URep Abroad interviewed Felix Wang (he/him) about his experience as an Associate Director in International Education. Watch the video or read the full transcript below.
So, my name is Felix Wang. I am the Associate Executive Director at James Madison University, Center for Global Engagement. I identify myself racially as Asian. My parents are originally from Taiwan, but I grew up in the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean. So ethnically, often I identify as Latinx.
How does your identity influence your professional life?
In my case, I came into the US as an international student. I had to really learn about my racial identification in this society with being Asian and also all of the expectations but also stereotypes that come with that. In my profession, I think my identity often comes in. I try to remember the experiences I’ve had as a BIPOC, you know, a member of the global education and becoming an international student. And how there’s an awareness of my identification; my identity in a different environment helped me navigate through those experiences.
Looking back on your career, what was the impact of your first international education job?
What I learned about is have a good mentor. I was very blessed that I started off my first job related to international education was a student assistant job in an international office. I had a very good mentor, and, in this case, he had really allowed me to really think international education as a career. So, most of us didn’t think you could do this as a career, but I think for me, having a good mentor, especially those of us who are already in the field – I think to serve as mentors to our future colleagues would be very important.
From your perspective, what opportunities should international education explore to strengthen the intersection between global learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion?
How BIPOC populations are treated, not only in the US, but they also have the same type of stereotype, discrimination, and prejudice around the world. So this is not just a US issue; this is a global issue. I think the best way to really combat some of this is really to bring that conversation and bring that experience to our students and our faculty and staff. We can bring that to the students in the classroom and really have those deep conversations on how we can advance DEI work and DEI initiatives that are so important in our society but also in our world.
What advice do you have for new or aspiring international education professionals?
Be more aware of where the field is going and how we should restructure how international offices and expectations and not only inside higher ed but also as a field as a whole would be really important for anyone coming into this because I don't think the current model is sustainable in the long term. I think we should be very critical as international education professionals about issues of equity and access in IE. Often, we are at the table negotiating these relationships, but it's really self-serving and using a framework that is a very US-based approach to IE.
What advice do you have for underrepresented communities for staying resilient in the international education field?
Be bold and speak up. When underrepresented populations speak up, I'm portraying “my agenda.” But if one of my Caucasian colleagues speaks up, they're celebrated for their allyship. Well, I really appreciate all the allyship that we can get, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't continually voice about how to advance important DEI work, especially in the field of international education. And be bold about it. And be bold means make your statement, making that commitment that you are establishing activities or programming and you focus on underrepresented communities. And you focus on that access to really make yourself the commitment not only to say "let's support that" but let's actually create programs that have that DEI component. Let's redirect some of the resources and commitment to create that.