URep Abroad was created in 2010 by Dr. Shawntia Key, who, as an undergraduate, struggled to find resources for Black students traveling abroad and wanted to create content for others who struggled to find support.
After working in international education (IE) for several years, Dr. Key realized that inspiring young leaders and connecting them with experts in the field was another avenue to increase diversity abroad. URep Abroad was founded to provide space for leaders to use their expertise to uplift underrepresented individuals in IE and abroad programs.
Underrepresented is someone from a low income, first-generation, LGBTQ+, or ethnic minority group. URep is a double entendre meaning, "you represent" and "underrepresented," creating the slogan, "You Represent the Underrepresented."
URep Abroad empowers, inspires, and supports underrepresented communities in international education (IE) and abroad programs. It is a space for experienced leaders to uplift underrepresented individuals and increase access to professional opportunities, mentorship, and resources.
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Dr. Shawntia Key (she/her/hers)
CEO & Founder
Shawntia has more than ten years of experience in international education with professional expertise in student advising and leadership, senior management, strategic planning, international partnership, and program development.
Shawntia received a Doctorate in higher education management with her dissertation focusing on Black American Undergraduates Studying Abroad: What Are Their Intentions and Behaviors?
Shawntia also has a Masters in international education, a Bachelor in international studies, and a TESOL certificate. She was the first in her family to attend college and to travel abroad.
As of 2020, Shawntia has traveled to Aruba, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, India, Italy, Ireland, Japan, London, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and several states in the United States of America.
Learn more about Shawntia and her professional experiences at www.shawntia.com
Dawn Harris Wooten (she/her/hers)
Director, Business Development & Operations
Often called an "idea generator and quick thinker," Dawn enjoys the creative process of innovation and possesses an entrepreneurial mindset. She enjoys thinking about business strategy and the best way to serve URep's partners and clients by delivering on time and within budget.
Dawn has over 15 years of progressive experience working in IE and administration. Before working with URep Abroad, she worked at NAFSA: Association of International Educators, George Washington University, Florida Atlantic University, and several nonprofits. Her collaborative style and robust professional network stem from volunteer and committee service with ACPA, FAIE, IASAS, NAFSA, NASPA, and NCDA. Personal and professional traveling provided Dawn with a global perspective and deepened her commitment to diversity, inclusion, cultural sensitivity, and peace-building.
Dawn is proud of her racial, ethnic, and gender diverse family and was the first to attend college and study abroad. She holds a BA and MA in History and a MA in Nonprofit Management.
The pandemic has given organizations and leaders more flexibility and motivation to collaborate and think creatively with cross-functional perspectives to solve the complex and long-standing issue of diversity lacking in international education and abroad programs. URep Abroad recognizes that inspiring underrepresented leaders and equipping organizations within the IE field to better support those leaders is another avenue to increasing diversity abroad.
Lack of Diversity - Within the United States (US), international education professionally, academically, and traveling is severely lacking in diversity. Travel abroad is perceived as a luxury only available to wealthy white young adults and not an essential need for many underrepresented communities. Statistically, the racial diversity of US students studying abroad is 70% white, with the remaining percentages being either Hispanic or Latino(a), Asian or Pacific Island, Black or African-American, Multiracial, and American Indian or Alaska native. The lack of racial diversity has led to the fear of racial conflicts or being targeted because of one's racial identity when abroad. A generalized education of study abroad opportunities has also left many feeling unprepared for dealing with or understanding racial issues abroad. URep Abroad's offerings will equip organizations with the tools needed to support underrepresented communities while also providing a voice to underrepresented leaders who are traditionally excluded from IE initiatives.
Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion - In 2020, many organizations made a declaration of wanting to support more diverse initiatives as a step to enact systemic change. URep Abroad, a Black-owned company, challenges organizations and institutions to stand by their message of being inclusive and wanting to further their commitment to diversity by taking steps to support the underrepresented populations better. International opportunities provide a clear benefit to career prospects, marketability, and increase critical thinking. URep Abroad offers a space for resources and professional opportunities to guide organizations in supporting underrepresented communities. URep Abroad also applauds and showcases organizations that demonstrate their commitment to diversifying IE thought action and transparency.
Dynamic Capability -Internal and external forces within global mobility have shaped the dynamic capabilities in IE. Complexities of international travel, employee recruitment and retention, and the face of the traditional in-personal work culture has been changed by the anchoring and elevation of technology and virtual communication platforms. Organizations are identifying flexible and financially viable ways to support and engage staff, clients, and students. Concurrently, professionals and leaders are identifying ways to advance their careers and generate alternative income. URep Abroad offers access to a network of organizations committed to diversifying the IE field. A network offers options for recruitment, knowledge sharing, and endless possibilities in program development and strategic partnerships.
Open Doors: Report on International Educational Exchange is a comprehensive information resource on international students and U.S. students studying abroad. It is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and is published by IIE. For more information, visit www.iie.org/opendoors