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:
This past year—and the first few weeks of 2021—have made it abundantly clear just how deeply divided our society is. It’s more evident than ever that just being in the vicinity of people from different backgrounds, cultures, or walks of life—whether on campus, in our communities, or abroad—is not sufficient to help us learn to engage more effectively and appropriately across those differences. Much less to create a more equitable, just society!
As I’ve said before, intercultural competence can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice to have’ skill in our world. It is a ‘need to have.’ That means our educational institutions need to get serious about intentionally facilitating intercultural learning.
In this blog post, I suggest three things you can do to get more intentional and creative about fostering intercultural learning at your institution this year.
#1: Understand and align with the mission.
Take a look at your...
Recently, I sent out a survey to my audience to find out what your burning questions are around intercultural learning. One theme that I saw come up over and over in the responses is an issue around getting buy-in, both from students as well as from faculty, staff, and administrators. The question continually asked was: How do we convince others this is important? There seems to be widespread frustration that many students and educators don’t necessarily see the value of intercultural learning and training.
Re-Frame the Issue as an Opportunity to Practice Bridging Across Differences
I want to suggest that we re-frame the issue, not as one of convincing others, but one of bridging a cultural gap. This is an opportunity to use our own intercultural skills to communicate and act in ways that are effective and appropriate with people who have different perspectives and experiences than us.
Let’s try to move away from seeing the issue as one of “them not...
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