Global, Sustainable, Intercultural

Progress made as college tackles intercultural eduation 

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson 

President Margee Ensign began the 2017-18 academic year with a mission: to ensure that all Dickinson students are well prepared to thrive in diverse communities and that the college is best equipped to aid underrepresented students. Now, a plan is in place, and people from across campus are working together to help meet those aims. 

The work began at the start of the fall semester, when a dedicated task force identified a toolkit to measure the campus community’s intercultural competency and identify areas for improvement. The president's staff completed this online assessment in December, and 21 faculty and administrators also completed it as part of specialized training that helps build a more inclusive community, on campus and beyond.  

The right tool for the job 

Dickinson is using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a theory-based online assessment, to measure institutional intercultural competency and identify areas for growth. More than 200,000 people around the world have taken the IDI, which includes questions about cultural mindsets and beliefs, cultural challenges and how to navigate cultural difference.  

Results indicate where an individual or group falls along a spectrum of cultural sensitivity. The spectrum spans five stages: denial, polarization, minimization, acceptance and adaptation. 

“People who emphasize how all people are the same without acknowledging cultural differences, for example, are identified as minimizers,” says Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness & Inclusivity Brenda Bretz, who leads the intercultural-competency task force along with Samantha Brandauer, associate provost and executive director of the Center for Global Study & Engagement, “and this can prevent them from mitigating misunderstandings and forming meaningful bonds across cultural divides.”  

Those whose scores fall within that stage—approximately 66 percent of all who take the inventory—are encouraged to work toward accepting cultural difference, to learn more about cultural difference and to seek to understand the ways in which difference can inform viewpoints and interactions. Those further along on the continuum can improve by deepening their knowledge of specific cultures and further developing intercultural communication skills. 

Taking stock, taking action 

Last week, 21 faculty and administrators learned how to move forward in that journey—and help others along the way—by becoming IDI Qualified Administrators (QAs). The winter-break QA workshop was led Michael Paige, an expert whose research laid a foundation for the assessment.  

The Dickinson QAs are: 

  • Katie DeGuzman, Center for Global Study & Engagement

  • Donna Bickford, Women’s & Gender Resource Center 

  • Samantha Brandauer, Center for Global Study & Engagement

  • Brontè Burleigh-Jones, finance & administration 

  • Brenda Bretz, institutional effectiveness & inclusivity 

  • Joyce Bylander, student life 

  • Carolina Castellanos, Spanish & Portuguese 

  • Chris Cox, annual fund & engagement 

  • Alyssa DeBlasio, Russian 

  • Lucille Duperron, French & Francophone studies 

  • Lars English, physics 

  • Noreen Lape, academic affairs, writing program 

  • Liz Lewis, educational studies 

  • Kim Masimore, athletics  

  • James McMenamin, Italian & Italian studies 

  • Dennette Moul, human resources 

  • Sarah Niebler, political science 

  • Sonja Paulson, Center for Global Study & Engagement

  • Christian Payne, athletics 

  • Vincent Stephens, Popel Shaw Center 

  • and Ed Webb, political science. 

This week, they’re sharing what they’ve learned with 63 student volunteers who came back to campus on the last week of winter break to take part in a three-day workshop. The students include members of the men’s lacrosse team. 

A pilot student workshop 

The Jan. 15-17 student workshop approaches diversity and inclusion from several vantage points. After taking the IDI and discussing group results, the students are taking part in: 

  • informational sessions about cultural sensitivity, power and privilege  

  • small-group sessions on gender, LGBTQ+ issues, race and religious diversity 

  • group dinner discussions  

  • a film screening and Q&A led by Bylander  

  • a reflective-writing workshop led by Professor of Creative Writing Susan Perabo  

  • an afternoon of volunteerism with local organizations (the Carlisle Salvation Army, Carlisle YMCA, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Harrisburg, Red Tomato Farm or Mission Central), coordinated by the Center for Service, Spirituality & Social Justice 

  • team-building outings to Red Devil men’s and women’s basketball games

  • and time for reflection on all they learned during the week, culminating in a closing banquet.

Each student also has been invited to attend a one-on-one, optional and confidential session with a QA, so they can discuss their IDI results, celebrate their strengths and learn how they may improve. 

Looking ahead 

With 21 IDI leaders on campus and a pilot student group with sensitivity training, Dickinson is making measurable strides. And with guidance from two international experts who will continue to appraise the college's progress in diversity and study-abroad training, the intercultural-competency task force is investigating more ways to tap campus resources, and the IDI instrument, for the greater good.

It's vital work, Ensign stresses. "In a country with the most diverse population, and in a world of so many different peoples and cultures, we all must have intercultural skills to work effectively with others. But these skills are not quickly, easily or automatically acquired," she explains. "That is why we are making sure that all of our students, and all members of our community, receive the intercultural education they will need. Already a national leader in global education and sustainability, Dickinson is now poised to become a national model in intercultural education as well."


Published January 15, 2018