University of Kentucky international alumna Jie “Grace” Dai, currently working as senior research associate for the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, was recently awarded NAFSA’s Region VI Champion of Diversity and Inclusion in International Education Award for her work supporting diversity and promoting cross-cultural experiences at UK.
This award honors professionals who have sustained commitment to advocate for the interests of underrepresented populations; improved recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations; and celebrated the diversity of the international education community.
Dai has served as CPE’s senior associate for data and advanced analytics since May 2020. However, this award recognized her earlier work with the UK International Center (UKIC).
Starting as an international student in the philosophy graduate program, Dai found her path to share her advocacy for cross-cultural experiences and help other students like her to know the international student community.
“I do hope that I could have helped students like me at that moment,” Dai said. “I want to share my experience and what I have gone through so other students can hopefully learn to handle similar situations like I had. There were a lot of challenging moments that I experienced when I started the program and that I wouldn’t have expected.”
While working at the UKIC, Dai assisted with orientations for international students and participated in cross-cultural training workshops for students, faculty and staff. Her work was not only aimed at Chinese students like her, but any kind of student coming from abroad. She also assisted U.S. students on campus with how to interact with the international community on campus.
Dai said students usually experience a “cultural shock” studying abroad, driving them to isolate themselves in groups with people of their kind. That is why her work was vital in helping and engaging Chinese students through their cross-cultural process at the university.
“I tried to help in the process of making diversity part of the campus by merging different cultures and helping students know each other,” Dai said.
In addition to cross-cultural engagement, Dai supported administrators and students in study abroad programs and trips to China. “I helped them understand the Chinese world in depth,” Dai said. Chinese culture and language were two of the main areas she specialized in teaching to those who were planning to go to the Asian country. “We made students able to understand China, learn about transcultural and also visit universities there,” she added.
Her efforts also included supporting Chinese high school students at summer camps and guiding K-12 teachers on campus.
As part of her continuous work, Dai also gave a dissertation: “Understanding Education Abroad with Advanced Quantitative Methodologies: Student Profiles and Academic Outcomes,” .This dissertation contributed equitable and inclusive access to education abroad by helping institutions better serve diverse populations.
“I am surprised and horned for this award,” Dai said. “It is a big encouragement and motivation to continue to do what I think is right in trying to help international students and enhance diversity on the campus.”