Texas A&M Education Abroad Office Awarded for DEI Efforts

It’s no surprise that the Texas A&M University Education Abroad Office won one of the Diversity Abroad’s 2021 Excellence in Diversity & Inclusion in International Education awards. Right down to including pronouns (even in Spanish) in their email signatures, the EA office demonstrates its commitment to DEI work.

Amaris “Ami” Vázquez-Vargas, Program Coordinator at Texas A&M University.

“We are passionate about it,” says Amaris “Ami” Vázquez-Vargas, a program coordinator in the EA office. “You see it on our website. You see it in our work. We bring it into everything that we do.”

At Texas A&M, the EA team believes that all students should have access to global experiences. With that belief at the forefront, the staff works to remove barriers and increase opportunities for underrepresented populations so they, too, can have meaningful, diverse and inclusive experiences.

So how does the Texas A&M EA Office foster a welcoming environment and empower all students—regardless of their identity group—to take advantage of international education? They do it through a range of outreach programs and efforts, including:

  • $1.5 million in local scholarships for Education Abroad programs
  • Targeted outreach to first-generation students
  • Identity-based resources and web content
  • An abroad-for-all email campaign
  • A First-Year Experience (FYEX) course titled Diversity and Global Learning
  • A Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) digital badge curriculum
  • A passport scholarship for underrepresented students

The result? The international education participation demographics reflect—and in some cases even surpasses—the university’s student enrollment demographics.

“We want to do right by our students,” says Irene Scott, EA program manager. “We feed off of each other’s passion. Every semester, new ideas come. It’s just amazing and I’m so grateful. We have an amazing team.”

The Texas A&M Education Abroad website makes it clear that the EA office is dedicated to DEI efforts. Read any staff bios and you’ll likely see “Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access initiatives” included under “duties and functions.” There’s even a section that covers identity abroad resources, which encourages travelers, from students with disabilities to LGBTQ+ students, to consider aspects of their identity as they explore study abroad options.

First-gen student panel at Texas A&M University.

EA Office Creates Diversity Statement

Their dedication is also reflected in their mission statement: Education Abroad promotes and facilitates student access to meaningful, diverse, and inclusive international experiences.

But they don’t stop there. The office also has a diversity statement: Education Abroad firmly believes that racism and discrimination in all forms are in stark contrast to our mission, and therefore, is committed to combating social injustices through the following actions:

  • We will embrace diverse cultures, skills, and experiences of others;
  • We will provide equitable access to diverse, meaningful international experiences;
  • We will guide and support students before, during, and after their transformational credit and non-credit experiences abroad;
  • We will prepare students to be global citizens by fostering respect, understanding, intercultural knowledge, and competence.
  • We will develop and promote inclusive programming through collaboration with internal and external partners.
  • We will cultivate a welcoming environment for all individuals, in which people feel empowered to inquire about our services regardless of their age, background, citizenship, disability, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity/expression, geographical location, language, military experience, political views, race, religion/spiritual belief, sex, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.

The office is always on the lookout for expanding resources for all students to be successful in their global experiences.

Beyond the EA Office, Texas A&M as a whole has been recognized for its DEI efforts: For three years in a row, the University has received the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. The award is the only national honor recognizing U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.

EA Office staff members serve on university-wide committees focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. These committees include colleagues from diverse departments who are also dedicated to keeping DEI at the forefront at Texas A&M.

“We’re always going to have a committed group of people who are going to drive these efforts,” Irene says. “We’re going to continue to build upon our efforts.”

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