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Racisim in Teach Abroad?

Posted By Chris LeGrant, Thursday, October 20, 2016

Demand for English Teachers Abroad  

As English becomes further entrenched as the global language of business, popular culture and technology, the market for English teachers around the world has skyrocketed over the past 20 years.  According to The British Council, by 2020 there will be 1.9 billion people who will be actively learning English.  In China alone, there are currently 300 million people learning English.  Indeed, a deeper look into the statistics reveals a truly staggering amount of demand for native English teachers in foreign countries.  According to the International TEFL Academy:

  • An estimated 250,000 native English speakers work as English teachers abroad in more than 40,000 schools and language institutes around the world.

  • In major European cities like Prague, Madrid and Rome, approximately 3,000 – 5,000 native speaking English teachers are working at any given time.

  • In both China and South Korea, approximately 1,000 new English teachers are hired each month.

  • Because nearly half of all English teachers abroad will leave their position and return to their home country each year, more than 100,000 positions for English teachers abroad open each year.

This incredible demand has all contributed to the creation of an industry that’s worth an estimated $63 billion per year.  The appeal is also understandable from the perspective of the teacher.  These positions are essentially recession proof and in addition to being a great resume and career builder, represent a transformative personal and cultural experience.  The work is also meaningful and for many people around the world, English is an important vehicle to improve their economic and social prospects.  However, all too often these life changing teaching opportunities are being withheld from many on the basis of race, nationality and/or disability.  

Is Teach Abroad Inherently Racist?  

The Open Doors report is an invaluable resource for those of us that work in international education.  It represents a window into the demographics of study abroad programs within higher education. In contrast, the teach abroad industry is mainly for-profit and most programs are not accredited making general oversight almost non-existent and demographic data very hard to come by. Therefore, the assessment below relies on this author’s seven years of personal experience within the teach abroad industry as well as conversations with several teach abroad providers.

As of 2016, the demographics of teach abroad programs are closely aligned with those of traditional study abroad programs.  According to one teach abroad provider interviewed for this article, 80 percent of their teachers identified as caucasian and female.  Another provider mentioned that 75 percent of their teachers came from the same group.  As in study abroad, part of the reason for this stems from a lack of outreach to people from underrepresented groups.  However, unlike study abroad, many qualified teachers are not placed in a position based solely on their race and/or nationality.  To understand why this is so, we must dive further into the how teach abroad programs are generally set up.

Normally, a teach abroad provider will partner with a local for-profit, nonprofit or governmental organization within the host country.  This organization will provide access to local schools, Universities, and host families and in many cases the schools and families have an understandably great deal of control over who they accept as their teacher/tutor.  Unfortunately, this too often leads to discrimination from the local institutions, regardless of the native English fluency of the teacher.  Of course, this type of discrimination is illegal in most countries and almost all teach abroad organizations accept applications from all candidates.  However, there are countless examples of people of color being rejected by local schools for not being a “true American” and for most people this insinuates being caucasian.  For example, in East Asian countries, this discrimination is often directed toward people of East Asian ethnicity, who grew up in English speaking countries.  In these circumstances, the teach abroad provider usually tells the teacher that they cannot be placed and will continue to look for other positions in vain or, in many cases, the teacher is placed in a sub-optimal institution that has been passed over by other candidates for one reason or another (such as an extremely remote location).  

This reality creates a great deal of tension within the teach abroad world, as the vast majority of organizations/providers want to place diverse and underrepresented people on their programs.  Unfortunately, the resistance to accepting people of color from local institutions and families suppresses the motivation to actively recruit teachers from diverse backgrounds as well as developing the resources needed to support them while abroad. These tendencies and the local bias/discrimination that drive them must be confronted if we are to succeed in making teach abroad programs more diverse and inclusive.

The Path Forward

If discrimination is so deeply ingrained within the teach abroad system, what are some ways that we can begin to change and challenge it?  The first step is for teach abroad providers to actively declare their commitment to improving access, diversity and inclusion for underrepresented populations on their programs.  The next step is for these same providers to begin looking for in-county partners that will accept people from underrepresented groups, such as young people of color.  Despite the discriminatory tendencies described above, there are many institutions who will place non-caucasians and it is important for teach abroad providers to identify these entities and make a commitment to work with them.  It is then crucial that these partnerships are highlighted to serve as successful models for the industry, both in the sending and receiving countries.  

