Achieving Diversity One Step at a Time

By: Alexa Espinosa

Diversity is not achieved overnight. It is cultivated, nurtured, and grown. A college’s diversity is expanded with the help of students and faculty alike.

The CSU, Chico Internationalization Faculty Staff Task Force is a team dedicated to increasing diversity throughout the campus and local community. The task force has helped the University become more diverse, or internationalized, by bringing in international students as well as helping its own students to go abroad.

Frank Li Frank Li, chief international officer and director of international education, encourages students to celebrate diversity.
Photo by Oscar Aquino.

It is a common misconception that the Study Abroad program, on its own, can create internationalization. Frank Li, CSU, Chico’s chief international officer and director of international education, says there are several aspects of internationalization.

“It is more than just studying abroad—for internationalization we have several components,” said Li.

The aspects of university internationalization include:
• Hosting international students;
• Faculty participation in researching and teaching abroad;
• Students’ participation in the Study Abroad program; and
• Incorporating diversity and inclusion into the curriculum.

The task force has been able to build relationships with universities in 29 countries so far. These partnerships provide more resources for students on both sides looking to study abroad.

Chico State hosts more than 700 international students from countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, India, and South Korea.

“It has been a rewarding experience for many, having international students in the classroom,” said Li. “They liven classroom discussions and bring in different perspectives because of their background.”

While the University welcomes many international students, only about 300 Chico State students study abroad per year.

“Unfortunately studying abroad is expensive,” he said. “[However], when students go abroad, it is a life-changing experience and can benefit them in many ways.”

Students who study abroad experience a lot of growth by being exposed to different languages, cultures, and customs, said Li. In the same way, the University is able to grow by taking on students from other countries.

“I think it is important to grow strategically so we can provide students with the opportunity to be exposed to other languages and cultures,” he said.

Diversity programs
In addition to working with the study abroad program, the task force has created several foreign-integration programs.

The International Buddy Mentor Program enables Chico State students, including international students, to learn from one other by forming a partnership. Students are paired with a “buddy” from another country who they help adjust to their new environment.

“In some cases lifelong friendships develop from these partnerships,” said Li. “It’s a very mutually beneficial activity that we have, for both the international students and the domestic students.”

Additionally a program is in place that facilitates bringing international professionals and educators to Chico for a short amount of time. They work with local high schools to gain insight into the Chico educational system. Li says that this program helps the internationalization of the community as well as the University.

The task force also teams up with the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center to host events for the Global Voices program. The program focuses on hosting cultural events open to students and the community. These events work to explore and celebrate different countries and traditions around the world.

In the future, the task force will be working on a host family program where a staff member’s family will host one or two international students for the year. The program will require the family to involve the students in their family life and holiday celebrations. This will show international students what it’s like to be a part of an American family.

Get involved
The University cannot achieve internationalization without the support and participation of its students. Students are able to help by participating in any of the programs listed above.

“The biggest way a student can help diversify the campus is by studying abroad and bringing lessons learned from their experiences back with them,” said Li. “It is important for all students to consider gaining that experience.”

Students can also take the time to get to know the international students in their classrooms. Even a simple “hello” can make them feel more welcome and at home.