A Weekend at The Clinton Global Initiative-University: Engaging Hispanic-Serving Institutions

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Chelsea Clinton, Hilary Clinton, and Bill Clinton sitting on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference"Policies, not politics­"—whether advocating in the halls of Capitol Hill, or conducting research as a student at Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy, this mantra drives me.

It was that spirit which characterized the 11th annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) at the University of Chicago from October 19-21. In just a few days, I had the opportunity to exchange revolutionary ideas with some of the brightest minds from around the globe.

A major theme of the conference—conceptualized by former President Clinton as the forces of exclusive vs. inclusive tribalism—centered on diversity as a tool conducive to change. This gathering of more than 1,000 students, representing 397 schools and 112 countries, revealed stark differences ranging from ideological positions to religious affiliations. However, it was in this difference, a diverse set of individuals from all walks of life, that created an inclusive environment to discuss commitments to action.

CGI U was an opportunity, and an ideal global platform, to garner support for Juntos: Chicago Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) Abroad, an interdisciplinary, service-learning, faculty-led collaboration between three (HSIs) in Chicago; the program seeks to be the first of its kind. Juntos is an idea that originated and exists outside of IES Abroad; however, my recent engagement with HSIs through IES Abroad has been a key influence in my drive and creativity.

Ultimately, CGI U reaffirmed my conviction that Juntos has the potential to serve as a future model for the colleges and universities that enroll a disproportionate number of Latinx students in the U.S. post-secondary education system. It also cemented my academic and professional ambitions: incessantly work to increase Latinx student participation in study abroad.

Still, challenges remain ahead.

Hernando Sevilla-Garcia taking a selfie with Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton and other CGI-U studentsAlthough Latinx participation in international education opportunities has increased over time, an alarming statistic persists: “HSIs only account for approximately 7% of all Hispanic or Latino students going abroad,” (Institute of International Education, 2017). Whether it's financial obstacles or the lack of institutional support for study abroad, HSIs face a growing number of obstacles to increase accessibility for students. As such, stakeholders in the field—from study abroad offices at well-funded institutions to non-profit organizations—must actively engage the colleges and universities that disproportionately serve the fastest growing demographic in U.S. higher education: Latinx students.

Intentional strategies can act as allies of inclusive international education. Those invested in increasing the diversity of study abroad can begin to take concrete steps in providing the support HSIs lack and deserve. Here are just a few examples of those strategies:

  • Multi-campus collaboration of short-term, faculty led programs (e.g., Juntos)

  • Partnerships between HSIs and study abroad organizations (e.g., Tu Mundo)

  • Advocacy at the local, state, and federal level (e.g., NAFSA Advocacy Day)

After insightful conversations with leaders that included American Civil Liberties Union President Susan Herman to UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Muzoon Almellehan, CGI U instilled a new sense of determination in me to impact the policy conversations that will lead to a more equitable society. By rejecting cultural divisiveness and accepting the beauty in difference, change is possible.

My late uncle Douglas Macomber (pictured left) left behind a legacy of global citizenship through his use of instruments and music as a means to unite people around the world. For me, I hope to carry on that legacy by elevating study abroad—especially for underrepresented students—as a vehicle towards inclusivity. A particularly moving moment at the conference was finding out that one of Doug’s high school classmates from Maine East High School would be participating in the closing plenary. Although I never got a chance to personally share some words with her (she goes by Secretary Hillary Clinton, and may have been busy), she can be certain that CGI U was an incubator for the future generation of leaders.

Check out resources from our Diversity team for more information about studying abroad as a Latinx student.


Hernando Sevilla-Garcia, Diversity Relations Manager

After spending a year in IES Abroad's Academics Department as a Program Associate, Hernando Sevilla-Garcia now works to increase the participation of underrepresented students in study abroad as a Diversity Relations Manager. During his undergraduate career, he studied at the University of Pennsylvania and then completed a B.A. in History and Political Science with minors in Portuguese and Interdisciplinary Latina/o Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. While an undergrad, he studied abroad in five different countries: short-term, faculty-led programs in Costa Rica, Cuba, and China, as well as spending a semester each in Spain and Brazil. A recipient of the Gates Millennium and QuestBridge scholarships, Hernando is currently a graduate student as a candidate for a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Policy Program within Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

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