Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

Fostering Intercultural Learning with Limited Resources

Apr 13, 2021

Lately, in my conversations with educators, I’ve noticed a theme—a growing tension.

On the one hand, this past year has drastically increased understanding that we need to more intentionally foster intercultural learning in all areas of higher education, not just through education abroad, but on our campuses as well.

On the other hand, a year of COVID has drastically reduced resources at most higher education institutions. International education positions have been cut, for example, leaving fewer people now being asked to do more. In many cases, the result is that staffing has been reduced and may not return for the foreseeable future.

So how do we effectively foster intercultural learning on our campuses in a landscape of diminished resources?!

My suggestion is to focus on providing intercultural professional development for faculty and staff, which is useful for several reasons:

  • Developing intercultural competence helps faculty and staff do their work in more inclusive,...
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Best Intercultural Resources of 2020

Dec 08, 2020

We made it to the final month of this crazy year! I must admit, in my house, COVID + Minnesota + winter has meant an increase in Netflix consumption. In addition to enjoying the latest season of The Crown, my family has also been watching the docuseries The Royal House of Windsor (apparently we can’t get enough of the royal family). Last night, we watched an episode about how Prince Phillip sought to modernize the monarchy when his wife, Queen Elizabeth, took the helm in the 1950s. However, the royal family wouldn’t hear of modernizing. Fast forward to the 1960s—times had changed drastically, and not only was the royal family more open to the idea of modernization, but they realized it was necessary, and Prince Phillip was there to lead the way.

It occurred to me that those of us who have been advocating for more intentional focus on intercultural learning in higher education may now find ourselves in a situation similar to that of Prince Phillip in...

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New Online Course: Navigating Cultural Differences!

Nov 09, 2020

I’m very excited to announce the launch of a new True North Intercultural offering—one that’s been well over a year in the making! Navigating Cultural Differences is a self-paced online course for higher education faculty and staff who want to develop their intercultural competence and create more inclusive classrooms, campuses, and communities.

I have wanted, for a very long time, to offer a more accessible online intercultural course for educators. When I started on the journey, however, I never could have anticipated just how critical it would come to be. It is clearly evident to me that greater intercultural competence is needed to help address the divisiveness and injustices in our world today.

This course has been a long time in the making because I knew that to achieve wide accessibility, it would need to be largely self-paced. I was skeptical such a training could be created that would achieve the kind of objectives I’m committed to. Because I feel very...

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Answering Your FAQs about the Intercultural Development Inventory

Feb 11, 2020

In my work helping higher education faculty and staff foster greater intercultural learning, I frequently use an assessment tool known as the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). As a result, I get asked a lot of questions about this tool, especially around why and how I use it. 

The goal of this blog post is to address those questions.

What is the IDI?

The Intercultural Development Inventory was originally created by Mitch Hammer and Milton Bennett, based on Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS). That model has since been revised based on research using the IDI, and is now known as the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). The IDI is currently owned and managed by Mitch Hammer of IDI LLC.

The IDI is a 50-question online assessment. It’s considered a cross-culturally generalizable, valid and reliable measure of intercultural competence that does not contain cultural bias. It’s been tested and used extensively with a...

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2019: A Year of Purposeful Experimentation

Jan 07, 2020

2019 was a year of purposeful experimentation at True North Intercultural.

I started this company in 2016, providing intercultural consulting and training services to institutions of higher education. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what’s most effective in helping institutions achieve their intercultural learning goals. I’ve also learned what my own strengths are—intercultural training and coaching—and the magic that can happen when we work within our strengths. As a result, I've honed in on creating high-impact professional development programs that empower educators to more effectively foster intercultural learning. And I’ve learned a lot in the process.

In this (longer than usual) post, I’d like to share some of the highlights of 2019, what I’ve learned, and what the plans are for 2020.

2019 Highlights

We served a LOT of people. And they are doing amazing things! Through on-campus workshops, one-on-one coaching,...

