Striving to live our CIS vision of socially responsible leadership
Striving to live our CIS vision of socially responsible leadership
Striving to live our CIS vision of socially responsible leadership
Nneka Johnson


By Dr Nneka Johnson, CIS Fellow & International Advisor


The most recent iteration of the CIS Vision calls for our organization to support the development of socially responsible leadership through international education. This vision is part of the foundation on which the fellowship is based. 

When asked how I would describe my role here, the term critical friend comes to mind. I am here to support the creation of internal transformation. A critical friend provides honest objective feedback. In this fellowship role, I have been afforded opportunities to engage with the CIS Leadership Team and also with the CIS Board of Trustees with honesty and authenticity. I am asking difficult questions while acknowledging blind spots with the ultimate goal of supporting the CIS mission and vision.

In the current strategic plan, one of the objectives is to develop a more diverse group of international education leaders. The underlying concept of this goal is for us to model and/or inspire our members to increase diverse representation in leadership at their institutions. One must acknowledge that representation alone is not sufficient. We must feel seen and heard to be able to thrive and feel psychologically safe in order to flourish. 

As a member of the CIS Global Team, I feel that I have the space to lean into any conversation while also being honest. There have been several times that I shared my observations in different organizational contexts during my rotation and collaboration within every CIS department. It is not always easy to give or receive constructive feedback or engage with a newcomer who may ask you to look at how you operate through a new lens. My experience and contribution so far have been welcomed, and the discussions have been engaging, challenging, and rewarding.

One of our organizational values is that ’We value Diversity: We embrace ideas, cultures, and connections from every corner of the world making different views and opinions a source of inspiration that enrich every member of our community.’ This value is evident in how CIS operates but has not necessarily been reflected in hiring processes and outcomes. I believe that CIS recognizes the need for action to move in that direction. Steps have been taken to scrutinize hiring processes and changes to strengthen equity and inclusion—from updates to the application forms to the review process—though the outcomes have not yet delivered the results we are striving to achieve. We serve many institutions worldwide, and it is crucial that we demonstrate that we are internally committed to diversity.

In January 2023, the CIS Global Team met together to reflect on organization-wide practices and generated over 70 actions and practical steps to address and improve inclusion via diversity, equity, and anti-racism (I-DEA) and ensure CIS is living out I-DEA values through organizational practices. Those actions are grouped within three overarching commitments:

  • Leading and facilitating inclusive engagement
  • Ensuring an inclusive approach to identifying, recruiting, selecting, and deploying individuals in our community (staff, volunteers, and other representatives)
  • Ensuring policies are free from bias
Illustration on white background of a group of people forming upwards arrow


Since I joined CIS as a critical friend in this fellowship role (read more in my first post, How do we uphold our Code of Ethics individually and collectively at CIS?), I’m collaborating with CIS staff organization-wide, including the board of trustees, to acknowledge, address, and operationalize the action steps.

I look forward to sharing the next installment of this Fellowship story as we all continue to lean in, learn, and become active agents of the CIS Vision.



Related content:


Striving to live our CIS vision of socially responsible leadership
  • Diversity (I-DEA)
  • Intercultural learning & leadership
Striving to live our CIS vision of socially responsible leadership