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Access, Inclusion, Diversity & Equity

Barcelona, Spain

AIFS Abroad understands the importance of making Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (AIDE) the lens through which we consider a wide range of organizational and programming decisions.

After a year of compilation and collaboration with colleagues and experts in the field we launched the AIFS Abroad Plan of Action for AIDE in 2021. Priorities included in the plan were developed through internal and external conversations, open staff forums, and group discussions and surveys from AIFS Study Abroad staff, our Board of Advisors, and our Alumni Ambassadors. The data received through these avenues informed the AIFS Study Abroad Diversity & Inclusion Working group who were responsible for the creation and review of this plan of action. Continual review and feedback will help shape our priorities as we further engage with all our stakeholders and advance this important priority.

At AIFS, we support all students in their study abroad journey, inclusive of their gender, race, religion, age, physical ability, or sexual orientation. Everyone has a complex identity, and the different aspects of one’s identity are an important factor when deciding on a study abroad or international internship location. We have general Social Identity Based -Resources to assist in reflecting on one’s identity and/ or the identity of other participants of the program as they consider a program. We also have site specific Social Identity and Access pages on each of our program pages.

Goals Progress

As access, inclusion, diversity, and equity are multidisciplinary considerations, our plan focuses on six themes spanning the education abroad experience. Each has corresponding goals, measures of success and accountability check points that will be updated on a consistent basis. The search feature below allows you to get a general report on the progress we are making toward each goal. If you would like more details on our internal process, please email ksaunders@aifs.com.

Select a Theme and Goal to view progress updates

A student looking through a binocular viewer.

Communications

55%

Mission, Vision, & Values

Create an AIDE-focused mission, vision, values for AIFS Abroad, a division of the American Institute for Foreign Study. The mission, vision, and values found on page 3 of the AIDE POA are for AIFS as an organization and not division specific.

We are pleased to share the new AIFS Abroad mission and vision, which will guide the work we do. At the close of 2021 we will craft our shared values and will post on this website.

  • Mission: To provide the highest quality, inclusive and innovative global education programs through a supportive structure for our diverse participants and stakeholders around the world.
  • Vision: Through our participant-focused approach we prepare globally-minded citizens through academic and career-oriented programs to build a more equitable, sustainable, and peaceful world.
75%

Representation in Marketing

Continued and increased representation of and information for students from underrepresented and diverse backgrounds in all AIFS Abroad marketing, program materials, publications, and website.

  • We are conducting an on-going review of all our marketing and materials to identify gaps in outreach and find ways to increase representation of and information for participants of diverse backgrounds. We have created social posts and blogs addressing topics that might be of interest to students of diverse backgrounds and will continue to create and share resources for historically marginalized participants. This goal will be continued in the second version of our Plan of Action for AIDE as it is an on-going need that cannot be full addressed within 2021.
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Email Signature Pronouns

Provide staff the option to include their pronouns in AIFS Abroad staff email signatures.

  • Effective January 2021, AIFS Abroad staff have the option of including their pronouns in their staff email signatures.
100%

YouTube Content

Create videos for our YouTube channel covering topics of diversity, identity, and / or specific concerns of diverse students that are focused on program selection and pre-departure phases.

  • We have conducted a review of our video content and identified areas that need additional coverage. We will work on increasing video content for students of diverse backgrounds and provide additional ways for participants to share their videos for use on our YouTube channel.
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Buildings in Barcelona, Spain.

Policies

82%

Addressing Student Feedback

Create internal written policy for AIFS Abroad staff on how to address and report student feedback of discrimination/harassment in classroom, in instruction (teaching), in internships, in homestay environment, and in engagements with any professional staff.

  • In February 2021 we created an internal written policy for AIFS Abroad staff to report participant feedback of experienced or witnessed discrimination/harassment. This policy is being reviewed by leadership and legal. All staff will receive training on this updated internal policy this summer.
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Incident Reporting Process

Create multiple ways for participants to report experienced or witnessed discrimination/harassment (from other program participants, host families, staff, instructors, or at their internship, from any individual helping to deliver the program, and/or from members of the host community) throughout their experience with AIFS Abroad. Include the ways to report in the pre-departure handbooks and at on-site orientation.

