Study Abroad

Initiatives, Accomplishments, and Resources to Date to Support BIPOC Students

  1. Advertise and promote Brandeis Sachar and national scholarships to eligible students in an effort to increase access and affordability.
  2. Conduct individualized outreach and one-on-one advising for the national Gilman scholarship.
  3. Awarded Gilman Top Producing Small College/University for two consecutive years (and pending final confirmation of a third year). This included being ranked #2 in Gilman scholarship recipients from underrepresented racial or ethnic groups.
  4. Hosted info sessions for Posse cohorts, SSSP students, and have increased Ambassador outreach to student organizations such as MOCA, WOCA, and MAPS.
  5. Developed an Ambassador committee specifically focused on identity in study abroad to identify gaps, needs, and resources to best support students.
  6. Ask students to reflect on their identities in their study abroad application and during Pre-Departure Orientation, where Ambassadors help facilitate conversations around how those identities might impact students’ experiences or perceptions abroad.
  7. Host I Am Study Abroad (a celebration of identities abroad), Black & Abroad, Year Abroad, Queer Abroad, and other diversity-focused programming aimed at helping underrepresented students see themselves in study abroad and connect with others who share their identities. {Note: one challenge has been participation in these events; our last Black and Abroad event had 0 student attendees.}
  8. Conduct yearly reviews of our identity and wellness resources on our website, both in order to keep them up-to-date and to find new ways to promote/highlight their content (ie: making a tab for Identity Resources in our new program brochure pages).
  9. Removed some barriers to getting started studying abroad by eliminating the requirement to complete an Information Session Quiz before meeting with a study abroad advisor.
  10. Seek out free/low-cost webinars, trainings, and professional development opportunities aimed at supporting BIPOC. Attend conferences like Diversity Abroad.
  11. Offer advising appointments in a variety of formats including Zoom and over the telephone.
  12. Hire a diverse cohort of Study Abroad Ambassadors each year who more accurately reflect the racial/ethnic demographics we would like to see in study abroad.

In looking ahead to the coming academic year, we’ve identified the following changes we can work to enact. We pledge to:

