One Year 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.

It has been just over a year since George Floyd’s murder sparked a long overdue national conversation about racial justice and what all of us can do to support greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in our schools, workplaces, communities, and country. We at CIEE took that conversation very seriously and it is ongoing.

A year ago, we pledged to take concrete action to create a workplace and a world where every individual is welcomed, supported, and empowered to share their unique perspective. I write today to share progress to date on our specific goals in three areas: participants, programs, and people.

PARTICIPANTS: We pledged to increase access to all CIEE programs for participants of diverse backgrounds.  

We've seen greater participant diversity across all programs:

  • 32% of our 2020-2021 college study abroad participants are Pell recipients and 47% identify as from a diverse racial/ethnic group (Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American/Alaska Native, or multiracial)
  • 58% of the 2020-2021 high school summer study abroad student cohort are students from diverse racial/ethnic groups
  • 35% of the 2021 participants in CIEE’s Teach Abroad programs are from diverse racial/ethnic groups
  • The 3,500 international participants projected to visit the United States this year come from 85 different countries 

We've focused on supporting diverse student leaders: The 2020 and 2021 Frederick Douglass Global Fellows, outstanding students of color from colleges and universities across the United States, are preparing to travel to Ireland next month for a summer study abroad program focused on leadership, intercultural communication, and social justice. All applicants who were not selected for the prestigious fellowship were awarded Frederick Douglass Summer Scholars grants of $1,500 towards a select CIEE summer study abroad program. Fifteen young leaders from diverse backgrounds will be taking advantage of the award this summer, joining nine different programs across six locations. Many more are deferring their award until next summer.

PROGRAMS: We pledged to address important issues related to diversity, inclusion, and social justice. 

We've made updates to programs and processes: We have implemented new pre-departure and onsite orientations, excursion policies, and student life activities, all of which have been revised for inclusive excellence. And we are implementing a new Code of Conduct that, among other guidelines, asks our participants to commit to creating an inclusive environment by always treating others with respect, accepting different opinions and perspectives, and recognizing others’ individuality freedom and dignity.

We've developed and implemented training: Last month we wrapped up a series of six diversity and inclusion training sessions for all staff at all CIEE centers, and CIEE will ensure all staff devote time each year to developing skills and a deeper understanding of topics related to diversity and inclusion.

We've created new programs: We have developed a new course entitled Transformational Leadership Across Cultures for the Frederick Douglass Global Fellows who will be in Dublin in summer 2021. In addition, we are currently developing four new social justice courses that will be rolled out in 2022.

PEOPLE: We pledged to recruit and retain diverse staff to advance CIEE’s mission. 

We're committed to strategic hiring as we rebuild: As our programs resume, CIEE has begun to rehire, keeping the expansion of staff racial and ethnic diversity a top priority. For our Global Enrollment Management team, diverse candidates have made up 56% of new hires, and the team is now 23% professionals of color. Other teams have demonstrated similar success filling new positions with diverse candidates.

We believe that what gets measured gets done: We are requiring senior leaders and managers in every department to measure their success in advancing our diversity and inclusion objectives. We will continually assess progress towards our goal of a domestic workforce that includes at least 30% people of color by 2026, and at least 50% people of color by 2031.


One year on from our pledge, we are proud of the concrete progress we have made but are well aware that it is only a start. As an organization with a mission to foster peace by bringing people of the world together through cultural exchange, we will not stop asking ourselves: How can we increase the cultural diversity of our organization and programs? How can we recruit more people of color? And how we can better understand and embrace a diversity of lived experiences and perspectives?

Thank you for your support on this important journey.


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