Additionally, teach abroad providers must conduct outreach to underrepresented students, graduates and professionals.  This can be accomplished by creating available funding such as grants or scholarships and working with organizations like Diversity Abroad to help promote these opportunities to underrepresented populations.  Providers should make an effort to share successful stories from diverse and underrepresented teachers as well as attend career service and study abroad fairs at domestic minority serving institutions and HBCUs.  As this blog has noted, there is a difference between diversity and inclusion and it is important that teach abroad providers focus on both.  Where diversity is dedicating energy and resources to increasing access to teach abroad programs for historically underrepresented individuals, inclusion is ensuring that people who choose to participate receive equitable support while overseas and upon their return home.  It is important that teach abroad providers engage with organizations like Diversity Abroad to ensure that they are involved in conversations around diverse identities abroad and to make sure that their staff have the knowledge to engage and advise individuals from underrepresented groups before departing.  

The approach outlined above is certainly easier said than done but it represents concrete steps most teach abroad providers can begin to implement immediately.  That being said, it will take the concerted, conscious and sustained leadership of organizations committed to increasing the access, inclusion and diversity of their programs to succeed.  

Tags:  diversity  inclusion  racism  teach abroad 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: Marquette University

Posted By Administration, Monday, October 10, 2016

Institution name

Marquette University


Milwaukee, WI


Institutional Profile

Medium (5,000-15,000 students)

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

Information, collaboration, trainings, best practices

How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

3 years


What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education? 



How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds? 

We are just starting with this, but hope hosting a workshop and the variety of resources will assist us into the future.


Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking.  

We have recently set a goal of becoming an HSI, which is leading to additional partnerships and outreach efforts for diversity and including in global education. Additionally, we have begun advising out of our Equal Opportunity Program Office, due to student feedback about safe and comfortable spaces, and have a Study Abroad Coordinator assigned to be the liaison for each of our offices with a focus on diversity and inclusion.


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Beyond the Rhetoric: What’s Required for Systemic Change?

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Tuesday, September 27, 2016

For institutions serious about examining campus climate, listening to student concerns, and mobilizing lasting change, what exactly is needed? How do we go beyond the rhetoric around diversity & inclusion and get to the heart of the very real issues that afflict our institutions? As global educators, what is our role in ensuring that we do our part to create a welcoming climate for students from all backgrounds? We have come along way in articulating the benefit of global experiences. For many of us, the battle is no longer limited to convincing administrators that global competencies are key to success in the uber-competitive 21st century job market. This campaign has produced champions and the statistics demonstrate that participation is on the increase. So, if we believe that thoughtful cross-cultural experiences are an integral aspect of a high-quality education, then we have an obligation to ensure that all students have equitable access to global experiences and are provided with inclusive support from pre-departure through returning home.

Instead of envisioning efforts to improve access and foster inclusive support in global education as yet another initiative, let’s consider aspects of a systemic approach. Mobilizing change from the inside out requires dedication, transparency, and much more. By no means a panacea, here are five things that global educators can implement from the ground up.

1) Honesty and Humility

When we look at the Open Doors Data for study abroad participation, we need to be honest about the disparities. Women are taking advantage of these opportunities at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts. Why? Statistics for race and ethnicity further demonstrate the pervasive nature of the problem. In 2013/2014, non-white students constituted only 25% of the 304,467 students who received credit for study abroad. Now, there are many reasons why historically underrepresented student populations may choose not to study abroad. Whether it’s our outreach practices, staff demographics, financial aid policies -- to name only a few -- it is imperative that we recognize that institutional practices and policies have a role in influencing a student’s decision to go abroad or not. What efforts are being undertaken to assess our office’s practices and policies? When results are received -- even if they aren’t glowing -- can we set our perceptions aside, engage honestly with the feedback, and develop a meaningful plan to move forward? For more information regarding guidelines for inclusive excellence and assessing progress, check out Diversity Abroad’s Access, Inclusion, and Diversity (AID) Roadmap.

2) Differentiate Between Inclusion & Diversity

There is an important distinction to be made between diversity and inclusion. Often times we focus our energy on diversity without fully addressing inclusion. While it is important to dedicate energy and resources to increasing access to education abroad for historically underrepresented students (diversity), ensuring that students who choose to participate receive equitable support (inclusion) is key to systemic change. Incorporating conversations about health and safety abroad that address considerations for LGBTQ students, students of color, and various religious identities in countries throughout the world may provide a starting point but is certainly not sufficient. Inclusion is more than numbers on a page, it must be at the core of our institutions: “each person and culture that composes the institution’s demographic makeup should be able to see themselves prominently reflected in the fabric of the institution in meaningful ways” (Desegregation Not Same as Diversity and Inclusion, Diverse Issues in Higher Education). Education Abroad Offices may want to reflect on the following questions. Who should be involved in discussions around identity abroad? Can we leverage expertise and relational capital of other campus offices, such as Multicultural Student Life? Is the advising staff trained and comfortable engaging in discussions around identity?

