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Skidmore College

Study abroad program recognized for leadership in diversity, inclusion

November 10, 2022
by James Helicke

A Skidmore College study abroad program in Spain has received a top award for its advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) by fostering an antiracist, student-centered culture that supports students of color and other underrepresented groups as they study abroad.

The Tufts-Skidmore Spain program won the 2022 Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion in International Education Award for student engagement and support from Diversity Abroad, a leading organization promoting diversity in study abroad programs.

“This prestigious award acknowledges the incredible work our staff in Spain is doing to serve the needs of our increasingly diverse student body. Under the leadership of Susan Sanchez-Casal, our program has been transformed into one that is founded on innovative DEI practices and that provides critical resources and support structures, expanding access and success for so many of our students,” said Cori Filson, director of Skidmore’s Office of Off-Campus Study and Exchanges. Filson accepted the award on behalf of program staff at the Diversity Abroad’s annual conference this fall.

Students in Spain

The Spain program, which is operated in collaboration with Tufts University, operates within a broader justice-oriented framework that recognizes the challenges that diverse, unrepresented student populations face while studying abroad. These efforts also coincide with broader, institutional efforts by Skidmore toward building an inclusive and welcoming future through the College’s Racial Justice Initiative and other efforts that support DEI at Skidmore.

A hallmark of the Spain program is its Culture of Student Care, which prioritizes the experience of the whole student while studying abroad. Even before students depart for Spain, orientation programming works to center the importance of student identities to their experiences and offers transparent communications about possible challenges. Once in Spain, students benefit from regular mentoring meetings with program faculty and staff, who help to address academic and other issues proactively. Students also have access to regular, organized meetings with peer groups for Students of Color, African Descendants, and Queer and Questioning students; local program alumni; and Spanish university peers, who all offer mentoring and support.

DEI is also central to the Tufts-Skidmore Spain curriculum. The program’s coursework focuses on critical perspectives on Spanish history and society, including the central role of race, allowing students to analyze Spanish society and history from the perspectives of its most diverse sectors. Program internships further prioritize DEI projects and initiatives.

Susan Sanchez-Casal, Director of Tufts-Skidmore Spain 

“Our team has placed intersectional antiracism as the cornerstone — the central building block of academics, student engagement and support, and community development,” Tufts-Skidmore Spain Director Sanchez-Casal said.

We’ve transformed our academic program into one that transforms intellectual inquiry into an inclusive, antiracist lens, and we’ve built targeted DEI support and resources that respond to the experiences, needs, and desires of our most diverse students.”

As a result of these efforts, Tufts-Skidmore Spain has seen the enrollment of underrepresented students, particularly students of color, increase markedly over the past decade (from an average of 15-20% to 35-55% of the program’s total student population today). 

More than half of Skidmore students study abroad at some point during their college years. Students can choose from 120 programs in 45 countries. In addition to the Spain program, Skidmore’s Office of Off-Campus Study and Exchanges also runs programs in England, France, and New Zealand.

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