120-day Update on CIEE's Pledge to Do More for Racial Equality and Social Justice

Authored by:
James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

James P. Pellow, Ed.D.

In June 2020, CIEE made a pledge to take concrete action to advance in measurable ways our mission to facilitate harmony and peace in our world. We pledged to help more students of color study abroad, to expand our programs and training regarding race and social justice, and to hire more diverse staff at every level of our organization. In addition, we pledged to use our voice to affect positive change in our world and in our communities.

Here is an update on our efforts over the last 120 days.


On September 29, 2020, Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it will cosponsor the 2021 cohort of Frederick Douglass Global Fellows as part of their celebration of the 175th anniversary of the historic meeting in Dublin between the world-famous Irish abolitionist Daniel O’Connell and the young, budding advocate for social justice, Frederick Douglass. The 2021 Fellows will study abroad in Ireland next summer, beginning in Dublin and following portions of Douglass’ 1845 historic speaking tour throughout Ireland.

At a faculty symposium sponsored by Georgetown University entitled “Agitate!” Frederick Douglass and Ireland, A conversation about history, solidarity and racial justice in Ireland and the U.S., Simon Coveney, the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Daniel Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to the United States, shared this exciting news with virtual symposium attendees from across the globe, including online audience members from Asia, Australia, Africa, Europe, Latin America, and across America. 

The faculty symposium was preceded by a zoom call between the Irish diplomats and Nettie Washington Douglass, the great, great granddaughter of Frederick Douglass. Ms. Douglass shared intimate stories of the profound impact that the trip to Ireland had on her famous ancestor, describing how Frederick was motivated by Daniel O’Connell to embrace the nonviolent approach to agitating for social change he would employ upon return his return to the United States. In fact, Ms. Douglass shared that Frederick took from Daniel’s speech the word “agitate” as his call to action, eventually amplifying it into his own famous mantra: “agitate, agitate, agitate!”

The partnership between the Irish government, the Frederick Douglass Family Initiative, and CIEE is just one of the ways we are expanding our funded scholarship programs that promote access and leadership for Black students and students of color. In addition to this partnership, CIEE is expanding CIEE’s Frederick Douglass scholarship program in three significant ways:

  1.  Frederick Douglass Global Fellows will now be recruited from all 4,000 U.S. college and universities. Applications for the Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship will open on November 1, 2020. The deadline to submit applications to be part of the fifth cohort, who will study in Dublin in summer 2021, is February 14, 2021, Frederick Douglass’ birthday.
  2. Frederick Douglass STEM Scholars and Frederick Douglass Business Scholars will be selected to study climate change in Costa Rica and business in Europe during summer 2021.
  3. The Frederick Douglass Global Fellowship will be expanded to High School Students in summer 2021, recognizing outstanding students who demonstrate Frederick Douglass’ spirit of leadership, passion for social justice, and experience agitating for positive change in our world. 


CIEE’s Academic Affairs and Diversity and Inclusion teams have developed a monthly workshop that will be attended by all CIEE global staff. The training will focus on contemporary issues of social justice and diversity, including issues related to race and social justice experienced by students on our programs, and a review of trends on U.S. college campuses.

The Diversity and Inclusion training series will begin in October 2020, and will be led by Quinton Redcliffe, Cape Town, CIEE Diversity and Inclusion Director. The training will include six courses that will be offered between October 2020 and March 2021, including: 

  • Racism 101
  • Understanding Bias and Managing Micro-Aggressions 
  • Conducting an Inclusive Orientation 
  • Brave Classrooms and Spaces  
  • Inclusive Student Life Activities  
  • How to Conduct Challenging Conversations and Foster Civil Discourse  


We have begun to rehire staff for certain programs and 80% of recently hired staff at CIEE were persons of color. We will continue to seek out highly qualified diverse staff as we grow.

CIEE Will Use Our Voice

In July 2020, we paused all paid Facebook and Instagram advertising to protest the platforms’ failure to adequately push back on hate and discrimination.

In September 2020, we launched a social media campaign featuring only images that highlight students of color. We hope this image-rich campaign will inspire more students of color to study abroad, and more leaders in study abroad to hire and promote students of color.

On November 3, 2020, CIEE will offer all U.S. staff the day off to allow them to vote in the national election. After witnessing the recent US presidential debate that included a dramatic decline in civil discourse, as well as a call to rally white supremacists, we believe more than ever U.S. citizens must use their voices at the polls to send our political leaders a message of unity, harmony, and inclusion.

Since our founding in 1947, CIEE has sought to unite our world, to advance peace through international education and exchange. We advance our mission with input and advice from our partners and our employees. We need your help and welcome your ideas, suggestions, and reflections. Thank you, in advance, for helping on this important journey.

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