Empowering Indigenous Voices: ISEP's Commitment to Inclusivity

November 15, 2023

International education is a transformative experience that broadens horizons, fosters cultural exchange, and prepares students for a globally interconnected world. This National Native American Heritage Month, we celebrate ISEP’s significant strides in promoting Indigenous engagement and making international education more accessible and inclusive.

Indigenous people worldwide have historically faced obstacles in accessing international education. Cultural barriers, financial constraints, and a lack of targeted support all contribute to the underrepresentation of Indigenous students in study abroad programs.

Scholarships and Financial Assistance

ISEP’s commitment is evident through its substantial scholarships. The ISEP Community Scholarship and the ISEP Founders Fellowship have played a pivotal role in making dreams of studying abroad a reality. These scholarships welcome applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, including first-generation college students, LGBTQ individuals, military personnel, ethnic and racial minorities, individuals with disabilities, STEM or education majors, and language learners. In addition, the ISEP Accessibility Scholarship offers financial assistance to students participating in ISEP programs, regardless of their background.

Resource Development

In 2019, ISEP launched a webpage dedicated to Native and Indigenous Serving Institutions in the ISEP Community. This landing page offers valuable information and resources for Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, and Indigenous people around the world, underlining ISEP’s commitment to accessibility and inclusivity. The website is divided into four sections: 1. Minority Institutions in the United States, 2. Top Programs for Native American Studies, 3. Native, First Nations, Aboriginal, or Indigenous Serving ISEP Members Outside the U.S., 4. Other Ways to Learn About Indigenous People with ISEP.

ISEP continues to develop curriculum mapping for Indigenous Studies and Indigenous languages. This initiative empowers Indigenous students to explore their academic interests while reconnecting with their heritage, bridging the gap between international education and cultural preservation.

Impactful Alumni

ISEP’s Indigenous alums are beacons of hope and resilience. Their experiences abroad not only enriched their lives but also made a profound impact on their communities. Perla Adriana Hernández, an environmental engineering student from Mexico, enhanced her language skills through real-life conversations during her exchange to the University of Memphis in the United States. Angel Geller is an Indigenous student from the UmonHon Tribe who explored her own identity while also connecting with the Maori culture in New Zealand through her studies and created a zine (a homemade magazine) comprised of illustrations, photographs, poems, and short stories. Jeremy Faamau, a student at The University of the South Pacific in Fiji, studied abroad at the University of Regina in Canada, thanks to the ISEP Community Scholarship, overcoming financial challenges to pursue his education and broaden his horizons. These students exemplify the various perspectives and goals of ISEP’s Indigenous alums, underscoring the importance of access to international education opportunities for all.

“I’ve never been to another country, so I consider the exchange a good idea because this experience could help me to be a person who is not afraid to step out of my comfort zone.” - Perla Adriana Hernández

“I’m intrigued by the idea of going to a different country on the other side of the world that has an indigenous community I have no ties to.” - Angel Geller

“I am from a small village in the rural areas of an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean, Samoa, just a small dot on the map with a population of approximately 200,000 people. My native language is Samoan, and I speak English as a secondary language.” - Jeremy Faamau

Ideas for the Future

Looking ahead, ISEP’s future in Indigenous engagement holds exciting potential. Our organization remains committed to supporting Indigenous communities’ efforts towards international education and cultural exchange. With ongoing scholarships, resource development, global networking, and innovative grants, the future of Indigenous initiatives at ISEP is promising. We extend our appreciation to Dr. Michael Alijewicz, Director of Alumni Engagement and Student Success, for his exceptional work and dedication to this project.

We invite you to join us in celebrating Indigenous engagement and consider how you can contribute to this transformative journey. Together, we can ensure that international education becomes a bridge to a brighter future for all, irrespective of cultural background or financial means.