  • In addition to reporting incidents to on-site staff, in January 2021 we created additional means for participants to report experienced or witnessed discrimination/harassment. Participants will be provided information on additional means to report in several locations (including, but not limited to, their student portal, pre-departure handbook, and pre-departure and on-site orientations). All staff received training on this updated internal policy in early July.
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Support Students in Housing

Create standardized policy on how we support students of diverse backgrounds in AIFS Abroad housing (including adult students, students who are transgender, and students with mobility considerations)

  • The housing policy has been created and approved by leadership (see full policy below). All staff received training on this updated internal policy in early July. The group is also working on an internal document for policy implementation.
85%

Funds Policy

Create a discretionary funds policy for AIFS staff to make reasonable accommodations for students on-sites.

  • The updated discretionary funds policy has been created and approved by leadership. All staff received training on this updated internal policy in early July.
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A group of students in Germany.

Processes

88%

New Application

Increase opportunities through the application and pre-departure process for a student to disclose any aspects of their identities and considerations that they wish to share with us in order to best serve them abroad.

  • Our new application launched March 15 and includes space for participants to disclose any aspects of their identities and considerations that they wish to share with us in order to best serve them abroad. We will continue to evaluate additional opportunities to encourage participant disclosure pre-departure.
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Demographic Information

Collect demographic information (including first gen and Pell Grant eligibility) on applicants and accepted students so we can measure progress in recruiting more students from underrepresented backgrounds.

  • Our new application launched March 15 and includes space for participants to indicate demographic information (including first gen and Pell Grant eligibility). Having a baseline will allow us to set goals for increasing participation from students of diverse backgrounds in future versions of our Plan of Action for AIDE.
100%

Diversity and Inclusion in Alumni Exit Survey

Provide opportunity in alumni exit survey for participants to provide feedback on their experiences related to diversity and inclusion.

  • We have added questions to our alumni exit survey which will go into effect for fall 2021 programs. This data will inform goals for future versions of our Plan of Action for AIDE.
90%
A group of students inside a church.

Programs

69%

Discussions and Reflection on Social Identity

Create spaces for facilitated discussions on social identity and reflection sessions in country with AIFS Abroad staff.

  • The team has put together a list of recommendations for all AIFS programs that will include varied formats, discussion topics, and speakers across all program sites along with recommendations to encourage robust participation from students. We will be introducing facilitated discussions on social identity into our fall 2021 offerings and will make adjustments based on participant feedback.
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Questions on Identity for On-Site Focus Groups

Add questions for on-site focus groups related to identity to better understand the experiences of underrepresented students abroad.

  • We conduct on-site focus groups each term and will be adding questions related to social identities for our fall 2021 programs. Team has reviewed resources and created a draft of AIDE-focused questions to include which is being reviewed by leadership. Check back for additional updates.
58%

Pre-Departure Opportunities

Provide opportunities pre-departure for students to consider their social identities and how they will be impacted while abroad.

  • Our team has compiled a variety of pre-departure activities, opportunities for reflection, and external resources to encourage participants to consider their identities and how they will be impacted while abroad. We are in the process of incorporating these activities and resources into the AIFS Preparing for Your Experience handbook which is provided to all students pre-departure.
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Drive-In and Virtual Workshops

Expand drive-in or virtual workshops for our university and internship partners on topics related to diversity and inclusion.

  • The team has put together a selection of workshop options, including presenter possibilities, that will be offered to our university and internship partners in the months ahead. Visit our webinars page to see our current offerings. If you have a topic you would like to see us offer, please email alumni@aifs.com.
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A sunset in Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Resources

44%

Budgeting and Financial Planning Resources

Provide students with budgeting and financial planning resources, cost of living information abroad, and information on how to navigate the financial aid processes on campus.

  • The team has conducted a website audit, reviewed existing resources, and is working to create budgeting and financial planning tools for participants. Resources will be added to our website as completed. Visit the Student Resources page to review our current offerings.
43%

Understandable Language and Resources

Add more understandable language and resources to our website on CISI insurance coverage options and limitations.

