Earlier this month at the Diversity Abroad Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, International Education Management student Aileen Evans MAIEM/MPA ’16 placed a wastebasket in the front of the room and asked the 60 conference session participants to crumple up a piece of paper and throw it into the basket. The results were varied. For those in the front of the room, it was an easy task. For those in the back, nearly impossible. This was a demonstration of privilege, Aileen explained, and the same phenomenon can be seen in education abroad applications at universities across the country.
Aileen worked in conjunction with Peter Seilheimer MAIEM ’16 with a specialization in Teaching Foreign Languages, and alumna Rachel Vidmar Muradyan MAIEM ’15, who is now the marketing and admissions manager in Language and Professional Programs at the Institute. Though the presentation was recent, the team started working on the project over a year ago, in Dr. Paige Butler’s Design and Assessment class. During the first week of April, Aileen and Peter had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta to present with their learning partner from the class, Santa Clara University’s Director of Study Abroad Dr. David Wick.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do it without David’s mentorship,” said Aileen. The class ended last May, but the team had weekly Skype meetings through the fall semester to prepare for the conference. “I felt so practiced and so prepared that I wasn’t even nervous,” said Peter, who is currently completing his practicum requirement as project coordinator in the Office of International Programs at California State University Monterey Bay.
The team’s 75-minute presentation, entitled “Strategic Analysis and Intervention to Address Inequity in Education Abroad Applications,” explained the data analysis the group completed last year, pinpointing where and why underrepresented students stop the education abroad application process at Santa Clara University. Though it focused on one institution in particular, their research is applicable to all American universities and educational abroad organizations.
Their presentation was well attended and well received. “We ran out of handouts, which is always a good sign, “ said Aileen. “It was a good space to engage in conversation in issues surrounding diversity and social justice in education abroad. It was great to be surrounded by a community so dedicated to something that is sometimes overlooked.”
Peter appreciated that they were able to present as professionals, and not just “relegated to the kids’ table” as graduate students. “We realized this isn’t just some class project. It feels like we’re contributing to the field,” said Peter. He said it was gratifying to show that they weren’t just accepting the status quo, but “actually changing the field and engaging in work that challenges power, privilege, and educational inequity.”