Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Publication Location: WASHINGTON
Contact: Kathryn Schoenberger   |   kathryn.schoenberger@worldlearning.org

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Today marks one year since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. His death prompted a wave of protests across the United States and around the world calling for a reckoning with this country’s history and the continuing impacts of racism and systemic oppression.

On this solemn anniversary, we want to reaffirm that Black Lives Matter, and that Black voices and experiences are critical to our work as an organization promoting intercultural connection and understanding. We also want to reaffirm our commitment to doing the hard work of confronting our biases in ourselves, our organization, and communities. This is not a quick or easy process, but a vital ongoing effort to ensure we are truly living our values as an organization and making a positive difference in the world.

Therefore, we would like to share the status of our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives and the next steps we are taking to move this critical work forward. 

Last year, we engaged one of our long-standing partners Diversity Abroad to conduct an evaluation of the organization to help us create a roadmap for positive systemic change across the organization. In March 2021, we received the final evaluation reports from Diversity Abroad, which included an overall evaluation of World Learning and School for International Training (SIT), as well as a targeted review of SIT Study Abroad programs and engagement with students.

Since then, we have solicited feedback on the results of the report from faculty and staff through small discussion groups and an anonymous survey. These methods indicated that overall, the results of the report do indeed resonate with faculty and staff. However, some respondents noted that the findings do not necessarily embrace a global perspective on DEI. Therefore, as a global organization, during this process we will need to recognize the many identities and contexts in which DEI issues must be considered.

Last week, Diversity Abroad CEO Andrew Gordon presented on the findings to our Board of Trustees during the annual spring meeting. This was an important step for the governance of the organization and will help keep this critical work on track. 

As our next step, we are pleased to announce our plan to hire a senior-level position that will oversee the diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at World Learning and SIT. This position will report directly to the CEO with a direct line of communication to Dr. Sophia Howlett as president of SIT and her team. This position will help us lay the groundwork to develop our strategy for DEI work and move forward in a coordinated cohesive way, track our progress, and ensure we are holding ourselves accountable for this work. We are in the beginning stages of the recruitment process for this position and aim to have this position in place as soon as possible. Recognizing that we are a complex organization, we also leave open the potential need to hire further DEI staff at SIT to support our higher education activities and student engagement. Sophie will be briefing SIT staff and faculty further in the coming days as she moves forward the response to the SIT Study Abroad review.

Finally, we have created a draft framework for achieving inclusive excellence at World Learning and SIT. These include employee success, transformative programs, climate and culture, and institutional success. We will continue reaching out to faculty and staff to gather and incorporate feedback as we work to further develop and finalize this framework and our path forward. 

Thank you for your contributions and continued support as we work toward creating a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable organization. We are so grateful for all the time and effort you have put into working with Diversity Abroad for the evaluation. Your input and feedback have been invaluable and will truly help shape our response to DEI work going forward. None of this would be possible without the hard work of our dedicated faculty and staff. 

We know that many people may be experiencing a range of emotions around this anniversary. To all in our community, we want you to know that we are here for you together as World Learning and SIT, and we support you. To our faculty and staff, we encourage you to reach out to your managers and our Human Resources team for support. To our students and program participants, we encourage you to share your concerns with your World Learning program officer or the SIT Office of Student Health, Safety & Well-Being, where we also have counseling resources available to you. 

Sincerely,

Carol Jenkins,
CEO, World Learning

Dr. Sophia Howlett,
President, SIT