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Global connections: How our International Staff Network brings colleagues together

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Insights      
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Following on from last month’s introduction to the LGBT+ staff network, in this edition we are shining a spotlight on our International Staff Network.

Officially launched in February 2024, the International Staff Network aims to create a supportive environment for all members of our community, and a space for members to share their experiences and build social networks.

Gina Wrobel from our School of Modern Languages and Cultures is the founding member of the network. Dialogue spoke to Gina to find out more.

From left to right Raquelle BaƱuelos, Gina Wrobel, Matteo Lai.
From left to right Raquelle BaƱuelos, Gina Wrobel, Matteo Lai.

Why was the network started?

The network was started based on my personal experiences as an international staff member, and from listening to others in similar positions. Being an international employee is an enriching experience that can greatly enhance the workplace. However, it also comes with vulnerabilities, particularly concerning changes in immigration laws, work visas, and potential discrimination.

My goal was to create a safe space where international staff could share their individual and shared experiences, learn from each other and provide mutual support. The network aims to give a voice to international colleagues and assist with issues as they arise.

As a network we organise a variety of events for international staff, with the purpose of raising awareness, sharing information, facilitating learning and socialising.

Given the diversity of staff networks at the University and the large number of international colleagues, I was surprised that such a network did not already exist. This prompted me to establish the network.

Who was involved in setting up the network?

Recognising the need for this support network, I approached our EDI team to integrate the network as part of their initiatives. During this phase, I received great support from Mel Earnshaw in our EDI team, Rebecca Bouveng and Marija Huljak (St John’s College), who kindly hosted the two launch events for our network this year.

I am supported by my three co-chairs, Nur Sarma, Raquelle Bañuelos and Matteo Lai and our members, whose input has been important in shaping the network. Together we defined the network’s aims, are planning projects and events and identifying topics we want to explore.

What are the aims of the network?

As a network we would like to achieve the following aims:

  • Create a safe space: Establish an environment where international staff can share their experiences, knowledge, interests, topics and issues of concern, learn from each other, and offer mutual support.
  • Support integration: Assist international staff as they settle in the University and living in the UK.
  • Give a voice: Ensure that international colleagues with their diverse backgrounds and experiences are heard.
  • Enhance visibility: Increase the visibility of international staff within the University and the wider community, promoting an open and globally minded campus.
  • Emphasise and promote value: Highlight the contributions of international staff to the University and our wider Durham community, emphasising their importance and value.
  • Identify discrimination: Identify any sources of discriminatory behaviour against international staff and support reporting and preventing such behaviour.
  • Address concerns: Collect and address issues and topics important to international staff and the network and develop actions to respond to these topics.

Who can join the network?

The International Staff Network is open to all members of staff who identify as international. This includes part-time and hourly paid staff, post-doctoral researchers and PhD students who are employed by the University. We welcome anyone who considers themselves part of our international community to join and participate in our activities.

What kind of activities have happened so far?

Our network has organised several activities, including our:

  • Staff Network launch event (November 2023 at St John’s College)

At the launch event we introduced the network to members, discussed its aims and identified topics of interest. Furthermore, we searched for co-chairs and engaged in informal networking.

  • Official launch event during Global Week (February 2024 at St John’s College)

In February this year we officially launched the International Staff Network. In an opening speech Dr Shaid Mahmood, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, highlighted the role and importance of our international staff.

  • Coffee morning (May 2024)

We organised a small informal networking event for members to meet and socialise over coffee at the Palatine Centre café.

Do you have regular meetings?

We hold various meetings for our members throughout the year and a quarterly co-chairs meeting takes place to plan activities and initiatives.

What are the plans for future activities?

Our plan is to organise regular small social events such as coffee mornings or lunches at the University cafés or the Botanic Garden.

For the next academic year, we are planning to organise some lectures and workshops on topics relevant to our members and the whole University community. We also like to work on projects and events with the other staff networks and aim to set up an informal mentoring scheme for international colleagues.

How many members do you currently have?

The International Staff Network currently has 115 members and we invite all colleagues who identify as international to join us.

You can find out more about the International Staff Network on our intranet.



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