Diversity Abroad’s Andrew Gordon Expanding Education on a Global Scale
Like many college students, Andrew Gordon participated in a study abroad program. The experience changed his life and led him to create Diversity Abroad. Diversity Abroad is a non-profit that is aimed at increasing minority, and low income, student participation in Study Abroad. Andrew believes that in a world that is becoming more global every day, it is imperative for students to have an understanding of different cultures. He works on a daily basis to bring Diversity Abroad programs to schools so that minority and low income students can learn more about going abroad as well as how to finance their trip. To learn more about Diversity Abroad please read on in this week’s Nonprofit Spotlight.
University of San Francisco
2006 – Current
2004 – 2006
2003 – 2004
About the non-profit
Diversity Abroad (DiversityAbroad.com) is a new, innovative, organization. It works to change the trend of minority and low income student under-representation in study abroad and other international programs (like intern abroad, volunteer abroad, language programs abroad). For years study abroad has been perceived as a luxury for wealthy students. Now the world is smaller and all students must have knowledge of other people, cultures, and languages to compete in our global society. Study abroad is the best opportunity for young people to learn about this. Unfortunately study abroad hasn’t been a important part of education in minority communities. The two main factors why more minority and low income students don’t go abroad is lack of funding and awareness of the benefits and opportunities gained through international programs. Diversity Abroad addresses both of the issues (but primarily awareness).
What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
Day to day responsibilities…doing everything! We’re still fairly new, so I am the only full time employee. There is a group of interns that work with me as well as an advisory board. Throughout the week I work on creating various products (some web based and other print) that we offer to school and universities to use as tools for reaching out to minority students for study abroad. I usually talk to faculty members from various school to arrange for Diversity Abroad to come on campus and talk with students about international education. Daily I manage our website, DiversityAbroad.com. I am constantly looking for ways to improve it to make it a better resource for students, parents, and faculty.
Most notable milestones
In May 2006 DiversityAbroad.com went live in January 2007 we launch the Diversity Abroad Initiative, which is a member based alliance between Diversity Abroad, colleges, universities, education abroad program providers, and public and private organizations interested in supporting the mission of Diversity Abroad.
This past September (2007) we started our official campus tour called the Go Global Tour. The goal behind the tour is reach out to students who traditionally haven’t gone abroad and talk with them about study abroad.
What’s the niche?
What makes us unique is that there are no other organizations (that I know of) focused on educating minority students, parents, and faculty about the benefits and opportunities gained through study abroad. In addition to using traditional methods, like brochures and on-campus presentations through DiversityAbroad.com, we give students a platform to learn about study abroad and hear about international study and travel from others like them who have done it.
What’s the biggest challenge?
Staying focused. We can do so many things and go in so many directions, which is exciting, but we have to focus on reaching our immediate goals, while keeping our eyes open for new and better ways for reaching out to students.
What’s in store for the future?
There too many things I want and need to do. When I took the name “Diversity Abroad,” I realized that diversity includes much more than ethnic minority populations. We’re working now and will continue to transform DiversityAbroad.com into an inclusive resource that is relevant to people from all walks of life who are interested in international study and travel.
What do you think prevents most people from going abroad?
Fear of the unknown and misconceptions about what going abroad is. Too many students think that going abroad is just for wealthy students, or if they go abroad they won’t graduate on time, or that going abroad is just a luxury and has no lasting benefits. Unfortunately with many minority students there isn’t a legacy of going abroad while in college, so no one is there to debunk these myths.
The short version of that is minority students don’t study abroad due to lack of awareness. They do not know what going abroad is, or the benefits and opportunities afforded through it.
Why learning about other cultures is so valuable
Several reasons. Knowing about others helps us to learn more about ourselves. The more one knows about the world, the easier it is to understand it. Given that we live in such a global society, cross cultural understanding is of the utmost importance. Also understanding other cultures allows one to better relate and effectively work with people from different backgrounds.
