The University of Iowa

COMMITMENT TO INTERNATIONALIZATION: Q&A WITH JEWELL WINN

October 11th, 2021
Jewell Winn


Dr. Jewell Winn

Jewell Winn is the eighth speaker in the Commitment to Internationalization lecture series. Her talk, "Where I Come From: Leading Campus Internationalization Without Walls," will be on November 18, 2021, at 2:30 p.m. (CST) in 1117 University Capitol Centre (International Commons), and is open to the public. The University of Iowa encourages the use of face masks and social distancing while on campus. The presentation will also be live-streamed via Zoom and Facebook Register here to view via Zoom.

This lecture continues the conversation about the UI's vision and strategic themes for campus internationalization

Dr. Winn is Executive Director for International Programs and Chief Diversity Officer at Tennessee State University. Her research interests include the intersection of diversity and international affairs, global strategies for minority-serving institutions, cultural competence in theory and practice, and the acculturation of international students.  She has authored and co-authored articles and book chapters relative to diversity and internationalization efforts at HBCUs.  She is a member of Diversity Abroad, the Forum on Education Abroad, the Association of International Education Administrators, Women in Higher Education in Tennessee, and other civic/social organizations. She also serves on the board for the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the Association of International Education Administrators, the African Diaspora Nation, the Tennessee Diversity Consortium, and Alignment Nashville.

Below is a Q&A with Dr. Winn.

In what ways does internationalization broaden and shape higher education?

Internationalization broadens and shapes higher education in a number of ways as I have learned since developing the office of international affairs at Tennessee State University in 2011, so allow me to speak from this lens. Me and my team spent countless hours researching university policies and finding ways to integrate those policies with various programs, initiatives, and a diverse range of stakeholders. We generated a new level of enthusiasm about a concept that was relatively new to our university but very familiar to predominantly white institutions since the early 1950s. We were convinced that growing our international student population would bring unique perspectives and experiences that expanded the scope of our students' understanding of a global economy. We became committed to developing the next generation of global leaders, and comprehensive internationalization became a pathway that prepared our students to work effectively across languages, cultures, and borders to solve shared global problems.

What factors are most important in developing diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education?

Understanding personal biases is one of the most important factors.  We must be willing to be uncomfortable and have courageous conversations throughout the campus. As we learn new tools for effective communication, respect in the workplace, and creating a sense of belonging on our campuses, we must also be willing to unlearn some things--things that we were born with, things that we were taught, things that were reinforced throughout our lives, and things that we may have taught others, but now realize is inappropriate, insensitive, and basically wrong. DEI must start with leadership.  It must be more than a statement on our websites.  DEI should be embedded into the core fabric of our institutions--mission, vision, and core values.  Otherwise, it is just a noun and not a verb--action is required.

Are there strategies or resources you would recommend to colleges and universities to foster an inclusive campus climate?

When conducting DEI professional development, I reference the Multicultural Organization Development. The MCOD refers to building organizations and organizational cultures that include people from multiple socially defined group identities. I also recommend college and university leadership establish a DEI committee chaired by the institution's Chief Diversity Officer or Diversity Professional to ensure that all voices are at the table as policies are reviewed, revised, and established. There should definitely be a student representative on this committee.  There must be a concerted effort put towards 'belonging'.  We can push inclusivity, but if individuals don't feel like they belong, then the effort is in vain.  In other words, you may invite me to your party, but you won't ask me to dance. 

What motivates you to be involved in research and other aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion?

I am motivated because I am an African American female who has been discriminated against due to my race and my gender.  I have seen a lot in my 40 years in higher education.  I was the first female to serve in my leadership position back in 1988.  Fast forward 10 years, and I was denied a senior leadership position because I was a female as told to me confidentially by my mentor.  That was totally confusing, hurtful, and unfair.  I was then determined to take a stand and become a voice for women who lacked the confidence to use their voice.  I championed diversity everywhere I went.  My dissertation was on diversity.  I taught a diversity course. I co-founded a diversity organization in my hometown.  I co-founded a Women's Center on campus. My middle name became 'diversity'. Marginalized groups and oppressed individuals became my passion.  I had to be the difference that made a difference.  DEI work is not just 'hard' work, it is 'heart' work. When I see the pain and heartache of people who don't deserve to be mistreated due to the color of their skin, their gender preference, religious belief, disability, ethnic background, etc.--I take it personally.  It drives me to do something, and I usually figure something out.

How do you think COVID-19 will reshape campus internationalization?

COVID-19 has taught us to accept the 'next normal' and not just the 'new normal'.  We have been in a constant state of uncertainty for almost two years. From totally shutdown campuses, to cancelled conferences, international offices have struggled, which naturally caused international students to rethink their study destinations.  The good news is that we have had time to pivot in ways unimaginable.  For example, I was very surprised to learn that we supported over 150 students who participated in virtual study abroad--our next normal. We will continue to see hybrid global learning formats.  International students will be provided with unique opportunities such as out of state waivers when enrolling in online classes only.  Faculty are being encouraged to participate in more research with colleagues across the globe since travel is not a priority. We will also see virtual recruitment opportunities increase.

What innovation have you seen as a result of COVID-19 that has helped higher education be more resilient?

Technology has been higher education's lifeline.  Online learning has reached a new level--Zoom, Teams, Panopto, etc., allows professors to be innovative and diversify teaching strategies.  Technology is also assisting with internationalizing the curriculum as virtual tours and story circles are becoming more popular in the classrooms.