the table many times come from incredibly diverse backgrounds, and in international education if we want the work that we do to have the kind of impact, we want to make sure that we’re drawing the best and brightest, most diverse folks that say, hey, higher education, international education, specifically, this is a place where I want to go work.
Our faculty members who may potentially be leading programs abroad, there’s a lot that our faculty members can be doing over the summer when we say, you know what, I want to lead a study abroad program because this is—not only the impact this could have on students, but I know I’m going to be supported by the international office and otherwise as I’m going abroad.
So what I would say is a couple of things. One is from a team leader perspective, and I think what you pointed out being something that is really a very salient topic. You know, DEI work cannot fall on folks of color or folks who we look at and say, OK, well, you represent XYZ identity so, yes, diversity worked for you.
All that does, as stated, is it leads to burnout and it doesn’t lead to us moving the needle. So, organizationally, are the practices or the policies in place. So, operationally, DEI is just embedded into what we do and regardless of what your role is, the DEI tasks that are there, is there for you to do.
So regardless of what your background is, whatever the DEI tasks are connected to your role, those are there for you to be able to do. And so that’d be one aspect of it, really looking operationally from that perspective.
But then another question is asking ourselves whether it’s at the department level within an office, like a global education office or whatever it may be, are we building a climate of belonging. Are we building a climate where our staff that come from historically marginalized backgrounds feel like, hey, we can come—we can come here. We can be ourselves. When we’re having challenges we’re being supported and otherwise because, again, then we’re able to be able to do the work that’s needed to increase participation in global educational opportunities, being able to work with the faculty members to think through how do we better embed global themes into the curriculum, being able to support our international students.
Which is saying none of this happens automatically. It is run by people, on people power, and we’ve got to take care of our people. If we don’t take care of our people, all the other things that we want to do, ultimately, we won’t be as successful as we’d like.
CASA: We have a question now from Professor Waldron-Moore from Xavier. She says—she asks, how can we generate interest in study abroad from the classroom? Shouldn’t we address seriously ways to motivate students to learn more about diversity in order to raise their awareness about higher education? We need to get the excitement about other countries and people going before we grow an interest in study abroad or a study exchange.
GORDON: Yeah. So that’s—I would say it’s not an either/or but I would say they very much work in tandem.
So the more—and to the point, the more that we—the more that global themes are presented to our students, the more interest that will start to generate with our students.
If you have a population of students that from the time they set foot on campus they know they’re going to study abroad and so and so forth, that’s great. We want those students.
But you have another population of students who maybe that’s not the case, and so how are we embedding global themes into the curriculum regardless of what our fields may be? What are—are we finding opportunities to embed global themes into the curriculum so that, one, we’re helping to promote the idea of there’s a lot to learn outside of the shores of the U.S. as well, but, two, for our students—and every student’s not going to study abroad. For our students who aren’t going abroad are we finding opportunities to ensure that they still have access to global learning themes within the classroom.
And so they very much play off each other, and I will say that now much more so for the students who, ultimately, decide not to participate in a study abroad or a formal study abroad program it’s an opportunity for them to still get access to global learning opportunities.
But I will say—one other thing I want to bring up and I started bringing this up in my earlier comments, I think when we’re thinking about global education and diversity, equity, and inclusion, definitely thinking of it through, say, two lenses. One is the lens of what we’ve primarily been talking about of how are we supporting our historically marginalized students, supporting our staff and our faculty, our people, as they’re engaged in global education, and that many times, again, are folks in historically marginalized populations.
But when we think about learning global DEI competencies, all of our students need to access that. DEI is not just populations to support or competencies to be learned—to learn. So inside the classroom, when they’re participating in study abroad or otherwise, are we thinking through how we position our students to learn the kind of competencies that can position them to be better citizens, to be better—that much more thriving in their professional careers and otherwise. And, again, that takes place—many times that takes place in the classroom.
CASA: Our next question is also written and comes from Wendy Kuran, associate vice president for development and alumni engagement at Duke Kunshan University.
Actually, she has two questions. The first is, following up on the earlier question and Andrew’s great answer, is the career and self-development value proposition of study abroad clear to diverse students? Is there credible, accessible research about the value? What could we, at universities, including students, do to help make that case in new ways more effectively?
And the second shorter question, do you ever work in secondary education intercultural exchange programs and, if not, are those in your ecosystems? Are there those in your ecosystems who do?
GORDON: Yeah. So I’ll start with the second question first.
We work with some secondary institutions and organizations that support secondary students at that level. I would not say that that has been the traditional group of professionals or organizations or institutions that have come to us.
