Bridging the Intersections between DEI and Internationalization ApproAches in Higher Education institutions


Marcia (Miao) Sun1*, Liz Neria Pina2, Younglong (Rachel) Kim3

1Ms. Oklahoma State University, USA,

2Ms. Oklahoma State University, USA,

3Ms. Oklahoma State University, USA,

*Corresponding Author



Institutions of higher education have increasingly made efforts to provide students with opportunities to expand their learning outcomes. Part of those efforts has been crystallized in initiatives such as diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and internationalization. As concepts, the two initiatives share certain goals, including the enhancement of intercultural communication (Olson et al., 2007).

Özturgut (2017) has defined DEI as the “integration of underprivileged groups to a broader dominant group” (p. 84), which requires promoting national and institutional policies that provide underprivileged groups with the same forms of access and opportunities as privileged groups. However, despite its ubiquitous reference in academic exchanges, the initiative of DEI continues to show inconsistency in the relative significance of its constituent parts—that is, diversity, equity, and inclusion—and in their appropriate sequencing (Arsel et al., 2022). De Wit and Hunter (2015) have defined internationalization in higher education as initiatives in the transnational progression of “integrating an international, intercultural or global dimension into the purpose, functions and delivery of post-secondary education, in order to enhance the quality of education and research for all students and staff, and to make a meaningful contribution to society” (p. 3). As those definitions suggest, institutions of higher education employ internationalization to promote student learning and improve the quality of education and research (Buckner, 2019).

Although various efforts to promote DEI initiatives have indeed been pursued by institutions of higher education, they have usually been narrow in focus. Chang (2002) has indicated, for example, that conversations about DEI efforts frequently focus on race and ethnicity and lacking in other aspects of diversity. In response, institutions of higher education need to calibrate their discourse to conceive diversity as comprising all facets of human difference. From another perspective, Buckner (2021) has concluded that ideas of diversity in several institutions of higher education are linked only to nationality and culture and thus discount differences in worldviews and epistemologies that also contribute to diversity. As an illustration, the websites of international student services offices at some universities in the US, despite aiming to serve international students, present statements or descriptions that lack focus on international students and are thus arguably discriminatory (Wang & Sun, 2021). Even though institutions of higher education use visual representations on their websites to reflect the racial, ethnic, and religious diversity on their campuses, their strategic documents seldom address ideas for dealing with race and racism (Buckner, 2021).

Overall, such oversights have come to characterize efforts for DEI in institutions of higher education, many of which remain uninviting to international students and other less-recognized social minorities (Özturgut, 2017). In response, global visions of DEI need to be rethought in light of local, national, and international trends in order for DEI to be more comprehensively realized. Brandenburg and De Wit (2011) have shown that roles of internationalization are required in institutions of higher education. Defining those roles, however, requires thoroughly understanding the core concept of internationalization and its impact on achieving institutional missions and visions. In institutions of higher education, internationalization facilitates the growth of scholarship (Özturgut, 2017), and to promote that process, institutions recruit international students, whom they regard as valuable input and resources to improve awareness of diversity. As such, international students enhance overall student learning by exposing domestic students to diverse forms of knowledge and aspects of culture (Buckner, 2021). Meanwhile, as international students attend host schools, they learn academic content as well as about local culture in the United States. Positive interaction between the groups is thought to cultivate more flexible understandings of humanity as well as dimensions of international and intercultural relations (Özturgut, 2017).

Addressing the intersectionality of DEI and internationalization in higher education, Özturgut (2017) has posited that the scope of DEI has to be local, national, and global, while the scope of internationalization needs to recognize and accommodate diversity. However, despite overlap between the initiatives, efforts toward internationalization and DEI remain detached and separate. Consequently, as research has shown, divergent approaches toward realizing both initiatives might hamper institutions’ capacity to engage students in relevant, integrative activities in their pluralistic communities (Olson et al., 2007). In response, institutions of higher education could potentiate synergies by bridging internationalization and DEI (Özturgut, 2017), possibly by leveraging the overlap between the initiatives and thus promoting strategies and practices that integrate them.

Based on the 2018 Chief Diversity Officer & Senior International Officer Strategic Leadership Forum, initiatives have been created to integrate DEI and internationalization into policies as well as practices at institutions of higher education (Bell et al., 2018). Prior to that, Olson et al. (2007) suggested initiating conversations to promote dialogue about the intersections of internalization and DEI. Before the conversations, however, it is imperative to take into account the mission and vision at the respective institution. The authors also recommended several strategies for achieving the challenging, sometimes daunting, task of initiating such conversations. First, it is vital to include key parties and stakeholders in the dialogue—for example, senior leadership such as the president or chief academic officer—to address key issues in and examples of each type of initiative (Olson et al., 2007). For instance, when leadership included along the units responsible for DEI and internalization, they can provide information about the institutions’ current situations and identify any areas of overlap. Second, inviting students as well as faculty and staff to the discussion matters. Many students and faculty may be unaware of how the initiatives of DEI and internalization intersect; thus, raising their awareness can clarify how the concepts can work together (Olson et al., 2007). Other strategies include creating and utilizing curriculum that address issues of mutual interest between initiatives of DEI and internationalization. For example, mentoring programs can be used to connect local and international students, who can be incentivized with tangible benefits such as scholarships or course credits. A final strategy is to revisit the mission and vision statements of the institution and determine whether each is sufficiently elaborated to support every student in a personal, local, domestic, and global context

Keywords: diversity, equity, and inclusion, internationalization in higher education



CITATION: Abstracts & Proceedings of INTCESS 2023- 10th International Conference on Education and Education of Social Sciences, 23-25 January, 2023, Istanbul, Turkey

ISBN: 978-605-72065-0-3