  • The team has created resources to make the CISI insurance coverage options and limitations more understandable, which are being reviewed by leadership. We aim to have the first round of resources added to the Student Resources page by September 2021. Check back for updates.
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Resources on Stereotypes and Discrimination

Offer advising, pre-departure discussions, and resources to students preparing them for experiencing stereotypes or discrimination in host culture. Share resources with university and internship partners.

  • We are currently working on creating programming and resources toward this goal. We aim to have it incorporated into our summer 2021 offerings. Check back for updates.
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Toolkit on Diversity and Inclusion

Create toolkit for customized faculty-led program leaders related to diversity and inclusion, including information on social identities, intergroup and intragroup dynamics, and outreach strategies for reaching diverse students.

  • We anticipate we will begin working on the toolkit in late summer 2021. Check back for updates.
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A student looking at a view of the ocean.

Staff & Training

50%

Review Hiring Criteria

Review hiring and contracting practices and criteria to ensure that the process includes only job-related factors and qualifications, and is free from criteria that could have an unlawful adverse impact upon any person or group.

  • We are continually working with HR to review existing job descriptions with an AIDE lens and have created an updated internal protocol for posting any new positions. We have created templates for job postings and have determined additional locations for posting and avenues for sharing available positions to expand our applicant pool. We will continue to evaluate, update, and improve these practices.
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AIDE Training

Train staff on avoidance of discrimination, implicit or explicit.

  • In the beginning of 2021, we began conducting AIDE Training for all AIFS Abroad staff that include how to take positive steps to embrace/promote a culture of inclusion; and how to apply strategies for skillfully working in a diverse workforce. We are currently reviewing training specific to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation; how to recognize bias/stereotypes in yourself and others. We continue to research additional resources and training that our staff can use for on-going training.
57%

Response to Complaints of Discrimination

Train relevant staff on responding to complaints of discrimination and situations that may involve, or could be reasonably perceived to involve, discriminatory actions or omissions.

  • The team has conducted a deeper review of available research, resources, and trainings that our staff can use for on-going learning, which is currently in review by leadership. Once approved, the team will prioritize the materials and create a suggested schedule for trainings.
42%

Effective Advising of Diverse Persons

Train relevant staff on most effective advising of culturally diverse persons.

  • We are researching resources and trainings that our staff can use for on-going training. Check back for updates.
20%

AIFS Abroad Plan of Action for AIDE

We invite you to download the AIFS Abroad Plan of Action.

Incident Reporting Policy

AIFS Abroad is committed to maintaining a positive and inclusive environment. Each participant, staff member, and individual helping to deliver the program (faculty, homestay families, host company employees, our guides, etc.) plays a role in fostering this environment. We must be aware that what we say, do, think, allow to happen, or fail to stop has the power to harm or to help our participants, their families and support network, our colleagues, and ultimately ourselves. Remarks and actions that negatively impact members of our community are not acceptable.
 
Every program participant signs the AIFS Abroad Code of Conduct stating that they understand if they participate in discrimination or harassment toward participants and/or members of staff, they are in violation of the AIFS Abroad Code of Conduct, and this action is grounds for dismissal from the program.
 
Discrimination and harassment include, but are not limited to, derogatory comments or actions based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, sex (including gender identity, gender presentation, and pregnancy), national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, or parental status; unwanted advances, disorderly conduct, physical abuse, verbal abuse, microaggressions, threats, verbal or nonverbal intimidation, intentional or unintentional bullying, bias, stalking, exclusion, or coercion. See the list of definitions below for more information.
 
Any participant found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment (virtually or in-person) will be subject to AIFS Abroad-imposed discipline and/or legal action. Consequences imposed on any participant found to have engaged in discrimination or harassment may include, but are not limited to, a written or verbal apology, facilitated conversations, counseling, disciplinary probation, and/or dismissal from the program. If a participant is dismissed from the program, there will be no refund of program fees.

