IIE Networker - Spring 2011 - (Page 30)

DIVERSIFYING STUDY ABROAD Diversity in Education Abroad: A Plan for Our Campuses By Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran THE WORD “DIVERSITY” carries multiple meanings and can refer to many categories by which an individual may be marked, including race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability, and others. When considering the issue of access to education abroad, lumping these multiple categories together does not seem useful. Depending upon the category under consideration, these factors may serve as barriers to promoting an optimal learning abroad experience or may raise entirely different issues. In this article I will focus on ethnic diversity in study abroad, addressing three questions: Why does this matter? Are we really serious about this issue? And finally, are we asking the right questions? The recent figures from Open Doors 2010 set forth very clearly the challenge before us. In 2008/09, over 260,300 students at all levels of higher education studied abroad. This represents an increase of 180 percent over a 10-year period (Bhandari & Chow, 2011). That’s the good news. The challenging news is that during the same 10-year period the participation rates for African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans remain virtually unchanged. Moreover, the participation rates do not reflect increases in the presence of these groups within the higher education community. In 2008, approximately 63.2 percent of undergraduates described themselves as white, 13.9 percent described themselves as African American, and 12.9 percent identified as Hispanic. Other minorities, including nonresident aliens, accounted for 10.1 percent of the total (NCES, 2010). In contrast, Open Doors 2010 reported that approximately 80.5 percent of those who studied abroad were white, 4.2 percent were African American, and 6.0 percent were Hispanic. These data suggest that students of color have not been able to participate in the transformational experience of study abroad to the same extent as white students (Bhandari & Chow, 2011). 30 Why Does This Matter? Intercultural competence and a global perspective are essential competencies for anyone who aspires to provide leadership in the 21st century. These skills will be required for employment in every sector: politics, business, public policy, not-for-profits, and others. By intercultural competence I mean: • The capacity to recognize our global interconnectedness politically, economically, socially, and ecologically; • The capacity to respect difference; • The ability to see an issue from multiple perspectives; • The willingness to adapt to new situations; and • The capacity to put oneself at the margins. A global perspective presumes intercultural competence informed by knowledge of the history and the impact of various forms of dominance—for example, colonialism, neocolonialism, or rampant multinational capitalism—on opportunity within and among nations. The limited participation of students of color in education abroad has consequences at both the national and personal levels. In conversations with leaders in the business sector, those of us in the academy are repeatedly reminded of the importance of preparing a workforce that is ready for the global economy. Corporate leaders are looking for employees who are conversant in other languages and who have the capacity to work effectively in diverse teams. More and more, work will require the capacity to operate both internationally and cross-culturally. Given that these manpower needs are currently unmet, without the increased participation of students of color in study abroad activities, this shortage will only be exacerbated as our nation’s workforce becomes increasingly diverse. And the underrepresentation of students of color in study abroad is not merely a challenge for corporate America; members Eileen B. Wilson-Oyelaran, President of Kalamazoo College, credits an undergraduate study abroad experience with transforming her life and clarifying her career goals. of minority ethnic groups are also greatly underrepresented in fields such as international affairs. The education abroad experience impacts each student uniquely and, consequently, it is difficult to speak in precise terms about what is lost or gained for the individual student of color who, for whatever reason, does not study abroad. Suffice it to say that most students find study abroad an empowering experience. Most return to this country with increased competence, improved linguistic facility, and better-defined career goals. If students of color have not had an opportunity to study abroad, they will find themselves at a disadvantage in a labor market that increasingly values international experience and global competence. For some students of color the study abroad experience represents the first time in their lives when skin color does not matter or carries very different connotations. Professor Joy Carew (1993) notes: “I have witnessed repeated examples of how students, removed from the social and political context of the United States, have been able to revise their views of themselves and to reach beyond other peoples’ perceptions of their abilities.” Our experience at Kalamazoo College is not as definitive. It suggests that for AfricanAmerican students, in particular, individual

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IIE Networker - Spring 2011

IIE Networker - Spring 2011
A Message from Allan E. Goodman
IIENetworker University Presidents Interview Series
2011 IIE Andrew Heiskell Awards: Innovation in International Education
100,000 Strong: Building Strategic Trust in U.S.-China Relations through Education
Experiencing Difference: The Meaning of Globalization at a Diverse Institution
Diversity in International Education: The Time Is Now
Diversity in Education Abroad: A Plan for Our Campuses
Best Practices for Diversifying Study Abroad on Your Campus
The Ethnorelative Engineer: Culturally Immersive Study Abroad Programs for Engineering Students
NanoJapan: Preparing Globally Savvy Researchers
Minority Faculty: The Key to Diversifying Study Abroad
Best Practices for When Diversity Is Commonplace
Advertisers’ Index
IIE Program Profile

IIE Networker - Spring 2011