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Emory units collaborate to enrich student belonging and diversity in international education

Departments across Emory University collaborated to organize a workshop on inclusive strategies for enhancing diversity in international education, emphasizing the importance of trust-building, inclusivity and community collaboration throughout the international education process.

“The world is open if only we are given the opportunity,” says Carol Henderson, vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion.

That sentiment echoes what units across Emory University had in mind when planning a workshop focused on inclusive strategies and practices for enhancing diversity in international education. More than 30 faculty and staff members, representing 26 departments across campus and two other Atlanta higher education institutions, attended “Centering Inclusivity to Diversify International Education” this fall.

A workshop focused on fostering trust

The program underscored the importance of creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for students participating in international education experiences from diverse backgrounds. It was facilitated by Devin Walker, the director of student success and equity at Cabrillo College and former director of global leadership and social impact at the University of Texas at Austin.

Participants engaged in a series of interactive learning and community-building exercises designed to improve active listening skills and effectively navigate perceptions, stereotypes and identity. These skills, applied during pre-departure orientation, in-country experiences and post-trip reflections, play a pivotal role in cultivating trust among students who study internationally.

“Trust is particularly vital, as many minoritized students encounter traumatic situations while engaging in international education experiences but remain silent due to concerns that faculty and staff leaders may not understand their perspectives,” emphasizes Franzene Minott, the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives program coordinator.

Programs such as this one create space for educators to have these necessary discussions and learn from one another’s experiences.

“The session helped us further explore the complexities, and possibilities, involved in supporting diverse and minoritized students that engage in study abroad and international programs,” says Donna Troka, director of diversity and inclusive pedagogy at Emory’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence (CFDE). “It was useful to help us think more deeply about pre-travel, in-country and post-travel orientation and support and how CFDE may further engage in these conversations.”

Walker emphasized that the diversification of international education experiences is attainable through ensuring equitable access and inclusivity. Engaging students early and consistently is important, he says. Significant factors in these efforts include student-centered staff, peer-to-peer influence, identity-based workshops, addressing biases and assumptions, conducting career-oriented workshops and promoting global skills development. 

Building community, breaking silos

Henderson believes workshops such as this one help create a university environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds are not only welcomed but also embraced.

She’s not alone in her thinking.

“To maximize the impact of this work, we have to focus on building community and breaking silos on campus,” Kenya Casey, director of Global Safety and Security (GSS). Workshops such as this one, along with projects like the identity-based toolkit, allow units across campus to collaborate and help create safe international experiences for students.

Other ways GSS is striving to build community and create safe experiences for international students include:

  • Collaborating with Emory’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center — led by director Sharon Stroye — to implement faculty-led Racial Healing Circles. The pilot program, set to launch in spring 2024, will provide opportunities for Emory students and employees from diverse backgrounds to come together and connect their shared humanity through storytelling.
  • Working with Emory’s Student Case Management and Intervention Services (SCMIS) — a unit within Campus Life — to provide international crisis response services in the event of an emergency during student travel. SCMIS offers students a safe and welcoming space, providing resources, basic needs support, health referrals and crisis intervention, including 24/7 on-call support.
  • Continuing to collaborate with Emory Policy Department (EPD), the CFDE and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) to provide additional resources and workshop opportunities for administrators and faculty supporting international experiences for students. For example, GSS will partner with EPD beginning in spring 2024 to facilitate a workshop on incident response for administrators and faculty. 

A collective effort for a more inclusive global education

Obse Ababiya, who leads the Atlanta Global Partnerships (AGP) portfolio, highlighted the importance of these training programs for bringing equity into global education experiences. By encouraging staff and faculty to implement programs that center inclusivity and equity, students can benefit from reduced financial barriers and enjoy increased diversity in international education. AGP launched a free passport program in the spring to help students overcome financial barriers to international education, and partnered with Delta this fall to bring the program back to campus and provide free passports to a limited number of students receiving financial aid.

Promoting collaboration among students, faculty and staff breaks down boundaries and fosters a holistic approach to managing the complexities of international education, with a strong emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Emory’s GSS and AGP, units within the Office of Global Strategy and Initiatives, collaborated with the CFDE and the ODEI to organize the workshop.

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