Institutional Approaches to Intercultural Learning Series: Spotlight on Taylor University

best practices May 21, 2018
This is the third post in a series highlighting how different institutions are supporting intercultural learning. This month, the spotlight is on Taylor University, a non-denominational Christian liberal arts college in rural Upland, Indiana, with just under 2,000 students.
 
According to the university’s website, approximately 80% of students have an overseas experience while at Taylor. Short-term faculty-led programs are growing rapidly, with Taylor sending about 15% of the entire student population on such programs (referred to as “global engagement experiences” at Taylor) each January the past few years.
 
For that reason, Dr. Charlie Brainer, Associate Dean of International Programs, explains, “Increasing faculty intercultural learning and expertise in leading student groups abroad is vital to our efforts.” In early 2017, Brainer reached out to me about partnering with True North Intercultural to build the intercultural capacity of Taylor faculty and staff.
A Long-Term, Systemic, Capacity-Building Approach
 
Since the beginning, we have focused on using a nested approach to simultaneously provide foundational intercultural training for global engagement experience leaders while also providing more in-depth training and support to staff who could be potential intercultural trainers and mentors for their peers.
 
In spring of 2017, I developed and facilitated a 2.5-day intercultural retreat for a group of approximately 20 Taylor faculty study abroad leaders. In addition, a small group of the most experienced participants were identified as potential intercultural trainers, and they also participated in a half-day of pre-briefing and debriefing before and after the retreat. All participants took the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and received an individual debrief. The faculty identified as potential trainers received additional one-on-one intercultural coaching following the retreat.
 
This spring, Brainer and I have been in talks about how to continue these intercultural capacity-building efforts and are in the process of developing a multi-year plan. I will continue to provide intercultural support and training in a way that gradually develops internal capacity, eventually phasing me out of the equation by developing a team of competent intercultural educator leaders able to provide intercultural support, training, and mentoring to their peers, ultimately creating more intercultural educator leaders.
 
Brainer explains that “faculty interest and desire to grow in intercultural learning/global engagement practice has not been an issue. By far, the biggest challenge for us has been to find significant training windows in the year to provide professional development opportunities to faculty of sufficient depth.” The approach that has worked best at Taylor is to use a three-day period in May right after graduation for in-depth training, and supplement that with special topic and reading and discussion lunches throughout the year.
Developing Intercultural Educator Leaders
 
Earlier this month, I returned to Taylor to facilitate a one-day intercultural workshop for more faculty who lead global engagement experiences. This time, however, I worked with two of the Taylor staff members who went through the more intensive train-the-trainer experience last year to both design and lead the workshop. (The intercultural workshop was actually the second in a three-day retreat for global engagement experience leaders; the first and second days were facilitated entirely by participants from the original intercultural train-the-trainer group.)
 
Brainer says that “seeing several of our faculty move from participant to developing trainer has been tremendously gratifying and will extend the reach of intercultural training among our students.”
 
Once again, the trainer group met to pre-brief and debrief the intercultural workshop, as well as to brainstorm ways to continue to support and promote intercultural capacity-building at Taylor in the coming years. We discussed future training and mentoring possibilities, as well as potential systemic changes that could further promote intercultural learning at Taylor.
Advice for Other Higher Education Leaders
 
When asked what advice he has for other leaders interested in developing intercultural capacity at their institutions, Brainer says, “Invest in faculty development. Look for faculty with interest and desire to grow in intercultural learning and invest in professional development for those who also have the capacity and interest in mentoring/coaching other faculty. Each faculty member who moves into a training role greatly extends the effort and reach of our efforts. Resourcing their efforts with release time or other incentives will pay back significant dividends.”
Drawing Connections
 
So far this blog series has discussed intercultural efforts at Taylor, Purdue, and Augsburg universities. What themes are you noticing? What have you learned that you might apply to your context? Later this summer I will be writing a post summarizing some of the themes that have emerged from these institutional spotlights, and I’d love to hear from you about what stands out or resonates most! Please post a comment below. 

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