Spain is high on the list of recommended trips from Eckerd’s new associate dean of global education. Our students have visited Spain regularly over the years, including this language immersion class to Salamanca in 2020. Photo: Chace Lewis ’20
The power of travel to transform is what draws Thandiwe Dinani, Ph.D., to her advocacy for study abroad experiences.
“If students are returning home the same, with simply an additional luggage tag or cool selfies next to iconic landmarks, then my work would be left unfulfilling,” says Dinani, Eckerd College’s new associate dean of global education. “They should return home a different person than when they left, after experiencing new people, places, and perspectives.”
Dinani joins Eckerd College’s Office of Global Education from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she served as a director of study abroad before transitioning into the director of global education. She credits her international upbringing for the deep cultural respect she applies to her work.
Her family had lived in Germany and Zimbabwe during her formative years, before settling in Los Angeles. Dinani also lived and worked in London after college.
“My parents instilled in us a sense of curiosity—we learned how to enjoy and find the uniqueness of each place, which helped us to appreciate and adapt to different cultures. Those lessons have carried over into my personal and work life,” Dinani explains.
“Thandi will bring to her new position at Eckerd over 10 years of leadership experience in the areas of study abroad and global education,” says Suzan Harrison, Eckerd’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. “She has also worked with internal, faculty-led international programs and at Belmont oversaw an increase in faculty and student participation in study abroad programs. She also brings to her work in global education an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion. The search committee was impressed by her energy and enthusiasm as well as her depth of knowledge in the field of global education.”
Formerly known as the Office of International Education, Eckerd College’s Office of Global Education serves the academic program by helping to plan and facilitate faculty-led trips for Winter Term and Spring Into Summer as well as semesters abroad at the College’s London Study Centre and student-selected semester abroad programs around the world. The Study Abroad Program has grown to serve hundreds of students each year—including a record 446 travelers in 2019 under the longtime leadership of retired Director of International Education Diane Ferris ’86.
Dinani used to visit 10 to 15 countries a year before coming to Eckerd—averaging 100,000 miles of travel. The best trips were the ones where she watched students grow.
“There was an audio engineering class we took to South Africa, and helping those students process their identities in South Africa, a place where they are still processing their history in real time, was transformative for me,” she says.
South Africa remains high on her list of recommended list of countries to visit, along with Barcelona, Spain, and New Zealand, a country she calls a hidden gem. “Most students say they want to go study in Australia, I encourage them to consider New Zealand, and do a weekend visit to Australia” Dinani says. “Getting to see up close the reverence New Zealand has for its indigenous people, the Maori, is really life changing for students. Both English and Maori are taught in primary schools, and meetings are started only after a Maori leader speaks. It’s powerful.”
Adding Florida to the list of places she has called home was an easy choice for Dinani once she met the Eckerd community and heard about the vision for the future of global education. “The intentionality given to transform student perspective is inspiring,” she recalls. “I love that it aligns with my passion for the transformative nature of higher education.”