Sector cannot work in “silos” on DEI – report

Published 01/11/2023

While international education is a “naturally collaborative endeavour”, the sector must work to make sure cooperation is not stymied as people work in their “institutional” silos, especially on work in diversity, equity, and inclusion, a new report has said.

Models of Change: Equity and Inclusion in Action in International Education highlights case studies and the work done so far to promote equity and inclusion in the sector, and was put together by partners IIE and Dickinson College.

The report follows on from workshops set up through the partnership formed in 2021, addressing various areas of equity and inclusion work, including DEI action and outcomes in the sector.

It uses four case studies to highlight the necessity for staff at institutions to look at their own “positionality” and privilege – and how that can help them do their work more effectively helping international students and study abroad students.

One case study examined Dickinson College’s own approach to equity and inclusion in education abroad projects – focusing on a 2022 DEI workshop for members of the American University Programs in Spain.

“When working with on-site colleagues, the focus needs to shift entirely toward the complete infusion of studies around power, position and privilege to what faculty and staff may or may not already know about their own countries and contexts.

“The absence of research, literature and training focused on on-site staff is itself indicative of the culturally hegemonic structures that currently dominate DEI discourse,” the case study found.

“We have an opportunity – an obligation – to examine our own positionality, assumptions and identity, and to become more comfortable with, and aware of, how these show up in just about everything we do,” wrote Claire Overmann about the report.

“Like learning a new language, we need to practice checking in with ourselves in different contexts and eventually become proficient in expanding our perspectives, modifying actions, and creating truly inclusive experiences for those around us,” she added.

Those who wrote about their experiences in the report showed, according to Overmann, that shared responsibility is an extremely important aspect of international education, a “naturally collaborative endeavour”, focusing on exchange of knowledge and space sharing.

“However, institutional silos, geographic differences and cultural hurdles are quick to stymie cooperation, but there is no progress without it.

“There is no progress without [cooperation]”

“This is the moment to rally around our shared desire to increase DEI in all facets of education by reaching out to others to see how collaborating can advance everyone’s goals,” she urged.

The instigators of the report, Samantha Brandauer, associate provost and executive director of the Center for Global Study and Engagement at Dickinson College, and Lindsay Calvert, director of IIE’s Center for Access and Equity, launched earlier this year, told The PIE the publication is a reminder that “we must keep asking” who is not benefiting for the sector’s work.

“Whose stories are not being told, and why not? [It] brings hope to our work as it offers some great examples for pathways forward and that we should be doing this work in collaboration and not silos.

“We are looking at challenging systems and power dynamics across cultural contexts and also asking everyone to build their own self-awareness,” they said.

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