Taking a Look Inward: Strengths-Based Approaches to Supporting Student Engagement

Students from diverse and traditionally marginalized communities in typical higher education spaces may be uniquely poised for success in global education experiences. At the same time, these students may face unique challenges throughout the decision-making to returnee phases. As global educators create, identify, and distribute resources geared to support and address issues impacting diverse populations of students, how do we do so in a manner that identifies systemic and institutional barriers, rather than adopting a deficit model that may focus on perceived barriers of the diverse student population themselves? What are strengths based approaches to enhancing diverse students’ success and participation in global education opportunities? How can International Educators draw upon relevant frameworks in program design, research-based advising techniques, and other promising practice



A special thank-you to members of the Diversity Abroad consortium for supporting thought leadership at the intersection of global education and diversity, equity, and inclusion.


by Joelle Tolifero, Former Associate Director of Student Services, Diversity Abroad

When I take a look inward I see the strengths: arranger, individualization, activator, futuristic, empathy. These five strengths, as indicated by the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment, tell us that I care deeply about people. This specific combination of strengths shows that I want to understand people and put them in the right place for their long-term success. Oftentimes, as educators and advisors we focus solely on the strengths or deficits of our students and do not take time to examine where we can look inward in order to support all members of our student community.

We know that diverse and traditionally marginalized students in typical higher education spaces may be uniquely positioned for successmin global education because of their experience navigating multicultural spaces in their home countries or identity as an international student enrolled in a U.S. institution. We also know thattheir identities may position them to face unique challenges while navigating the global process. So we at Diversity Abroad ask as you continue to engage with these articles, how can you use your
strengths to support and develop the strengths of your diverse students? And how do we do so in a manner that identifies systemic and institutional barriers, rather than adopting a deficit model that may focus on perceived barriers for our students?

Research says that people are more likely to succeed by leveraging their strengths. As advisors and global educators it is imperative that we understand the strengths that we hold individually and model how to leverage those strengths for the diverse students we support. We can do this by engaging in our professional development around the topics of inequality, oppression, and implicit bias. Now more than ever it is important for educators to equip themselves with the tools to both grow in their own strengths around these
pressing issues and support students to do the same. We have the opportunity to advise students without putting the realities of racial injustice, prejudice, or discrimination at the forefront of their experience, and instead we can recognize the impact of these systems of oppression while elevating each student’s individual strengths.

Operating in a strengths-based system for yourself and your advisees will greatly benefit diverse students’ global education experiences. By understanding the strengths of your students through a differentiated approach you can advise diverse students to seek opportunities that will not only include them but will aim to support them equitably. Ultimately this sets them up for a lifelong understanding of what strengths they hold, how they can leverage those strengths to constructively navigate institutions, and how they can thrive beyond the classroom and in the global workforce.

The articles in this edition of the Global Impact Exchange will provide an opportunity for readers to take this ‘look inward’ and gain examples of strengths-based approaches that have positively impacted diverse students’ participation in global education. Readers will gain insight into how to be conscious of students’ individual differences and find the linkages between their knowledge, skills, and talents, i.e., their strengths.

We look forward to your engagement with this edition of the Global Impact Exchange and want to hear your thoughts. Please share your reflections and ideas with us at @diversityabroad and [email protected]. Diversity Abroad members are invited to join the conversation in the online community forums.

Editorial Board

  • Shakeer A. Abdullah, PhD | Vice President of Student Affairs, Clayton State University
  • Lily Lopez-Mcgee, PhD | Pickering Fellowship Director, Howard University
  • Shannon P. Marquez, PhD | Dean of Undergraduate Global Engagement, Columbia University
  • Vivian-Lee Nyitray, PhD | Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director, University of California Education Abroad Program

Table of Contents

  • Not Necessarily Lost in Translation: Deaf Students on Study Abroad
  • Asset-Based Apprpoachs to Supporting the Education Abroad Experiences of First-Generation Low-Income Students in an African University
  • Repurposing Marginalization
  • The Susquehanna Model of Strengths-Based Cross-Cultural Learning Goals
  • Working Towards Inclusive Partnerships: A Case Study on Supporting Black and Latinx Undergraduate Men to Study Abroad
  • Centering Culture in Intercultural Competence Development Assessment
  • Mento and Self-Efficacy Approaches to Encourage Diverse Student Participation in Gilman
  • Speaking for Themselves: Student Self-Authorship in Education Abroad
  • From the Playing Field to the South African Township: A Strengths-Based Advising Case Study
  • Research to Practice: Leveraging Minioritized Study Abroad Student Strengths
  • An Equity-Minded Approach to Researching, Writing, and Publishing to Amplify Student Strengths.


Note: To access the articles, you must be logged in as a licensed member user. Once logged in, the list of articles will appear below.
Global Inclusive Leadership Certificate

Learn More

2023 Global Inclusion Conference

Learn More