Magazine Research Corner

Citizens of the World

Where global learning and DEI converge: students respond

Fall 2022

Over the past twenty years, higher education leaders, faculty, and staff have held disconnected conversations around the intersection and alignment of global learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts on college and university campuses. These discussions became more urgent in the wake of the 2020 summer of racial reckoning that emerged from global protests over the separate police-involved killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. While many higher education institutions recognize that global learning can and must better encompass DEI strategies, the challenge is in how to act.

In 2021, we conducted a multi-university qualitative study to get students’ perspectives on the meaning, challenges, and possible intersections of global learning and DEI. We conducted one-hour interviews with focus groups of four to ten diverse students from six institutions across the United States, followed by a second one-hour focus group interview with five students from three of the universities. We identified the participating campuses based on a search for global learning and DEI on institutions’ websites, a review of international education conference sessions that mentioned DEI and global learning, and contact with participants from the eight institutions that took part in the American Council on Education’s 2012–15 At Home in the World initiative, which sought to connect campus internationalization efforts with diversity and multicultural education work.

Overall, we found that students are acutely aware of and hold opinions about the meaning of global learning and DEI, the amount of effort that their institutions are making to advance and integrate both fields, and the results of these advances. Students think deeply about global learning and DEI, and their institutions would do well to take seriously their suggestions for moving campuses toward greater equity, inclusion, and belonging.

—Dawn Michele Whitehead, vice president of the Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers at the American Association of Colleges and Universities, and Hilary Landorf, founding executive director of the Office of Global Learning Initiatives at Florida International University

Click here for a PDF of the full fall 2022 Research Corner.

Illustrations by Christine Rösch