Any participant who has experienced or witnessed harassment or discrimination as defined above is encouraged to report the incident to AIFS Abroad staff on-site either in-person or through email, phone call, text or WhatsApp message. If a participant does not feel comfortable reporting to staff on-site – or if the incident involves on-site staff – they should email reporting@aifs.com. The email should describe the misconduct and identify the individual(s) involved in the incident.
 
AIFS Abroad welcomes all reports of identity-based discrimination or harassment and does not limit the time frame for reporting. AIFS Abroad encourages prompt reporting where possible, because it increases our ability to respond to the reported behavior and to provide support to affected participants. Reporting parties should be mindful that delays in reporting may affect options for response, particularly when an accused individual is no longer a student, faculty, staff, or otherwise affiliated with AIFS Abroad.

At AIFS Abroad, the individual who files a report is the complainant and the person a claim is filed against is the respondent.

In situations where a reported incident of discrimination or harassment involves an AIFS Abroad staff member and/or individual helping to deliver the program (faculty, homestays families, host company employees, our guides, etc.) the process will be adjusted to include AIFS Abroad Human Resources staff and/or to follow host university/internship employer protocol.

The procedure for AIFS Abroad program participants is as follows:

  1. Reporting:
    Complainant reports incident of harassment or discrimination to AIFS Abroad. Staff will provide resources, including access to counseling, to support the reporting student. If the incident breaks the law in the country in question, AIFS Abroad staff will encourage and support the complainant reporting the incident to the police.
  2. Acknowledgement of Report:
    All incident reports made will be acknowledged and reviewed by members of AIFS Abroad Staff and Leadership Team within one week of the incident report being filed. AIFS Abroad is committed to respecting privacy in responding to reported concerns of identity-based discrimination or harassment. Information related to a report of discrimination or harassment will be shared with only those individuals who “need-to-know” the information for AIFS Abroad to properly assess and resolve the matter.
  3. Notification:
    The respondent will be notified verbally, and in writing, by an AIFS Abroad staff member of any alleged violation(s) of the AIFS Code of Conduct brought against them. The respondent will have an opportunity to provide a statement in response to the charged violation(s). AIFS Abroad may place the respondent on probation while a final decision is being made. The probation may require the participant to find alternative housing at their own expense. AIFS Abroad, at its discretion, may notify the complainant and respondent’s home university of any serious misconduct or for the sake of a health and/or safety issue. The participant’s home university may, at its discretion, take further disciplinary actions against a participant sanctioned by AIFS Abroad, including, but not limited to, suspension or dismissal.
  4. Information Gathering:
    AIFS Abroad staff, with assistance from the complainant, will collect witness statements, physical evidence, and/or supporting documentation. These items will be used in the formal review process.
  5. Formal Review:
    The AIFS Abroad local staff and Leadership Team, based on the available information, will determine the consequences, including disciplinary actions, for violation of the Code of Conduct, if any. Both the complainant and respondent will be notified in writing, as soon as possible, of AIFS Abroad’s decision.
  6. Disciplinary Actions:
    Disciplinary actions can take a variety of forms, and combinations of actions can be issued depending on the violations in question. AIFS Abroad at its sole discretion will determine what action, if any, to take for violation of the Code of Conduct. AIFS Abroad participants will not receive a refund or credit for missed activities or events as a result of any disciplinary actions. Such actions include but are not limited to the following:
    • Written or verbal apology: Respondents might be asked to provide an apology to the complainant for the Code of Conduct violation.
    • Facilitated conversations or counseling: Depending on the situation, respondents might be asked to work with a counselor or engage in facilitated conversations.
    • Restitution: Payment of the cost to repair or replace any damage of personal property because of damage or theft.
    • Suspension or Loss of Privileges: Respondent’s privileges to use facilities or to participate in activities or events may be restricted for a designated period or completely withdrawn.
    • Housing Termination: Respondent may be required to leave the AIFS Abroad-arranged housing and obtain housing accommodations on their own and at their own expense.
    • Disciplinary Probation: Respondent will be provided written notification of the terms and condition of the probationary restrictions imposed for violating the Code of Conduct. Failure to comply with such restrictions or further violations during the remainder of the Respondent’s AIFS Abroad Program may result in immediate dismissal from the program. During this probationary period, the AIFS Abroad participant could be prohibited from participating in all AIFS Abroad group activities, attending classes, entering AIFS facilities (including offices, classrooms, and study centers), and internship employment with the Sponsor.
    • Dismissal: Permanent removal of the respondent from the AIFS Abroad Program. Dismissal from the AIFS Abroad program shall not diminish or otherwise affect the respondent’s obligation to make any and all payments to AIFS Abroad.
  • Bias: Prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.
  • Coercion: The practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.
  • Complainant: Individual who files a formal complaint of discrimination or harassment
  • Discrimination: Discrimination is the unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, disability, or sexual orientation.
  • Exclusion: Socially or physically excluding or disregarding a person in program-related activities.
  • Gesture Bullying: Nonverbal threatening gestures or glances that convey threatening messages.
  • Harassment: Harassment based on any protected characteristic is strictly prohibited. Under our policy, harassment is verbal, written or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual because of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, genetic information, or any other characteristic protected by law, and that has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment, and / or otherwise adversely affects or unreasonably interferes with an individual’s experience abroad. Harassing conduct includes epithets, slurs or negative stereotyping; threatening, intimidating or hostile acts; denigrating jokes; and written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group that is circulated by e-mail, phone (including voice messages), text messages, social networking sites or other means.
  • Microaggressions: A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, unconscious, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Author Dr. Derald W. Sue defines them as “The everyday slights, indignities, put downs and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations or those who are marginalized experiences in their day-to-day interactions with people.”
  • Physical Bullying: Pushing, shoving, kicking, poking, tripping, assault, or threat of physical assault; damage to a person’s work area or property.
  • Respondent: Person who is the subject of a formal complaint of discrimination or harassment
  • Sexual harassment: Sexual harassment constitutes discrimination and is not permitted on AIFS abroad programs. Sexual harassment may include a range of subtle and not-so-subtle behaviors and may involve individuals of the same or different gender. Depending on the circumstances, these behaviors may include unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors; sexual jokes and innuendo; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; commentary about an individual’s body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; leering, whistling or touching; insulting or obscene comments or gestures; display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures; and other physical, verbal or visual conduct of a sexual nature.
  • Verbal Bullying: Slandering, ridiculing, or maligning a person or his/her family; persistent name calling that is hurtful, insulting or humiliating; using a person as the butt of jokes; abusive and offensive remarks.

