On Sept. 27, Hillary Clinton spoke at Georgetown University about the contributions of women in advancing human rights and peace worldwide. The awards ceremony was a testament to how diverse perspectives allow for culturally competent and context-aware problem-solving in world peace and security. As students, we feel it is critically important that higher education institutions training the field’s future academics and practitioners make a commitment to enhance diversity and inclusion.
In fact, Carla Koppell, a distinguished Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security fellow, is spearheading a project to convene practitioners and educators in international affairs in order to advance this agenda. The focus of the initiative is threefold: composition, culture and curriculum in schools. In the last year, Koppell created the University Leadership Council, a group of academic leaders from top international affairs schools, in order to address the lack of focus on diversity and inclusion and collaborate in developing innovative solutions.
After a year of meetings, the group released a powerful call to action, committing to prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in international affairs education. Specifically, it advocates for diversity in the composition of faculty and students, a wider representation of different backgrounds in curricula, and inclusion in campus culture. Already, 220 representatives from over 85 schools and 20 countries, including 38 academic leaders and six deans from Georgetown, have signed on to support strides toward positive, tangible changes in international affairs education.
In addition to the ULC, GIWPS is working on a collection of testimonies from professors who students feel have successfully promoted diversity and inclusion in their courses and classrooms to draw out the best practices. Furthermore, an upcoming edited volume will focus on diversity and inclusion as assets in conflict resolution, development and international relations.
Each of these projects will hopefully stimulate positive change at our university, ULC member institutions and other graduate international affairs programs. We are encouraged by the broad support for the initiative, as it is an affirmation of what we know to be true: Diversity and inclusion must become a priority for institutions training the world’s future leaders.
Extensive research shows that a lack of representation in international affairs education exists across the board in tenure decisions, curricula and syllabi, and more. Research on citations, faculty members’ service on committees, course evaluations and staff retention all point to the need for better representation that not only benefits faculty members’ careers, but also student experiences. After all, research also demonstrates the strength found in inclusion from boards of corporations to peace processes. Not only do policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion benefit students and faculty, but their impacts can also benefit the positioning of the university on a global stage, both in terms of its reputation for training competent international affairs professionals and for creating an inclusive campus environment that values diversity, enhancing the overall potential of the university.
As students who understand the value of diverse and inclusive learning environments, we are particularly eager to see this initiative adopted by the Georgetown community. We hope to see the renewed commitment to diversity and inclusion by the Georgetown community as a whole translate to a more diverse makeup of clubs, majors and classrooms. We believe it to be critically important to see the university take steps to ensure our classrooms, the content we learn, and the community of students and faculty be reflective of all backgrounds and views.
We urge all educators and academic officials at Georgetown to explore the resources being developed by the ULC. The influence of Georgetown faculty goes further than this campus, given their involvement with organizations, conferences and other circles pertaining to their subject matter of expertise. We hope to see staff members encourage and invite their colleagues at other institutions to think critically about how best to enhance diversity and inclusion in their respective places of work as well.
Students can take steps to ensure their clubs are diverse and inclusive through their recruitment and retention efforts as well as with the programming and activities they organize. Taking classes in different disciplines can expose you to new people and new perspectives. Take time to explore and participate in club activities, university events, lectures and panels that convene experts to truly gain insight into the opinions and experiences of others. As Georgetown renews its commitment to these values, we urge you to join us in doing our part in making our university a place that celebrates diversity and strives for greater inclusivity.
Menty Kebede is a master of science candidate in the School of Foreign Service. Kathryn Derewicz is a senior in the College.