3) Acknowledge the Past

On campuses across the country, protests are illuminating student concerns, especially in regards to race. With the inception of social movements like Black Lives Matter, among others, students are voicing dissatisfaction with the campus climate and treatment of students of color and other marginalized groups. While it’s tempting for institutions to be defensive, this moment in history provides us with an opportunity to critically examine our policies and practices. Part of understanding what’s happening today on our campuses requires acknowledging the complicated history of race relations in the United States, and higher education is no exception:

As we witness racial strife on our campuses, we might begin to acknowledge how the academy’s legacy of bias continues to reverberate. Only then can we hope to honestly face America’s longtime resistance to racial reality and equality, and understand the basis of lingering attitudes today (Academe Must Confront its Racist Past, Chronicle of Higher Education).

Even for the most well-intentioned and educated among us, unconscious bias is a reality that impacts our everyday interactions. Furthermore, our work is carried out within larger systems such as offices, institutions, communities, etc, that contribute to our perceptions of how things “should” be done. As global educators, what steps are we taking to critically examine our own perceptions and perspectives to identify areas of bias? How might the campus climate shift if our office made this is a priority? How is institutional and systemic bias addressed honestly and openly in our work (see #1)?

4) Acknowledge the Present

Many marginalized young people, including students of color, have developed their own support networks as a means of thriving on-campus despite our institutional failings. As global educators, understanding the specific experiences and concerns of these students will lay the groundwork for developing more inclusive support structures. In his recent piece Black Lives Matter Abroad, Dr. Aaron Bruce provides insight on his experience working with African American male students in global education. Among other recommendations, Dr. Bruce encourages Education Abroad Offices to hire more black males and incorporate a cohort model that maintains a student’s support network when developing new international programs. How are we educating ourselves to understand the unique concerns for all student groups, such as LGBTQI+ identifying students and DACA-mented students, to name only a few? How might the present political climate, national discourse, and other factors impact these students within the context of our global education outreach and programming options?

5) Develop a Vision for the Future

In our efforts to move beyond the status quo, let’s consider the future of global education as more historically underrepresented student groups increasingly choose to participate in global opportunities. Thoughtfully designed international experiences provide unique spaces to encourage cross-cultural understanding. Similar to college admission discussions, however, that challenge the notion that a more diverse student body will automatically result in increased intercultural learning (see Admissions is Just Part of the Diversity Puzzle, Chronicle of Higher Education), it is incumbent upon global educators to reimagine an off-campus learning environment that would support mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse learners. What conversations can we incorporate into pre-departure discussions with students that would encourage learning and cooperation among diverse cohorts? How can these conversations continue upon return to campus? How are we preparing faculty to facilitate positive group dynamics and collaborative learning within the cohort? What best practices already exist as models for inclusive program design?


Global educators can implement meaningful change on our campuses to promote a positive climate for all students. While the five principles mentioned above only scratch the surface, a systemic approach is required if we truly want to move beyond the rhetoric.


Tags:  diversity  education abroad  global education  inclusion  systemic change 

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Diversity Network Member Highlight: Arizona State University

Posted By Erica Ledesma, Friday, September 23, 2016
Updated: Friday, September 23, 2016

Institution name

Arizona State University


Arizona; Online


Institutional Profile

Large (over 15,000) 

Why did your institution join the Diversity Abroad Network?

Arizona State University (ASU) joined the Diversity Abroad Network because as an institution, we have a commitment to representation and inclusion is prevalent in the university’s Diversity Plan. In addition, ASU is committed to excellence, access and impact in everything that it does. Currently, the Study Abroad Office is in the middle of a five-year strategic plan and one of our eight "Strategies for Growth" is "increase the number of underrepresented students going abroad." Due to this strategy, we felt we have been sought out additional resources to help the office make study abroad more accessible to ASU's diverse student population and the Diversity Abroad Network has been instrumental in supporting us and providing invaluable tools for both our students and faculty.


How long has your organization/institution been a member? 

2 years


What Diversity Network resource has been most useful for you and your colleagues in advancing diversity & inclusive excellence in global education? 

We have thoroughly enjoyed the webinars that the Diversity Abroad Network has provided to our staff and colleagues. We also had the privilege of spending a day with Diversity Abroad's Founder and President, Andrew Gordon, in which he helped us take a deeper look at how we can continually improve upon our services for underrepresented students as it relates to study abroad resources. Our advising teams also utilize the country diversity climate notes and the diversity/inclusion advising manuals. Lastly, we are going to complete the Access, Inclusion, Diversity (AID) Roadmap this fall 2016 semester.


How has membership with the Diversity Network helped your institution make global education more accessible to students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds? 

As members, we attended our first Diversity Abroad Conference in 2015 and left the conference with a list of 30 ideas that we heard from other institutions focusing in on diversity and inclusion. From that list, we have already implemented many of the ideas, and are working on the others. For example, our website now contains material for the following populations of students who are considering study abroad: Online student, First-Generation students, GI-Bill Benefit recipients, International Students, LGBTQIA students, Non-Traditional students, Racial & Ethnic Minority students, Student Athletes and Students with Disabilities. 


