Elon students and staff attend Diversity Abroad Conference and Global Student Leadership Summit
Elon students who have participated in study abroad programs attended the Diversity Abroad Conference and Global Student Leadership with members of Elon faculty.
By Natalie Zagorski '20
Four Elon students and three staff members from Elon’s Global Education Center (GEC) and the Center For Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (CREDE) met in Miami, Florida, to discuss “New Realities & Untapped Potential” at the sixth annual Diversity Abroad Conference and Global Student Leadership Summit (GSLS).
More than 500 educators, professionals and student leaders attended the conference with the shared vision of creating greater equity in global education.
For the past six years, the Diversity Abroad Conference has been the most comprehensive national forum in global education, discussing the issues of diversity, access and inclusion. The conference sets its goal as ensuring “that the next generation of young people from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds are equipped with the knowledge, skills and experience to be academically, personally and professionally successful in the 21st-century interconnected world.”
As part of the conference, student leaders from a variety of universities participated in the GSLS. This was an opportunity for students to share their global experiences and to develop awareness of diversity and inclusion in relation to global leadership. The goal of the summit was to empower these student participants to return to their respective campuses to share their takeaways and make an impact.
Elon’s participation in this conference was co-sponsored by the GEC and Brooke Barnett, associate provost of academic and inclusive excellence. Barnett explained that this is important work when looking to create equitable and inclusive practices across campus.
“We want to reduce barriers to study abroad and to help students have the best experiences when abroad,” Barnett said. “The summit provided opportunities for students and colleagues to learn more and take an active role in making study abroad possible and more meaningful for our students.”
One of the Elon students who attended the conference was Semester at Sea participant Jasmine Hodges. “The GSLS truly empowered me by giving me space to honestly reflect on my experience abroad in relation to my identities,” Hodges said. “One of my biggest takeaways will be applying the role of my identity and my story to my leadership and the way I view my future."
Erika Swinney, who has studied in China and Ghana during winter term courses, said her take away from the summit was “no matter the places that you studied abroad, the experience that you had leads you to a much better idea and thinking about what you want to do in life.”
The goal of the summit is for campus leaders to share their experiences and to empower these students to return to campus where they can make an impact by sharing their takeaways in regards to diversity and global leadership.
“There are significant barriers to accessing international study abroad experience for students of color and many other individuals with marginalized identities,” said Jazmine Langley, and Elon student who studied in Cape Town, South Africa. “Sharing my story of how I accomplished this can help mend this gap to access and minimize some of the misconceptions marginalized people have about this opportunity.
“The GSLS gave me skills to articulate and leverage my international experience so much more effectively on campus and in the professional world as I enter the phase of considering post-graduation opportunities,” said Langley.
Marta Djalleta, who studied in Senegal, said what she found most memorable from the summit was the keynote speaker, Saif Ishoof, who is vice president for engagement at Florida International University. Ishoof shared a quote from 14th-century Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta: “Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller."
“This quote reminded me of the responsibility that travelers have to not only explore these foreign places but also to share what we find within them,” said Djalleta.
Elon’s Brandon Bell, the co-chair of the National Task Force on Race and Ethnicity, presented at the conference and came back with two pieces of meaningful insight. “Innovative partnerships between equity, diversity and inclusion offices and study abroad offices are integral in creating pathways to global experiences and diversifying the collegiate populations that go abroad,” said Bell. Bell also highlighted the importance of having diverse faculty and curriculum that speaks to a variety of experiences across and amongst social identities in supporting efforts to diversify global education at all levels.
Shanna Van Beek, assistant director of study abroad, co-presented at the conference. She and Angela Broyles of Semester at Sea presented “Inclusive Marketing: Interrogating our Narratives for Truth, Justice, and Power,” which was a discussion of the importance of ethical representation and practices in global education outreach.
Allegra Laing, study abroad coordinator, provided the energy behind Elon’s engagement in the conference. Laing notes that it is important for education abroad offices to examine how they approach access and inclusion beyond recruiting efforts. “Education abroad offices need to consider how to cultivate advising practices that are inclusive from the moment a student enters their offices through the re-entry process,” said Laing. “Providing identity-based resources for students studying abroad plays a critical role in supporting students.”