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How to Get Professional Development Funding

Dec 03, 2019

In case you haven’t heard, True North Intercultural is now accepting applications for the (recently renamed) signature program, Facilitating Intercultural Learning. As a result, I’ve recently had a number of conversations with educators about how to secure funding for this type of professional development.

In this blog post, I’d like to share some tips in case you too are interested in developing your capacity as an intercultural educator, and need some talking points to help you get the necessary support and funding.


Many people (and institutions) use phrases like ‘intercultural learning’ without necessarily defining what they mean. Below are a few key definitions that will help you explain what you’ll be learning through this program and how it will benefit others as well.

Intercultural competence is the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences.

Intercultural learning...

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Rethinking International Education (Free Live Webinar)

Nov 12, 2019

Next week, many colleges and universities will be celebrating International Education Week. Is your institution or organization doing anything special? If so, what? Would you classify any of it as being focused on intercultural learning? Why or why not?

What do you see as the relationship between international education and intercultural learning? Unsure? Do you see them as one and the same? Or is one the responsibility of student services, and the while the other falls within academic affairs?

I spent years working in the field of international education—first international student services and then study abroad. I pursued a PhD and “niched down” to focus on the process of developing intercultural competence through international education experiences (what I often refer to simply as “intercultural learning”). Now I focus on intercultural learning both inside and outside international education.

But I’ve noticed that there is very little...

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Recap of the CILMAR Intercultural Learning Leadership Retreat

Oct 14, 2019

Above (from top left, clockwise): Darla Deardorff, Kris Acheson-Clair, Dawn Whitehead, Hazel Symonette, Mick Vande Berg, Terrrence Harewood, Beth Zemsky, Leigh Stanfield, Amer Ahmed, my empty chair, Chuck Calahan. Also present, but not pictured: Annette Benson, Allan Bird, Chris Cartwright, Joenita Paulrajan.

Wow, my September was busy! One of the things I had the pleasure of doing was spending two days at an Intercultural Learning Leadership Retreat, organized by Purdue University’s Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment & Research (CILMAR).

CILMAR brought together a diverse group of intercultural educators to brainstorm about the future of professional development related to intercultural learning in higher education, and we enjoyed a lively discussion (and good company).

Although next steps have not yet been determined, I would like to share here three themes that stood out over the course of our two days together.

#1:  The importance of deep...

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The Trouble With Conferences

Sep 10, 2019

As the academic year begins for most of us, I want to ask: what are your professional development plans for the year?

And what is your institution doing this year to build intercultural capacity among faculty and staff, those who are most responsible for shaping the experience students have at your school?

At the risk of inciting some controversy, I want to strongly suggest thinking beyond standard professional development conferences. Don’t get me wrong—conferences are great for many things.

But if your goal is to develop intercultural capacity at your school or organization, conferences are not the best investment of professional development funds or time.

Here’s what conferences are great for:

  • Networking. Attending conferences is a good way to meet and maintain relationships with others in your field.

  • Presenting and sharing research. You can build your resumé and share your knowledge and expertise by facilitating a conference session or presenting your...
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The #1 Thing You Can Do to Help Students Navigate Cultural Differences

Jul 25, 2017

Have you ever wondered how you can better help your students navigate cultural differences (at home or abroad)? I’ve been asked this question by many educators, and my answer often surprises them.

Without hesitation, I would encourage you to first focus not on your students’ learning, but on your own intercultural development. Research and my own experience both strongly suggest that an educator’s degree of intercultural competence impacts how they help students learn through intercultural experiences.

The Intercultural Development Continuum

Before I explain why it’s so important to first focus on yourself, let’s explore what intercultural development entails. Intercultural competence can be defined as the ability to communicate and act appropriately and effectively across cultural differences. Effectively means we achieve what we set out to achieve. Appropriately means we do so in such a way that any other parties involved feel respected.


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