Practice Area Column

Overlapping Goals: Tips for Working with the Diversity Office

Collaboration between senior international officers and leaders of diversity, equity, and inclusion starts with identifying mutual goals.
“There are a lot more similarities than we might realize” between the international office and diversity office, says one expert. Illustration: Shutterstock
John Gallagher

Over the past several years, more institutions have intentionally created offices and staff positions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). The upheaval experienced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. presidential election, protests against racism, and other events only added to the urgency to focus systematically on DEI, as campuses undertake major efforts to become more inclusive. 

For senior international officers (SIOs), this work is closely connected to their own commitment to global learning. Valuing diversity, educating students about other cultures, and creating a welcoming environment for international students, faculty, and scholars on campus are all part and parcel of the work of SIOs. That makes for a natural connection with the DEI office and its leadership, often called chief diversity officers (CDOs). 

“It’s very difficult to talk about DEI and not talk about international students, and [vice versa],” says Jewell Winn, EdD, executive director for international programs at Tennessee State University. “The two go hand in hand.” For that reason, says Winn, who is both an SIO and a CDO, “I consistently tell my colleagues to reach out to the CDOs on their campus.”

Here’s how SIOs and other leaders in the international office can build and deepen these important relationships.

1. Begin by building on commonalities.

For SIOs and other leaders in the international office to foster relationships with their counterparts in the diversity office, “focusing on the similarities is where to start,” says Hilary Kahn, PhD, associate vice chancellor for international affairs at Indiana

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