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.

Inclusive excellence at IFSA

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 Regional Field Director

IFSA’s You Belong Here Initiative

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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Inclusion Matters More Than Ever

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.

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Inclusive Excellence at IFSA

Co-authored by IFSA President and CEO Heather Barclay Hamir, Ph.D., 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. 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.


“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?”

Inclusive excellence at IFSA
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.
Inclusive excellence at IFSA

Bo Carlson | Duke University
Argentine Universities Program
Argentina | Fall 2018

“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.”

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Inclusive excellence at IFSA

Francesca Walker | Columbia University
King’s College London
England | Spring 2019

“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 richness of my own heritage.”

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Explore IFSA’s Other Commitments

Individualized Learning
Individualized Learning at IFSA

No two student journeys are alike, so we tailor our support to meet each student’s unique needs.

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Intercultural Agility
Intercultural Agility at IFSA

Meaning and value come from cultural immersion and contextual understanding not found in travel alone.

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Enduring Impact
Enduring Impact at IFSA

With our intentional engagement, students create meaningful experiences that last a lifetime.

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Reach Out To Us
Contact the local emergency number provided to you during orientation or local authorities. For non-emergencies, reach out to resident staff during office hours.
Our health and safety staff are located globally to assist you in the event of an emergency. For assistance, you can reach a crisis manager at the following number, 24/7:

1 (866) 726-9540