GESI Honored with Excellence in Diversifying International Education (EDIE) Award

April 16, 2015

GESI Program Manager Meghan Ozaroski accepts EDIE Award from Diversity Abroad NetworkThe Buffett Institute is thrilled to announce that its study abroad program, the Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) has received the Excellence in Diversifying International Education (EDIE) award for outstanding contributions to access, diversity, and inclusion in international education and exchange. This award is given annually by the Diversity Abroad Network, the leading professional consortium of higher education institutions, government agencies, for-profit, and non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing diversity and equity in international education. The Buffet Institute accepted the award on behalf of Northwestern University during the Third Annual Diversity Abroad Conference held in March (pictured).

GESI is the Buffett Institute’s primary undergraduate initiative and complements the many other efforts at the Institute that work to diversify international education and strengthen internationalization on campus. Founded in 2007, GESI is now the university’s largest and most diverse international studies program with approximately half of participants representing underrepresented student populations. The Institutional EDIE goes to Northwestern University in recognition of achievement in the development of practices that foster diversity and inclusion in international education and exchange as well as encourage an inclusive campus environment for international students.

This award is also a testament to Northwestern’s recent initiatives to boost racial, cultural, and economic diversity in its educational programs. As President Morton Schapiro explains, “True diversity is defined not only as differences in individual background, personal identities, intellectual approaches, and demographics; it is also the removal of barriers and the creation of space that allow individuals to fully engage in the life of the university.”

Diversity as a Result of Innovative Programs and Funding 

Generous financial aid has been essential in attracting first-generation college students and other underrepresented students to GESI. Over the past four years and thanks to substantial support from donors such as Roberta Buffett Elliott and Northwestern Trustees Bonnie and Mike Daniels, the GESI program has awarded over half a million dollars in need-based scholarship funding for qualifying Northwestern students.

Even when receiving a full scholarship to study abroad programs, students cite the cost of international airfare as a barrier. To deal with this issue, GESI covers student airfare when it proves to be a barrier to participating, resulting in a major increase in socio-economic diversity among GESI students. In 2014, nearly 70% of Northwestern students participating in GESI were from underrepresented groups. The current national average is 25%.

Another way GESI attracts students from underrepresented groups is by offering a practical, skills-based study abroad program with hands-on, field-based, professional experience. GESI students can anticipate a return on their investment in light of career goals and expectations. Consistent with the academic research on first-generation students and study abroad, one of the primary reasons students apply to GESI is because it involves hands-on learning through a grassroots internship-based experience.

Diversity as an Asset for a Better Study Abroad Experience for All

Since its inception, one of GESI’s primary goals has been to demonstrate the benefits of diversity through developing young leaders to work and collaborate effectively across racial, socio-economic, disciplinary, geographical, cultural and/or generational differences. Students comment that they are drawn to GESI because of its strong curricular and practical focus on working in teams with different experiences and backgrounds. Diversity is seen as an asset, and students are taught to utilize their own unique capabilities, talents, and perspectives. This extends to student collaborations with their host communities and partner organizations.

Northwestern students from underrepresented groups have often shown themselves to be more skilled at navigating new cultural settings. Many have been diagnosing and navigating different cultural contexts for their entire lives, whether by themselves or on behalf of their families. In GESI, we find students from these backgrounds make unique and essential contributions to their group – the ability to better integrate with the host community, figuring out how the system works, who has power and how to get things done.

In recent years, over 90% of students involved in GESI cite it as the pinnacle of their learning as well as one of their most defining, formative experiences in college. Likewise, students often cite the value of the set or sequence of activities available through the Buffett Institute as having direct implications on their plans throughout and after college, including internship, fellowship, grant, job opportunities and other international experiences. 

GESI Student Testimonials

“When I found out I would be going to the Dominican Republic as a Daniels GESI Scholar, my reaction was pure joy and excitement. It was a feeling of knowing that I would be able to do something I thought I couldn’t afford to do.”

–Hayeon Kim ’17 (GESI-DR 2014, Daniels Scholar)

“When I found out about the GESI program, I got excited because the opportunities that I thought I would miss out on as an undergraduate were again viable. The GESI program will give me the opportunity to develop new perspectives on academic subjects and real-world issues.”

–Omeko Eromesele ’15 (GESI-Uganda 2014, Daniels Scholar)

“Education should be a basic human right. No matter who you are, you should have the ability to access the power of education, and once that access is established, you then have an unlimited future because through seeking and attaining knowledge you are truly free to accomplish anything.”

–Alaa Mohamedali ’16 (GESI-Uganda 2014, Daniels Scholar) 

Read the Diversity Network’s press release on Northwestern University’s EDIE Award here.

Africa, Americas, Asia, Development, Undergraduate Students