Guiding principle in life
John Lennon has this great quote ” Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” With that in mind, my guiding principal is live life as if tomorrow is your last day, but plan your life as if death is 100 years away. I’m not advocating living your life recklessly or taking crazy risks. Instead, I’m saying enjoy life, your family, friends. Do the important things in life today, because they can all be gone tomorrow. However, plan as if you’ll be around forever because you don’t know when your last day is.
Yardstick of success
Happiness. If I’m happy and satisfied with what I’m doing with my life, both personally and secularly, then I think I’m successful.
Goal yet to be achieved
Personal goals, I really want to learn four languages. I’m half way done, hopefully I can reach them soon.
Best practical advice for young adventurous people
Not to copy Nike, but just do it. Many people have great idea that never come to fruition because they are scared of the risk of taking on the unknown. I truly believe that many times we reap the greatest benefits when we take the biggest risk. If you have an idea, and your passionate about it, the only real failure will be inaction and not exploring your passion.
Before I quit working to do Diversity Abroad full time, I read over and over again the commencement address that Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) gave to Stanford in 2005. I thought the speech was great, but the one part that kept inspiring me to make the jump, was this question, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Then he went on to say if the answer is no for too many days in a row, it’s time for a change.
Supportive words from a family member or friend on your venture
My family and friends have been very supportive. There isn’t one super profound thing that someone has said to me, but it’s the small things that my family and friends do all the time to show their support… that’s what I appreciate.
Mentor(s) and why?
Wow another tough one… I have a few. I would have to say my older brother and my parents. I respect them tremendously and they are able to give me good life advice which is a huge help.
What motivated you to get started?
The challenge. One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill and it says ” A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”
There wasn’t anyone really reaching out to minority students and other disadvantaged students for study abroad opportunities. I looked at the underrepresentation of minority students as a problem that could be surmounted.
The challenge along with my love of travel and cultures along with my desire to serve under-served young people is what motivated me to get started with Diversity Abroad.
Like best about what you do?
Talking with students; especially those (or just young people) who have never left the country and are ready to go study abroad. I always think about how exciting it was the first time I left the country (I still get excited) and what an amazing experience study abroad was. When I see the same excitement in their eyes, it’s like deja vu. Knowing that I can have some small part in a student’s choice to study abroad is what I like best and what is most rewarding,
Like least about what you do?
The day to day admin work. It’s necessary, but it’s my least favorite part.
At age 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a fireman growing up. I even made fireman business cards with a picture of a fire truck and my name and phone number scribbled on it.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a “bagger” at Ralphs grocery store. It was a great time. We were all 16 or 17 (the baggers) and it was just a fun environment for learning about how to work.
Biggest pastime outside of work
Just hanging out with my family. I have many things that I like to do, like travel and soccer, basketball etc, but I’m pretty close to my family, both immediate and extended and enjoy spending time with them. Growing up we would all just hang out, talk, crack jokes, I still love doing it.
Person most interested in meeting and why?
I can’t just answer one person; it’s three way tie between Bono from U2, Bill Clinton and Oprah. The breakdown, U2’s music has been an integral part of my life for many years, especially while traveling, so naturally I would want to meet Bono. Bill Clinton is a very interesting person and the global work that he does now fascinates me. Oprah, well Oprah is Oprah and would be interesting to sit down with her and talk about her life story.
Favorite place you have traveled?
I really don’t have a favorite. I’m very bias toward Seville, Spain because that’s where I lived when I studied abroad, which was one of the most influential experiences in my life. I’m also a fan of Eastern Europe, specifically Croatia. Without question Argentina still is one of my favorite countries.
Three characteristics that describe you
- Open Minded
Three greatest passions
- People/Cultures (I love being around people)
Anything pertaining to helping disadvantaged young people
A pessimist see the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. – Winston Churchill
Who would you like to be contacted by?
Any person or organization that works with young minority or disadvantaged students and sees the value in international education. These are the type of people and organizations we work with to help us in educating young people about study abroad.
Interview by Elisha Greenwell
Introduction by Sabine Alam
Edited by Sabine Alam
|February 17th, 2008, 07:46:47||permalink|
Great article and program. I posted your pic, and trackback to the article. God bless and best of luck