“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a lot of work to do,” says Jewell Green Winn, in discussing diversity equity, inclusion, belonging, and justice across the international education sector.
As the senior international officer and chief diversity officer at Tennessee State University, Winn is a champion for amplifying the voices of members of historically underserved and marginalised populations.
Winn is also the current president of AIEA. In advance of the annual conference this month in DC, The PIE News sat down with her to discuss her work and the state of JEDI efforts in the field at large. “So many organisations talk about [JEDI], but if we’re going to be about it, it needs to be in the core fabric of everything that we do.”
Winn speaks about barriers to international experiences for Black males. She expressed her concern about the low percentage of black male students in study abroad. “There is a major problem with the perception of Black males across our industry. It’s across our universities, it’s across society, and it’s unfortunate.”
She proffers the issue is not just prevalent on PWI campuses, rather, that Black male students at HBCUs do not always believe that study abroad is “for them.”
“Some are trying to take care of and be the anchor for their families. It’s very difficult for them to think of taking money, going out of the country, and studying abroad.”
Winn says because their needs are often more immediate, they “do not understand that [an international experience] could actually help them at some point in their lives to even do more for their families”. She believes it takes much intentionality around conversations to change these mindsets.
“I think that’s where our biggest challenge is,” Winn notes.
“[Black athletes’] opportunity to study abroad is often slim because they have to work out during the summer and the off season. So that eliminates much of that population. Then you may have a group of Black males majoring in engineering trying to get internships during the summer. So the pool begins to shrink, and shrink, and shrink.”
Winn spoke of other barriers for Black males including students who are also first generation or socio-economically disadvantaged. “Many can’t see themselves studying abroad because they have such a hard time just surviving right here, on their turf, at their university, or at home.”
An expert in engaging minority populations, Winn speaks of her own experiences in outreach to Black male students. She cautions that we cannot simply start discussing whether they want to study abroad.
Winn advises we need to first “meet them where they are, on their turf,” and ask how they feel about the different dynamics of campus life, family life, and their professional aspirations.
“That’s where that student voice comes from. Just getting into the spaces and actively listening.”
“Go to organisations on your campus. See when the multicultural centre or Black cultural centre is having a meeting. Take the president of that association to coffee and say, ‘Hey, I’m passionate about this, but I really don’t know how to approach it. What would be your suggestion on how to approach your group and get them engaged?’
“You can’t just walk up to a group of Black men and say, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you about study abroad.’ That’s not going to work.”
Winn also suggests historically Black Greek letter organisations on campus as a place to begin. “That’s a great place to start listening to some of the conversations, after asking if it’s okay to attend, as they are meetings where Black males congregate on their own terms.
“Ask them questions such as: What do you think about travelling the world? What might prevent you from travelling the world?”
As Winn prepares to leave the AIEA, she reflected again on the past, as well as all the work that remains. “I will say this from the bottom of my heart. Giving space for voices to be heard is how we’re all going to move forward. And we need to go into those conversations with open minds and be willing to learn something from that conversation. And for me, I think that’s what it’s really all about.”
Winn concluded, “Regarding the intersection of diversity and internationalisation, if you’re going to be in this space, you’re got to be bold and courageous.”
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