  1. Revise our Office of Study Abroad Mission and Philosophy to more explicitly affirm our commitment to antiracism, diversity, and inclusion in education abroad.
  2. Meet, if not exceed, the demographics of BIPOC students on campus (see Table A below) by enacting some of the below initiatives to encourage further participation in study abroad opportunities.
  3. Review overall representation of BIPOC students in our publications, on our website, and in our office to ensure students of color can see themselves reflected in all aspects of the study abroad experience, while avoiding images that tokenize or exoticize BIPOC/majority-BIPOC locations. (For example: updating the Family Resources page of the website to be more inclusive, replacing outdated pictures in the office decor.)
  4. Continue pursuing professional development opportunities for staff which allow us to reflect on issues of race/ethnicity/colonialism in study abroad, learn how to best support students of color, and assist us in identifying and undoing our own racist tendencies, including:
  5. Conducting an internal review of how and where White Supremacy Culture shows up in our office (in Fall 2020) and using these findings to guide our language, policies, and practices going forward.
  6. Participating in Affinity Groups on Systemic Racism within and outside of Brandeis.
  7. Attending Diversity Abroad conferences, Gilman Scholarship presentations on the recruitment and support of Black students abroad, and other diversity-related opportunities hosted by organizations in the international education field.
  8. Hire a diverse cohort of Study Abroad Ambassadors and graduate assistants each year who more accurately reflect the racial/ethnic demographics we would like to see in study abroad (even beyond those currently reported by the national Open Doors statistics).
  9. Continue promoting Non-Western destinations for Brandeis students interested in studying abroad, including by amplifying the strengths of programs that are located in Africa and Latin America and/or those that center Black voices/curricula (such as CET/ Colombia).
  10. Remove barriers to study abroad to promote accessibility for all students, especially BIPOC students, by:
    1. Continuing to offer remote advising (Zoom, phone appointments) beyond remote campus work.
    2. Changing the conditions of drop-in appointments to make them open to all students, not just those who have previously met with an advisor.
    3. Streamlining the Brandeis study abroad application materials and documents to help simplify the process.
  11. Adjusting the Brandeis Sachar Study Abroad Scholarship application deadline so that it does not overlap as much with the semester/year study abroad application deadline.
  12. Use world maps that depict equal area projections (such as the Peters projection map), as we acknowledge that geography is political, and other representations problematically center Western/White cultures.
  13. Reassess pre-departure materials to facilitate more conversation about and the sharing of resources around identity and diverse experiences abroad, including using more third-party resources to supplement what we cannot know or effectively speak to as White staff.
  14. Incorporate conversations about race/ethnicity into advising early on in the process, making space for dialogue with students while recognizing that we may not be the people they feel most comfortable discussing these topics with.
  15. We pledge to be diligent about connecting students with resources (i.e. proactively sending resources to students via email and making prompt and effective referrals to program staff, Ambassadors, and/or websites that would be most helpful).
  16. Spread awareness about scholarships offered to underrepresented communities and help students leverage their skills, talents, and stories in scholarship applications.
  17. Increase outreach to cultural clubs and student organizations (BASO, etc), academic departments (AAAS, LALS, etc), and other programs on campus (Posse, SSSP, etc) in an effort to meet BIPOC students where they are.
  18. Extend our ban on paid promotions on Instagram and Facebook.
  19. Create more opportunities for students to submit anonymous feedback on what they want and need from our office beyond our current end-of-academic-year surveys.
  20. Engage alumni of color to share their stories, while not placing the burden on them to be the only role models for current Brandeis students seeking international opportunities. Possible avenues for collaboration could include:
  21. Connecting with Hiatt to feature BIPOC alumni working in international fields.
  22. Reaching out to former Gilman Scholarship and Boren fellowship winners to share their experiences abroad via Instagram takeovers.
  23. Facilitating study abroad alumni visits to cultural clubs they were involved in while at Brandeis.
  24. Follow the lead of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions in speaking more inclusively about Midyear opportunities, acknowledging that not all incoming students will have the interest or ability to participate in Midyear Abroad programming, and that other ways of spending that semester are just as valuable and worthwhile.
Additionally, while we also understand that the following policies/procedures may be more difficult to revise, or take more time and university-wide resources to change, we also believe that the following systemic changes would greatly contribute to dismantling barriers to study abroad for BIPOC students:
  1. Lowering the G.P.A. requirement for semester- and year-long study abroad in order to make study abroad more accessible to a wider range of students and acknowledge that students’ academic skills and potential are not always accurately reflected by their G.P.A.
  2. Increasing scholarship funding for summer study abroad, especially Brandeis-Led programs, in order to make summer opportunities more accessible to students whose academic plan or personal situation may make summer a better fit than semester abroad
  3. Hiring BIPOC permanent professional staff whenever possible (including making sure that job postings are disseminated and advertised in places that might better reach BIPOC candidates).
  4. Enhancing and increasing race/diversity-conscious mental health resources for students while abroad.
  5. Overseeing the creation of a Brandeis-led program in a non-European location.

We acknowledge that all of these action items involve sustained effort and will take dedicated time and attention; therefore, we also commit to revisiting this list monthly during Staff Meeting to ensure we are making marked progress. We know that holding each other and ourselves accountable for our language, attitudes, and actions is central to anti-racist work, and aim to be responsive, gracious, and transparent in our efforts to better our office while knowing that we will inevitably make mistakes. Overall, we seek to keep this document a priority in our individual and shared goals, for the benefit of our students and our community, at Brandeis and across the globe.

Table A: Enrollments, by ethnicity (campus compared to students abroad)

Ethnicity Undergrad (Fall 2019) Abroad*
American Indian 0.1% 0.1%
Asian-American 14.3% 12.4%
Black or African-American 5.3% 4.2%
Hispanic of any race 8.3% 6.0%
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander 0.2% 0.4%
Not specified 2.6% 2.7%
Two or more races 3.8% N/A
White, non-Hispanic 45.8% 58.7%

*Study abroad numbers represent students who studied abroad for either a semester, year, or summer and have a graduation date between Spring 2020 and Spring 2023 (to capture the same group of students as those who would be on campus fall 2019).