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Justin Oliver - Kultural Kurator

Justin Oliver


Ethnicity - Black/African-American

Occupation - New Student & Pre-College Programs Administrator

Place of Employment - UC Berkeley Summer Sessions & Study Abroad

Years in the field: 10

What global experiences have you taken part in when you were a student and/or a professional?

I went abroad for the first time as an undergraduate student during my winter break junior year in 2006-2007 to Accra, Ghana on a faculty-led program and again in 2014-2015 during graduate school to Cuernavaca, Mexico on a Spanish language immersion program

How has Global Education impacted you and your career choices?

Having the opportunity to travel and learn abroad really expanded my perspective because much of my perception of what I thought about Ghana and Mexico was shaped by what I saw on tv or heard from others. It wasn’t until I actually traveled to those countries that my eyes were opened to how incomplete and inaccurate my own worldview was. Global education also enhanced my employability because I noticed during jobs interviews employers would find my study abroad experiences unique and want to learn more. While I didn’t have my career trajectory set on working in the field, after working a few different jobs, I discovered that nothing spoke to my heart like the field of international education.

What do you enjoy most about the work that you do in Global Education?

I find it rewarding to be a part of the process of helping students get outside of their comfort zone because I know they will return forever changed by the experience. I also enjoy the people I get to connect with. Whether it’s the colleagues I meet in the US or abroad, Global Education professionals have some of the most fascinating backgrounds and stories which I appreciate getting to learn about.

What challenges have you had to overcome as you work in Global Education?

One of the major challenges I’ve had to overcome is dealing with how to collectively address the disparity of study abroad participation by students of color, and more specifically Black/African-American students.

In my opinion, before recent events, the topic of increasing black students participation in study abroad wasn’t a major focal point or strategic initiative that I noticed institutions and universities working to address. As a Black/African-American professional I always felt it was my duty to take on this issue independently but you truly need a team to help move the needle.

Another challenge I’ve worked on overcoming is finding a network of Black/African-American Global Education professionals to connect with. I usually don’t meet a lot of professionals that identify as Black/African-American or have worked in offices in which I’m the only one. Having the opportunity to develop relationships with others that shared a similar identity would be refreshing because I’d have a community of people that I can reach out to for ideas or support.

How has your cultural identity impacted your experience working in Global Education?

To build off my answer to the last question, being Black/African-American and observing that staff & student representation is low has also been a source of motivation for me. I’m a big believer that each one teaches one. When you see somebody who looks like you doing something you never thought you could do, then that thing becomes possible. I want to stay active in promoting Global Education and hope the more Black/African-American students I assist with studying abroad contributes to the larger pipeline of students going abroad and considering pursuing a career in the field in the future.

How has seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds in Global Education inspired you?

I understand that for many Black and Brown people, traveling abroad and working in Global Education comes with unique concerns such as fear of racism or discrimination, feeling tokenized and isolated, and dealing with mircoaggressions, just to name a few. So seeing other people of color/diverse backgrounds still traveling and working in the field in spite of these challenges is an inspiring reminder to me that this space and world is for US too. And that it is important to continue amplifying that message and support to our students of color, to ensure they understand the world is their oyster too!

As a Kultural Kurator, what does culture mean to you?

The best part of culture is that there is no “right” one.

Self/Soul Care is important as we live our lives and do this work. How do you incorporate self/soul care into your life?

I love this question! I have struggled with self-care in my own career and try to intentionally incorporate more consistent self-care practices into my work day regardless of whether we are virtual or in the office. To set the foundation for my day I have established a pre-work practice. So each morning before work, I listen to an inspirational speech and recite my favorite affirmations. I also build in breaks during the workday by unplugging and going for a lunchtime walk outdoors as I find fresh air and walking around in nature relaxing. I also journal and meditate as it helps relieve stress and recenter my mind.

What advice would you give a future Kultural Kurators as they think about working in this field?

I would say continue to have a growth-mindset. You can never stop learning, meeting new people, and expanding your own perspective. I recently attended the Diversity Abroad conference where I met Kory and so many other great colleagues. While I’ve been in the higher education field for 10 years, I gained so much new insight and knowledge from attending the conference that I was able to bring back and share with others in my department. Plus I have a new tribe of colleagues that I can connect with and learn from.

How can others follow you on social media, website, and/or is there an email address that you'd like to share?

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