Benefits of Working at the Intersection of Internationalization and Diversity
Working at the intersection of internationalization and diversity/multicultural education provides creative opportunities for faculty, staff, and administrators to:
- Help students understand multiculturalism and social justice in a global context
- Develop intercultural skills
- Broaden attitudes to appreciate the complexity of the world
- Examine values, attitudes, and responsibilities for local/global citizenship
- Disrupt silence and make visible hidden issues not explicit in networks of relationships
- See how power and privilege are shifting in the local/global context
- Experience conflicts and develop skills to work together
Challenges to Working at the Intersection of Internationalization and Diversity
When embarking upon work within the shared space between internationalization and diversity, it is critical to be mindful of the unique histories, academic and administrative structures, and motivations of participants that both areas retain.
There are several ways in which these fields of practice differ, which can lead to tensions and challenges to collaboration.
- Diverging Histories—Multicultural education developed from the need for colleges and universities to address the growing presence and significance of racial, ethnic, and other types of cultural diversity within the United States, while internationalization sprang from the growing interrelatedness of peoples around the world.
- Diverging Structures—Internationalization and diversity are rarely treated as core institutional concerns. Instead, they are often viewed as the responsibility of 1 or 2 specific individuals or offices. Frequently at institutions without designated offices or individuals responsible for internationalization and diversity efforts, leadership of these initiatives is fragmented and resides in individual programs or departments, which may even be in competition with each other for resources. There may also be a disconnect between the co-curricular academic programs related to these 2 fields, which may cause them to operate in isolation from one another.
- Diverging Objectives or Motivations—Speaking generally, multicultural educators are often driven by a desire to reshape society, right historical wrongs, and give a voice to the underprivileged. Alternatively, those teaching, studying, or engaged in international education are often driven by a desire to gain exposure to and understanding of other cultures.
Through mutual respect and understanding, the differences between the 2 fields and areas of practice do not need to be barriers to collaboration. Rather, challenges can be overcome by scholarly and respectful dialogue and discourse. Collaborators can focus on the significant common ground between internationalization and multicultural education, as well as the potential that working together has on positively impacting student learning.
Internationalization and diversity/multicultural education have a number of aspects in common.
- Shared values—Both areas seek to promote similar values such as understanding and valuing the significance of human diversity (Cortes, 1998 as cited in Olson et al. 2007) and have a strong desire to transform institutions and society (Olson et al. 2007).
- Shared nature of the work—Both multicultural education and internationalization have evolved as interdisciplinary areas; require their champions to traverse functional or administrative boundaries to interact with people in other units across the institution; and feature experiential learning as a critical pedagogy.
- Shared learning outcomes—The knowledge, attitudes, and skills that students may acquire as a result of learning experiences in multicultural and international education have a significant degree of overlap. Review our Student Learning Outcomes exercise (PDF).
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