News, University News

Brown encourages diversity in international programs

Newly-annual workshops prepare students about cultural differences before abroad experiences

By
Staff Writer
Friday, April 14, 2017

Last month, from Mar. 13 to 17, the Office of International Programs launched a series of workshops to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to study abroad.

The week-long workshop series, titled “A Series in Conversations: Study Abroad and Me,” focused on how disability, sexuality, spirituality, gender, race and class can influence students’ study abroad experiences.

The workshops evolved out of the essential areas of identity acknowledged in the diversity and inclusion report on the OIP website — race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and disability. Members of underrepresented groups tend to be more hesitant to go abroad because they must come to terms with different historical and cultural attitudes as well as different national policies and laws affecting them in their study abroad destinations, said Kendall Brostuen, director of international programs and associate dean of the college.

“These are the key student areas that we need to be more and more conscious of when it comes to advising students and preparing students to go abroad,” Brostuen said. “It’s important that they prepare themselves as much as possible … through information-gathering about their location,” Brostuen said.

The OIP plans on making these workshops an annual event, said Ned Quigley, associate director of engagement for the OIP.

In addition to these workshops, the OIP offers tools and resources for underrepresented groups on their website regarding other countries’ attitudes toward their identities.

The OIP is also providing their on-site staff with diversity training so that they will be able to adequately advise students from diverse backgrounds while they study abroad. The on-site staff from many of OIP’s programs attended a two-day workshop on diversity in December in Granada, Spain. In addition, the OIP will be organizing a one-day diversity workshop to take place at the end of this month for all OIP staff, which will be led by Andrew Gordon, the president of Diversity Abroad Network. OIP staff are also required to complete an e-learning module about diversity in order to learn how to better advise students thinking of going abroad.

Gabe Reyes ’18, a student who studied abroad in Denmark last semester, initially felt hopeful about studying abroad, but was apprehensive about some of the challenges he was going to encounter as a student of color there.

Some of the major challenges Reyes faced were “leaving the sanctity of my campus that had a myriad of resources for students from disenfranchised backgrounds (and) also leaving such a diverse student body to (go to) a program that primarily served wealthy Caucasians,” Reyes said.

The OIP will be reaching out to underrepresented communities as a follow-up to these workshops to further encourage students of diverse backgrounds to apply to study abroad.

The OIP also intends to track student participation in study abroad programs, broken down by race/ethnicity, nationality and gender. The OIP is in the process of creating a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, which will be available at the end of this academic year, Brostuen said. The OIP released a draft of its DIAP with the rest of the administrative offices under the Dean of the College early last month.