Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive Excellence | Expanding Opportunity

We consider where your students are coming from, not just where they are going. In fact, we believe that true global learning requires us to engage the whole student, celebrating the diverse identities and abilities they bring to their learning communities. From creative funding to individualized support, our approach expands access and helps students consider the intricacies of personal identity with their destination in mind. Welcoming people of all communities, identities, and abilities enriches the discussions we have together, enhancing the education abroad experience for everyone.

Commitment in Action

IFSA reduces the barriers standing between learners and transformative study abroad experiences. Students come to us with different backgrounds, identities, strengths, and needs, and it is our responsibility to provide the individualized support essential to their success. I’ve met with students at study abroad fairs who’ve said, “I’m an LGBT student. Where can I go that’s safe for me?”

Using IFSA’s Appreciative Advising framework, I discuss what “safe” looks and feels like to them while exploring how they’ll pursue their goals. Our program advisors also provide students with identity-specific information about each site so that they are equipped with the personalized resources they need to select a program or prepare for their first steps of their journey abroad.

Lillian Read  |  IFSA Field Director

Inclusion Matters Now More Than Ever

June 4, 2020 

Since 2016, IFSA has proudly and unequivocally stated our commitment to Inclusive Excellence. It has always been the first of our four organizational commitments because we understand that it is the foundation for all of them. For students to pursue their individual educational goals, engage meaningfully with people whose cultures differ from their own, and experience the lifelong impact of education abroad to its fullest, all learners must first feel that they are welcome. That they belong. That they are valued. 

In the U.S., the lack of inclusion in our society is on full display. George Floyd’s death on May 25th at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis sparked peaceful protests and riots across the country, including in Indianapolis. Protests have now spread globally in support of racial justice and against systemic racism and abuse of power. I wish I could say that the protests and riots started because of George Floyd’s death, but the sad truth is that the trauma caused by police brutality is widespread. Hundreds of Black Americans, usually men, have been killed by police in the last five years alone. Individuals acting out of their own bias and anger have committed many other heinous murders.  

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The IFSA You Belong Here Initiative

You Belong Here

To accelerate our evolution as an organization that embodies Inclusive Excellence, we are launching the You Belong Here Initiative beginning later this month. This initiative will focus on four key areas for the coming year, some of which you will see embedded in our annual goals:


  • We will elevate our organizational practice by forming a working group of staff and Board members to recommend critical improvements that promote equity and inclusion within our organization.
  • We commit to increasing the diversity and representation of our staff when the pandemic allows us to rehire. As part of this commitment, we will seek to widen and expand access to careers in international education.
  • We will solicit suggestions and volunteers to elevate conversations and learning within IFSA on critical topics related to power, privilege, and the experience of marginalized groups.
  • We will amplify our focus on the student experience, integrating practices and approaches that promote inclusivity, equity, and a sense of belonging within our classes and programs.

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Book Report

Co-authored by IFSA President and CEO Heather Barclay Hamir, Promoting Inclusion in Education Abroad offers a combination of research-based chapters and case studies from leading experts on the barriers that disproportionately impact specific groups of students, including: students with disabilities; first-generation college students; undocumented students; racial and ethnic minorities; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors; and males. The authors illuminate the issues that may inhibit education abroad participation, from individual to institutional, and present strategies reflecting a broad range of institutional contexts, resources, and needs. Topics include:

  • Making the Case for Inclusion in Education Abroad
  • Underrepresentation in Education Abroad
  • Students of Color in Study Abroad
  • First-Generation College Students and Study Abroad
  • Removing Barriers for Students With Disabilities in Education Abroad
  • Strategies for Mobilizing Students in the Sciences
  • Undocumented Students and Access to Education Abroad
  • Expanding the Reach of Education Abroad

While there has been significant discussion and action to promote broader inclusion in education abroad, this is the first volume focusing on research and practice to achieve these ends. It is intended as a critical resource for practitioners and scholars alike.

ABOUT THE EDITORS: Heather Barclay Hamir is president and CEO of IFSA. Nick Gozik is director of the Office of International Programs and McGillycuddy-Logue Center for Undergraduate Global Studies at Boston College.

Promoting Inclusion in Education Abroad is available at Shop NAFSA.

Watch & Learn

Inclusive Excellence:
Learning from and Listening to Our Local Communities

Dr. Christopher Van Velzer  |  IFSA Resident Director  |  China
IFSA Conference  |  July 2017

“What does it mean to be human and alive?” Every culture, every community is trying to answer this very question and the incalculable ways we approach it bring richness to intercultural learning. If Inclusive Excellence posits that learning is deeper and more impactful when a community intentionally includes its diverse perspectives, how, then, do we foster learning that is inclusive of all individuals touched by our programs? Are we inclusive and excellent if we conduct unidirectional programs for students as consumers of host culture and what are the enduring lessons of that approach? Dr. Chris Van Velzer challenges us to disrupt the convention of treating local constituents as “community props,” and instead include the diverse stories, experiences, and perspectives they, too, bring to the question “what does it mean to be human and alive?”

ABOUT THE PRESENTER: Chris Van Velzer has 15 years of experience in higher education and serves as the Resident Director for Shanghai programs at the Alliance for Global Education and IFSA-Butler. Prior to joining the Alliance, he held leadership roles within an educational consulting firm and multiple study abroad programs based in Shanghai. Chris has taught courses in business administration and intercultural learning. His current research focuses on holistic, integrated learning models that situate global learning in both local and international contexts. He earned a B.A. in Humanities, an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from Azusa Pacific University.

Unpacked: Student Stories

In their own words, students explore how IFSA’s commitment to Inclusive Excellence impacted their study abroad experience.

Seeing Through A Different Lens: The Benefits of Studying Abroad
as an LGBTQ Student
Red, White, Blue and Black:
Navigating my African-American
Identity in London
Bo Carlson  |  Duke University
Argentine Universities Program
Argentina  |  Fall 2018
Francesca Walker  |  Columbia University
King’s College London
England  |  Spring 2019
“Whether talking with IFSA program staff, going on dates, or coming out to my host mom, I found that being gay wasn’t an obstacle to my enjoyment of the Argentine Universities Program.” “Over the course of those five months,
I became more cognizant of the myriad
of experiences black people have around the world, and also more proud of the richnessof my own heritage.”

For more student stories, check out Unpacked: Student Stories.

Our Other Commitments

IFSA’s commitment to Individualized Learning.

IFSA’s commitment to Intercultural Agility.

IFSA’s commitment to Enduring Impact.