But we are seeing some growing traction there. So I’m always interested in connecting with folks who have interest with that.
With respect to career, I would say there are definitely institutions who have been at the forefront of centering the connection between global education and career, and I think as the field of global education that’s work that’s improving. But there’s still work to do, I think, particularly for being able to make the case for students who, for a variety of reasons may be hesitant about study abroad.
What we find in engaging with students, yes, research is important. Using more factoids are important. Firsthand experiences being important of students who embody similar identities and otherwise that can say, I had this kind of experience. I went from point A to point B to point Z.
I know when I’ve had an opportunity to go to campuses and speak and otherwise telling a little bit about my own personal trajectory from doing accounting consulting to becoming an entrepreneur and otherwise and how study abroad impacted that, that’s one of the things that attract students is really wanting to understand, OK, you look like me. You had a similar experience. How did you do that?
So which is to say particularly with that—the part of your question asking about historically marginalized student populations, are we telling the stories of success? Are we telling the stories of how our students from historically marginalized backgrounds have been able to leverage global opportunities to advance in their career? For them to be able to say very concretely, I had this experience and then I’m working in this job and this is how this experience helped me and so on so forth.
Again, that is intentional work, yes, by our global education offices but also, frankly, in collaboration with our career centers, our offices that are doing career development on campus. How are we working with them to be able to bring them back to connect with the students, the alum, and otherwise to be able to tell those stories, which, again, is part of the broader ecosystem of what does engagement look like to be able to increase participation and the success of students who are interested in study abroad?
CASA: Have you been able to develop dedicated assessment and evaluation tools for success or gauging the success or the results of study abroad programs?
GORDON: So we, ourselves, have not. There are some tools out there and some studies that are out there. Gosh, I’m trying to think of his name right now at the University of Georgia. There was a study in the early kind of 2000s called the Glossary Study. It was just recently built—they built upon that with a new study that showed the connection between academic success.
I wouldn’t say that for me, I’m familiar with a survey or research that goes as deep on the career success aspect of it. But I know there are some resources out there that talk deeper about the connection between career development and—study abroad and career development.
CASA: And do you have thoughts on how global education and study abroad contribute to U.S. foreign policy creation and international relations?
GORDON: Yeah. Well, in part, I mean, I think there’s an aspect of just civics that’s connected to every time you get on a plane, you travel, and you flash that green—I always say green—that blue passport, why is that so easy? Because even being able to understand the ability that you have to travel to the vast majority of the world without having a visa, without—and, frankly, other countries aren’t able to do that.
So almost, certainly, encourage deeper appreciation for the privilege that we have as U.S. citizens, being able to travel as freely as we do for most of the world, but also being able to engage, I think, for students of—U.S. students to be able to engage in other populations, hear their perspective.
You know, sometimes there’s perspectives that are critical to the U.S. Sometimes there are perspectives that are wildly in love with the U.S., and that’s great. It’s important to hear all of that, to hear how you’re perceived, and then you bring that back home with you. Now you’re thinking about your role as a citizen, what that does to you to be able to understand positionality of the U.S. and the rest of the world and what role that you personally want to take with that.
And so I—and I guess I say for myself having a deeper appreciation for the, frankly, benefits of being a U.S. citizen by traveling and having had the opportunity to travel as much as I do and interact with folks all over the world.
And so I think for all of our populations I think the populations that maybe haven’t been as civically engaged or as deeply civically engaged it creates that many more opportunities to have that appreciation for.
GORDON: And then, frankly, just people-to-people. I would just say—this is the last thing I’ll say. It’s funny, I mean—I mean, people-to-people exchanges, what they say it’s hard to hate someone you know. (Laughs.) I mean, it’s true. I mean, and I think that it’s easy to turn on the news and hear XYZ about any number of people and locations in the world.
I think when you sit down you break bread and you have coffee, whatever it may be, with folks from other parts of the world it does develop, I think, a deeper appreciation, really helping push us down that road of embracing difference and, I think, developing a deeper empathy, which we could all use more of that.
CASA: Great. Well, we’ve come to the end of our time and, Andrew, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us, and to all of you for your questions and comments.
You can follow Diversity Abroad on Twitter at @DiversityAbroad. You will be receiving an invitation to our next Higher Education webinar under separate cover. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow at @CFR_Academic on Twitter and visit CFR.org, ForeignAffairs.com, and ThinkGlobalHealth.org for research and analysis on global issues.
I hope you’re all having a great summer, and thank you again for joining us today. We look forward to your continued participation in the Higher Education Webinar Series.