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CDOs and SIOs must “collaborate” not compete

A shared commitment to students’ academic success, interpersonal growth and a desire to see their students thrive – the work of chief diversity officers and senior international officers have a lot in common, according to Diversity Abroad, a US organisation which works with colleges and international organisations to develop and implement diversity and inclusion strategies.

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There are a variety of opportunities for strategic collaboration between CDOs and SIOs

But more should be done to ensure that the roles of CDOs and SIOs are complementary rather than competing, according to a new report.

“While some institutions have gone as far merged diversity and international offices together, the majority of CDOs and SIOs work in separate units”

“Viewed side by side, both internationalisation and diversity initiatives strive to achieve very similar goals,” the report read.

“For example, promoting a variety of cultural and social perspectives, through organised activities, programs and practices, to create an inclusive community while cultivating a campus climate that fosters openness and understanding toward all people.”

“These roles have shared goals with respect to ensuring diverse voices and perspectives, be it from traditionally marginalised domestic populations or those from international students and scholars, are a vibrant part of the university community and student experience,” CEO & founder of Diversity Abroad, Andrew Gordon, told The PIE News.

CDOs and SIOs have found themselves working competitively, due to structural and financial barriers that see the roles competing for limited resources, Gordon relayed.

But following discussions with leaders in international and diversity and inclusion space, Gordon has seen an increased desire for CDOs and SIOs to find concrete opportunities to partner.

“While some institutions have gone as far merged diversity and international offices together, the majority of CDOs and SIOs work in separate units,” he said.

The report highlights several of these areas, he added.

The diversity office should be involved in arrival orientation for international students and campus-wide supports network beyond the international services office should be established, the report recommends.

While the roles and titles may be somewhat different in countries other than the US, there are professionals who focus on internationalisation and those who focus on student success at institutions throughout the world, according to Gordon.

Diversity Abroad hopes the report will be a catalyst to constructive discussions about opportunities for such roles to collaborate at institutions regardless of country of origin.

There are a variety of opportunities for strategic collaboration between CDOs and SIOs, Gordon added, saying he thinks the report is “just scratching the surface”.

“Countless colleges and universities have ‘diversity’, ‘internationalisation’ and ‘student success’ as part of the institution’s strategic plans. CDOs and SIOs are uniquely positioned to collaborate and play key roles in moving their institutions toward reaching their strategic goals.”

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