Andrew Gordon champions diversity in global learning at keynote speaker event


Samantha Powers/The Daily Northwestern

Andrew Gordon, co-founder and CEO of Includifi, speaks about diversity in global learning opportunities at the Guild Lounge on Wednesday, Feb. 22. Gordon was the keynote speaker for Northwestern’s Black History Month Global Week.

Samantha Powers, Reporter

Andrew Gordon, CEO and co-founder of technological engagement company Includifi, spoke about intersections of race in study abroad experiences Wednesday as Northwestern’s Black History Month Global Week’s keynote speaker.

Gordon, who created Diversity Abroad, an organization promoting equitable global learning, said it’s often difficult for students of color to make sense of the opportunities available to them without a strong support network. Includifi — an app showing students personalized options for abroad programs, scholarships, internships, jobs and graduate school — aims to address those difficulties. 

At the event, Gordon spoke to an audience including fellow education professionals about the importance of supporting students.

“The students who have chosen to come to our universities are bright, driven, young people with dreams and goals, and we are the gatekeepers to so many of these experiences,” he said.

During a fireside chat with Robin Means Coleman, vice president and associate provost for Diversity and Inclusion at NU, Gordon said while some students face structural barriers to studying abroad, internal biases present among faculty may limit access.

Coleman said faculty advocates are key to ensuring students get the most out of their higher education opportunities. As a first-generation college student, she said she lacked these connections during her college years.

“We rarely have an opportunity to call students in and say, ‘You know what? This would be great for you. I see this in you,’” Coleman said. “And I know personally, no one ever said that to me in high school, no one said that in college, not in graduate school, not in my (postdoctoral).”

She added that there needs to be an effort for intentional conversations to bridge that gap.

Supporting students through every stage of the study abroad process is even more important for students of color, Gordon said.

He first learned about the experience of being abroad as a teenager, when he visited his older brother in Spain. Gordon said he found it helpful to step outside the U.S.

“The U.S. can be a racially exhausting place for Black Americans, and even having a short reprieve from that in those formative years is very liberating,” Gordon said.

Weinberg senior and event attendee Bianca Gunnz said she learned a lot about the challenges minority students face when studying abroad.

With a mother from Jamaica and a father from England, Gunnz said she has always valued a global education and plans to study abroad in the fall.

“I think it’s been really helpful as a student in understanding the importance of studying abroad, especially for students who identify as Black,” Gunnz said. “Now knowing the obstacles that are presented to Black students, maybe I can help others to overcome them.”

Norvell Watts, program manager at NU and a co-founder of Black History Month Global Week, said the keynote speaker event was one of many intended to help Black students engage with a global education.

Later this week, the Global Learning Office will host a “Traveling While Black” panel discussion with students who have studied abroad before. In future years, Watts said he hopes to see even more student involvement in the events.

“I would love to have even more students and returnees around to share their experience because I think it’s very valuable that it’s not just staff and faculty and guest speakers who are able to support students,” Watts said. “I think there’s such a value in students communicating with each other.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misrepresented Andrew Gordon’s experience in Spain. The Daily regrets the error.

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