Equity Audits. Inclusion Scales. Diverse Teams. In a world where a global pandemic, protests in the movement for racial justice, and an economic crisis have converged, skills and expertise related to diversity, equity, and inclusion have become essential. With this context and with decades of work in intercultural competency among them, faculty leaders in SIS’s Intercultural and International Communication (IC) Program knew that the knowledge and experience to launch a concentration in Global Equity and Inclusion (GEI) lies within their program. They launched this new option in fall 2021, giving IC students who choose this concentration an opportunity to market their GEI expertise to future employers.
Most other SIS MA programs could allow for this concentration as well. Students interested in learning more about the GEI concentration and how it may work within other programs should contact the IC Program Coordinator.
As the IC faculty met to discuss the potential new concentration, SIS professor Naomi Moland placed the decision in the social context of the moment: “All of us as faculty were doing things related to equality and equity and diversity that were links to these different social movements. These current events definitely shaped our shift to framing what we were already doing, more in terms of diversity and inclusion.”
According to SIS professor and IC program chair Wanda Wigfall-Williams, the protests in summer 2020 after the murder of George Floyd crystalized the opportunity to have the necessary discussions with students. This was especially true because the protests were global and addressed class, gender expression, and other marginalized identities in addition to the clear focus on racial justice.
“We need to be thinking to the future, facing a future where we could properly equip our students with the skills and tools they will need from their master’s degree to conduct the work they have been prepared to do, while being on the leading edge in this crucial and evolving moment,” says Wigfall-Williams.
Why Global Equity and Inclusion?
The faculty shared the intention behind the name, Global Equity and Inclusion, a name that would bring to mind the now-conventional moniker of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) but with a difference that they hoped would prompt questions of “What do they mean by that?” This difference draws upon SIS faculty expertise and the benefits of housing the program within a school of international affairs.
Many opportunities to study DEI are housed in business schools or have an emphasis in human resources and diversity within an organization. This global emphasis expands that framing for a more holistic approach that takes cultural context into account and can be applied not only within organizations but also in a range of other professional paths.
Chris French, SIS/MA’23 a student in the IC program who has chosen this concentration, characterized the GEI focus this way: "It’s less about human resources and more about human rights.” He was first drawn to the concentration as someone who identifies with the LGBTQIA+ community and has both personal and professional interests in human rights.
“With regards to LGBTQIA+ rights, there are so many countries that do not have the same rights that we have here in the US,” says French. “We need the knowledge and skills to be able to facilitate conversations to move toward greater inclusion.”
A Growing Emphasis on GEI from Organizations
With an increasing effort among many different sectors to critically examine their practices, projects, and goals through an equity and inclusion lens, students who graduate with this concentration will be well-prepared to work in government, NGOs, private corporations, and think tanks among others. In fact, Moland reflected, “I can’t think of a job it wouldn’t prepare you for.”
Darlene Slaughter, KSB/MS ’93, Chief Diversity and Engagement Officer at March of Dimes and member of the AU President’s Council on Diversity and Inclusion echoes that sentiment: "It’s a program where you will learn things that will let you work in any company. It’s broader than any one industry. It’s a future-focused role that will have a lot of value.”
From the vantage point of having worked in Chief Diversity Officer roles at multiple organizations, Slaughter emphasizes that she’d be interested in prospective employees with a GEI concentration on their resume. She would inquire about the innovative concepts they learned and how that background influences their thinking.
“I would want to see how they understand the intersections of US diversity and global equity and pull those together,” says Slaughter.
According to Moland, this holistic approach to their work will help graduates of the concentration develop a critical lens and a deep expertise for understanding the complexity that exists in the American contexts and in a range of geopolitical contexts around the world: “A goal of the concentration is for graduates to think about how they can bring analytical and interpretive skills related to questions of diversity and equity to help organizations not only become more just workplaces, but also to become more just in the work they do.”
Graduate student French sees the concentration as especially relevant right now. He is eager to combine his interest in public diplomacy with DEI in this way.
French has found that the focus on GEI is well-connected to the ethos of SIS and the broad goals that so many students at SIS share: “The whole point of being at SIS is that we want to serve our communities and the world and make a difference. What better way to do this than making sure that everyone is feeling seen and heard?”