Building Community: Our Diversity Abroad Workshop Abroad

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IES Abroad
May 17, 2023

Integral in fulfilling our mission is a commitment to the representation and integration of diverse perspectives, cultures, and ideas at every level of our organization. We believe that DEIA work is ongoing and we’re all better when we are committed to the work of learning and growing together.  

We believe we have a responsibility to share and continue developing our knowledge and skills about how to build more equitable and inclusive learning environments with  our students, faculty, partners, and study abroad colleagues. That’s why we launched our first-ever Diversity Workshop Abroad (DWA), which was hosted at our London Center during the Spring 2023 semester. 

Learning Redefined: Diversity Workshop Abroad

The workshop is a way to build community with practitioners and start a broader conversation around anti-racism, decolonization, and the interrelated concepts of globalization and migration, and how the IES Abroad community aims to approach this work at our Centers, in our curriculum, and with our students.

Core Aims of the Diversity Abroad Workshop

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intentional learning community among professionals.

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and center non-majority perspectives, culture and history.

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an opportunity to share perspectives and grow.

Overview & How It Works

“I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for this work.” That was just one of the wonderful ways a participant describes how inspiring and meaningful the DWA was to them.   Brittani Smit, Associate Vice President of DEIA at IES Abroad, said: "We designed this experience to allow each participant to explore aspects of diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism that they might not have previously and benefit from each other's knowledge and expertise. The participants' and guest speakers' input enriched our discussions and provided us with inspiration that will impact our work for years to come."

Noelle Baldwin, Director of Diversity Recruiting & Advising at IES Abroad explained that the workshop was a mini short-term study abroad experience, and they intentionally replicated certain aspects of our students study abroad journey. From pre-departure meetings, to orientations, and reflections, they were able to create a unique opportunity to center our students perspectives.

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The Workshop

IES Abroad has a history of hosting Advisor Workshops Abroad, these workshops serve as a resource to the field for professional development. The idea for the Diversity Workshop Abroad was developed from the work we have already done but with an intentional focus on building resources for professionals around issues of equity, access, inclusion.  

The purpose of the four-day workshop, hosted by our Diversity Recruiting & Advising Team, our AVP of DEIA, and our IES Abroad London Center, is to foster meaningful discussions, identify effective strategies and develop best practices for actively and authentically embracing diversity, equity, inclusion and antiracism in study abroad. Throughout the workshop, participants delved into three pivotal themes: decolonization, globalization and migration, and anti-racism. These themes were explored within the cultural and historical context of London, with a special focus on their impact on our students' experiences.

Interior of the new IES Abroad London Center.

Location: London

IES Abroad piloted its first DWA in London due to the city’s rich cultural diversity, historical significance and complex colonial past. London's status as a cosmopolitan global hub makes it an ideal setting to explore ways to further embed principles of DEIA into our practice, policies, curriculum, and co-curricular activities.

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Participants included professionals inside and outside the study abroad office – representing various departments and different levels. The workshop was comprised of 14 participants from the following institutions: Northwestern University, University of Chicago, Amherst College, Case Western Reserve University, Morehouse College, University of Illinois Chicago, Prairie View A&M University, Williams College, Abraham Consultancy, Norfolk State University, Villanova University, University of Missouri, Lehigh University, and Diversity Abroad. The participants shared an interest in increasing access and inclusion in study abroad as well as learning more about IES Abroad’s DEIA work in an international context.  

Brittani Smit, Ph.D. headshot
“One of our main aims was to delve deeper into the concept of inclusive academic excellence and unpack how it can be achieved both inside and outside of the classroom. We used London as a lab through which to explore our themes of globalization and migration, and decolonization and antiracism. We explored ways to meaningfully incorporate the experiences of marginalized and underserved communities and acknowledge the contemporary impact of historical legacies of oppression and inequality.”
Dr. Brittani Smit • Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism at IES Abroad

Goals of the Workshop

The DWA aimed to explore the most effective ways to amplify marginalized voices, help to shape and respond to participant expectations, and design more equitable and inclusive programming with the following goals in mind.

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Work Towards Building an Intentional Learning Community

Centering non-majority perspectives and history.