AIFS Inclusive Housing Policy

AIFS is recognized as a leading provider of study abroad programs. Since 1964, over 1.6 million students have travelled abroad with AIFS. With more than 50 years of experience, we have the resources and experience to provide what our participants want and need in a study abroad program and to safeguard their welfare around the globe. AIFS Abroad offers a wide range of unique programs in Asia, Australia, Europe, South Africa, and the Americas.
 
AIFS Abroad is committed to providing safe and suitable accommodation, wherever a participant chooses to study or intern abroad. With an extensive range of programs, we aim to meet individual needs in each location wherever possible. This policy applies to all staff members with housing responsibilities and all enrolled participants who are housed in accommodation organized by AIFS Abroad. We work with a broad range of carefully selected accommodation providers.
 
AIFS Abroad is dedicated to providing safe, inclusive, and supportive living environments for participants of all race, ethnicity, age, gender, sexual orientation, religion and mobility needs. We are committed to being transparent about the level of housing accommodations available in each location and surplus costs if applicable. Resources and accessibility will vary from site to site and participants play a vital role in shaping their study abroad experience by disclosing any specific accommodations required with advance notice using the disclosure forms in the “Mobility, & Disability Abroad” section on the AIFS Abroad AIDE Social Identity page. This will enable AIFS Abroad staff to fully support individual needs to the best of their ability.
 
We encourage participants to fully disclose specific needs on the provided self-disclosure forms and to speak with their pre-departure staff and on-site staff prior to arrival on site. We have discretionary funds available to support students with accommodation requests related to access, inclusion, diversity, and equity and will work with individuals and their home institution’s education abroad and support service offices (when applicable/permitted) to review the distribution of associated costs for accommodation requests.