Please describe any innovative initiatives related to diversity and inclusion in global education that your institution is currently undertaking.  

Here are a few innovative initiatives that we have developed over the last couple of years related to diversity and inclusion.

1. ASU Planning Scholars: The ASU Study Abroad Planning Scholarship provides first-generation college students with the opportunity to also be the first to study abroad by reducing the financial barrier that may prevent some students from considering study abroad. If an ASU student receives the Planning Scholarship, the student will have five (5) semesters to use it after his/her freshman year. A team of two professional staff from the ASU Study Abroad Office facilitate 2-3 workshops per semester for the recipients and are the point of contacts from our office. We just awarded 60 scholarships to cohort

2. Cohort 1 (awarded in July 2015) has already experienced a lot of success with 1/2 of the recipients already studying abroad since receiving their scholarship. We designed a new position for the Study Abroad Office - Management Intern for Diversity and Inclusion - and had it funded starting in academic year 2015-2016. The same intern is now on year two with us and her entire 20 hours a week is focused on activities and initiatives related to diversity matters. She presents to underrepresented study abroad student populations about study abroad, makes sure that our marketing materials include all students, works to educate the Study Abroad Office professional staff on offices on our campuses that work with underrepresented student populations and so much more.

Tags:  Diversity  education abroad  members 

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Coming Soon to a Campus Near You! Diversity Abroad Passport Tour

Posted By Diversity Abroad, Monday, September 12, 2016
Updated: Monday, September 12, 2016

About the Passport Tour

Diversity Abroad's Passport Tour (TPT) is a nationwide campus-based initiative designed to introduce study abroad resources and opportunities to students, faculty and administrators, particularly from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Since 2008, TPT has visited more than 75 different college campuses across the country. Each campus visit looks different, but can consist of various on-campus outreach initiatives such as tabling at a study abroad fair, hosting information sessions, moderating alumni panels, making classroom visits, and more.

Diversity Abroad is delighted to welcome Daneen Johnson to the team. In her role as the Community Engagement Coordinator, Daneen will be spearheading campus visits with the Passport Tour. Additionally, Diversity Abroad is excited to have 6 Campus Fellows hosting events at and around their campuses throughout the year. 

Wondering where you can connect with the Passport Tour in your area? More details available on the Events Calendar.

Meet the Passport Tour Team


Community Engagement Coordinator

Daneen Johnson

Daneen JohnsonDaneen is the Community Engagement Coordinator for Diversity Abroad. She oversees The Passport Tour which is a nationwide campus-based initiative designed to introduce study abroad resources and opportunities to students, faculty and administrators, particularly from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. 
As a Student Affairs Professional, Daneen has experience working with student-athletes, first generation, STEM, honors, low income, and international students. She has also worked within a university career services department where she assisted both undergraduate and graduate students with career readiness and employability skills. Prior to joining the Diversity Abroad team, Daneen worked as an Advisor at Seminole State College of Florida where she worked within a grant program that sought to assist and increase underrepresented minority  students pursuing STEM degrees. 
As a two time Alumna of the University of Central Florida, she completed her undergraduate degrees in Hospitality and Restaurant Management. During that time she studied abroad in Italy with an Italian Culture and Cuisine program. She continued her education at UCF completing a M.A. in Educational Leadership with a specialization in Higher Education. During graduate school Daneen completed a mission trip with her church to Cape Town, South Africa. 

Daneen is a proud Take Stock in Children Scholar--a nonprofit organization in Florida with a mission to break the cycle of poverty for low-income, at-risk students by offering college scholarships and provide caring volunteer mentors. In her role at Diversity Abroad, she is able to give back to the local and global community that inspired her career. 

Campus Fellows 

Amira Beasley
Miami University, Ohio
Oxford, OH
Major: International Studies; Latin American Studies; Spanish Minor
Studied in: Spain, Argentina 

Arielle Crook
Xavier University of LA
New Orleans, LA
Major: Biology/Pre-med; Chemistry; Spanish minor
Studied in: Costa Rica, Cyprus

Arielle Hankerson
College of William & Mary
Williamsburg, VA
Major: International Community Development; Public Health Minor
Studied in: Australia, Interned abroad in Ghana

Austin Joseph
Morehouse College
Atlanta, GA 
Major: English; Multimedia minor
Studied in: Semester at Sea; volunteered in Rio for 2016 olympics

Maggie Kelley
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA
Major: Public Policy
Studied in: Australia, New Zealand, Fiji

Tauri Tomlin
Georgetown University
Washington, DC
Major: Science & Technology; International Affairs; Japanese minor
Studied in: Japan


Tags:  Diversity  Minority Students  Outreach  Passport Tour  Underrepresented Students 

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