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Reflections on Intercultural Learning & Teaching

Recap of the CILMAR Intercultural Learning Leadership Retreat

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


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

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.

Intercultural...

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Is the SIIC Fellows Program Right for Me?

Every year around this time, I am contacted by several people interested in applying to the Fellows Program at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) who want to ask me about my experience in the program.
 
My intention with this blog post is to share some insider information about the SIIC Fellows Program experience. The opinions expressed here are primarily my own, but I also gathered input from several other past Fellows and from Janet Bennett, Executive Director of the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI), the organization that sponsors SIIC.
 
I don’t present this as an “unbiased” review, as any interculturalist knows we all have biases. So here are mine, up front and center: 
 
I was first a Fellow (although we were called “Interns” back then) in 2008. I attended SIIC as a “Returning Fellow” (or “Rintern” in the SIIC vernacular) in 2010 and 2013. In 2015, I attended as a regular...

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Starting a Faculty/Staff Intercultural Book Club (Professional Development on a Budget!)

Recently, I have received several requests for book recommendations from educators interested in organizing faculty/staff book clubs or similar, so I’ve decided to address the question here.
 
Developing a faculty/staff book club, or organizing some type of lunch-and-learn around a common reading, can be an excellent way to foster intercultural learning on your campus. An added bonus is that it’s an extremely budget-friendly professional development opportunity!   
 
In addition to being passionate about all things intercultural, I’m also an avid reader. So I love reading books that give me insight into other cultures, help me not just see—but almost step into—another person’s world and perspective. What’s even more exciting, in my opinion, is then discussing said books with other people who offer yet another perspective.
 
In an effort to help anyone who might want to consider starting such a book club, I...

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