NAFSA Strategic Retreat Preview with Neriko Doerr


The NAFSA Strategic Retreat for Education Abroad Leaders is a groundbreaking new offering with a cutting-edge format designed to provide directors, deans, faculty, and experienced education abroad (EA) professionals the opportunity to think profoundly, strategically, and creatively about their work.

Neriko DoerrNeriko Doerr, a cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on education and study abroad, alternative break trips, and language education settings, will help kick off this inaugural event on July 16 when she delivers remarks on “Who Are the Global Learners? Critical Reflections on Learning and Immersion.“

NAFSA asked Doerr a few questions about how she believes this new meeting format will provide experienced EA leaders with the time and space to reach meaningful insights and breakthrough ideas.

Tell us about your background in cultural anthropology and how it links to your interests in education abroad?

My anthropological work centers around the politics of difference in education. I am interested in how social constructs like race, culture, and language are mobilized in power struggles. I investigate that through examining how individuals are turned into particular types of subjects in various settings of education. For example, a Maori-English bilingual unit to revitalize Maori language at a secondary school in Aotearoa/New Zealand, English as a Second Language classes at a community college in the United States, and a weekend Japanese language school for heritage language learners in the United States. My current research on study abroad, alternative break trips, and service learning is an extension of this interest in the setting where experiential learning is emphasized. The context of study abroad has its own specificity, shaped by the notions of immersion, adventure, border-crossing, and globalization, which makes it a very interesting field of research.

How will your opening remarks help participants draw out the question “How does education abroad build the global learner?”

In my opening remarks, I will be talking about three kinds of “unlikely global learners” from my past research; learners we may not think of as global learners usually but can be considered as such. By introducing these unlikely global learners, I’m hoping not only to broaden models of global learners but also bring in the discussion of the power politics behind naming certain people global learners and others not. I’d be happy if the talk can stimulate some discussions to think outside the box regarding what constitutes global learners, and also be mindful of issues of power in the notion of “global” and any educational processes.

What do you see as the most exciting part of the inaugural NAFSA Strategic Retreat for Education Abroad Leaders?

This retreat is about brainstorming and open discussions. I’m looking forward to new ideas, approaches, and practices that spark new directions in education. I’m interested to see how the very different format we will be using, Open Space Technology, will be useful toward that end because of its un-programmed approach that would lead to a deep and interesting discussion of the topic. The use of a graphic recorder enhances the experience and distills the conversation into a visual form. I feel very honored to be opening this retreat, and I am preparing my talk with new ideas. I am also very excited to participate fully in the whole retreat and see how my perspectives fit in this conversation and how they can be reformulated in order to be useful.

Who will benefit most from attending this event?

Attendees have to be active, vocal, and ready to participate. My impression is that it is best for seasoned leaders in education abroad, who have a wealth of experience to draw on for the discussions. It isn’t a nuts-and-bolts, “how to” discussion, and there won’t be one “answer” to the question, but rather a variety of ideas and proposed actions that can be further explored when the attendees return home and consider their institutional cultures.

Learn more about the NAFSA Strategic Retreat for Education Abroad Leaders, July 16-17, in Washington, D.C.