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Inclusive and representative global learning requires sustained commitment and investment

Diversity, equity, inclusion, access, belonging, and justice. DEI, EDI, DEIB, or JEDI.

"That international education and global learning practitioners are using DEI and other terms more frequently is a promising sign of progress"

These terms and acronyms have become almost as common as intercultural and cross-cultural in the lexicon of global learning and international education communities. To what extent, though, are we operationalising these concepts to effect systemic change? How might international education and global learning practitioners ensure the language we use and our actions advance DEI efforts?

These questions were foundational to Global Inclusion 2022, Diversity Abroad’s 10th annual conference.

Between speakers, presenters, and meaningful dialogue among the hundreds of attendees from dozens of countries, several strategies were offered for more effectively incorporating DEI into all aspects of international education.

Investing in Words and Actions

Much of DEI work is predicated on building trust with our constituents, which requires communicating our commitments as much as demonstrating those values through behaviour and action.

A mission statement that espouses a commitment to increasing access to global learning for all students should be followed with resources, information, and support for students at all stages of their engagement with our offices and organisations. A statement to increase the diversity of our staff should begin with reviewing and revising hiring policies to reflect more equitable processes. In short, our time, effort, and resource allocation should reflect our stated values.

Investing in Training and Development

Ongoing opportunities to deepen understanding and practice of DEI should be a core component of individual staff and faculty learning plans. Student demographics shift, language is continuously changing, and our understanding of identity development, inclusive recruitment, and advising practices are constantly improving.

Allocating professional development funds and building in learning hours into staff responsibilities should be strategies we use to expand all staff and faculty understanding of how DEI influences our work.

Assess the Work to Celebrate Progress and Learn from Setbacks

In the same way we monitor student participation in global learning opportunities, we must also track our progress in the areas where we have committed to more inclusive practices.

Which students are participating in what programs or completing applications to go abroad? How engaged are international students in the campus community? Do our staff and faculty feel a sense of belonging in the workplace? Where have we been successful and where could we improve?

Having this information and reviewing it frequently can help us identify patterns, develop interventions, and respond to setbacks.

That international education and global learning practitioners are using DEI and other terms more frequently is a promising sign of progress toward more inclusive and equitable international programming and may signal that we are considering how language informs practice.

Still, as we have seen in other industries, a verbal commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion does not mean that institutional policies, practices, and procedures are effecting change. Nor does it guarantee that increased attention to DEI will lead to increased resources or shared responsibility for ensuring DEI efforts can be maintained in the long run.

So let us be heartened, as we were at Global Inclusion 2022, by our progress and also commit to investing in sustained efforts to both communicate and demonstrate the values of DEI in international education and global learning.

About the author: This is a sponsored article by Lily Lopez-McGee, PhD. Lily serves as the executive director of Diversity Abroad. She has dedicated more than a decade to capacity building, EDI within global education, and U.S. national security and foreign policy. Lopez-McGee has previously supported federal grants at Howard University and UNCFSP. She is a practitioner, researcher, and speaker and has published in industry and academic outlets.

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