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Identify Advising Strategies for Excluded Backgrounds

Preparing students for cross-cultural experiences.

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Explore Three Key Themes

Focusing on decolonization, globalization/migration, and anti-racism.

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Understand the Student Experience

Providing insight into the student experience.

Setting Intentions

Participants collaborated on outlining a core set of community agreements to allow for healthy discourse, sharing of different perspectives and openness to learning from others. Intentions include: prioritizing growth, not comfort; come as you are, but don’t leave as you came; take space, make space; take lessons, leave stories.

“I have a renewed sense of enthusiasm for this work. While my office already partners with our cultural centers, I am mapping out a plan for further work with student groups and faculty from underrepresented identities and academic disciplines for the next academic year.”
Workshop Participant

Overarching Themes

Take it from our participants:

London was used as a lab to develop a greater communal understanding around practical application of the following three themes:

  1. Decolonization

    As the capital of a once vast empire, England has a prominent colonial history that has impacted the entire world. In order to take into account England’s relationship to its former colonies, the workshop highlighted ways to consider colonial legacies during study abroad.

    Through a deeper understanding and exploration of decolonization, the workshop highlighted the ways IES Abroad and the field of study abroad at large can critically engage with colonial power dynamics to create a curriculum that is more inclusive for students.  

    For example, during museum visits, acknowledging that some narratives are amplified while others are silenced  can allow for more inclusivity and representation with students. 

  2. Globalization/Migration

    Globalization has profoundly influenced the cultural fabric of most modern cities. It has facilitated the rapid flow of goods, information, and people, leading to urbanization, cultural exchange, economic growth, and the emergence of cosmopolitan environments that transcend national boundaries. 

    An example of this is the fact that chicken tikka masala, a popular Indian-inspired curry, is considered to be one of England’s national dishes. This culinary phenomenon reflects the impact of globalization, cultural exchange, and immigration, highlighting the dynamic nature of modern societies and the blending of diverse influences in unexpected ways. 

    The impact of globalization and migration allows for opportunities for cultural exchange and engagement with immigrant and marginalized communities, some of which may have similar experiences to underrepresented students studying abroad. Meaningful engagement with these communities can enrich the experience of all students.  

  3. Anti-Racism  

    As part of the goal to increase equity and bring attention to broader and more accurate perspectives of different cultures and narratives  the workshop focused on how IES Abroad can actively identify policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racism.  

    Some examples include the valuable input one participant shared about their "institution's use of a trauma-informed approach and [disability rights activist] Michelle Daley's insight on the compounded discrimination experienced by Black people with disabilities."

“There were many tangible aspects that were memorable, e.g. Black Cultural Archives, the Theater Event, Michelle’s presentation on Disability Activism. There were also many intangible aspects that were equally memorable, such as learning from colleagues in such different offices (student success); having facilitated conversation with Keshia, David, and John; and finding moments of joy and awakening, as a group.”
Workshop Participant

Itinerary Snapshot

From tours of key cultural attractions to workshops and discussions with IES Abroad London faculty, the DWA itinerary was dynamic. Some of the highlights from the workshop include a tour of Trafalgar Square and Brixton with IES Abroad Faculty Member David Neita, a visit to the Black Cultural Archives and Wellcome Collection, a theater showing of “For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Hue Gets too Heavy”, an IES Abroad student exhibition and live showcase, and much more. Take it from our participants!

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“It was profound for me personally and professionally! As a woman of Caribbean decent, there were aspects of my family’s history that I only learned around the family table or at annual reunions. So to be in the Black Archives in Brixton, across the Atlantic and see the history of my Grandmother (who was part of the Windrush generation) and my Father represented and centered was incredibly affirming. Imagine if all our students could feel centered in similar ways across the world!”
Noelle Baldwin • Director of Diversity Relations & Advising at IES Abroad
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What's next?

The first DWA was certainly one for the books! We're evaluating all of the key learnings we gained from the DWA as well as evaluating when, where, and how we can deliver another DWA so that more people can benefit from the experience. Until then, feel free to sign up to be kept up to date on future workshops.

If you’d like to learn more about our Diversity Recruiting & Advising efforts and initiatives, please contact Noelle Baldwin at

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