Posted September 25, 2012 by Beth Goad 

Being Outwardly Focused for Global Knowledge

My first professional role in the student union was at an institution with a large international student population. Having previously lived in areas that would be considered much less culturally diverse, I found myself looking for ways to make connections with those international students. I worked on acquiring more global knowledge, getting my news from BBC rather than CNN or a local newspaper. I had a newfound desire to know more about the whole world.

Intercultural ProficiencyEven though I had taken global marketing and international business courses during my undergraduate career, I felt inadequate. When I was in graduate school, I had my first opportunity to travel across the Atlantic to spend two weeks in Italy for an intercultural communication course.

One thing that stood out to me from the experience in Italy was our visit to Isvor Fiat’s headquarters in Turin. I recall spending a hot and humid June day in a non-air-conditioned meeting room. Right away, I noticed a cultural difference with the Italians dressed so formally in their three-piece suits. We probably met with half a dozen senior managers and only one was female, but she wasn’t allowed to speak. The situation was a vivid example of a masculine culture and different management style than I had previously experienced.

But perhaps more importantly, I learned firsthand just how U.S.-centric our lives can be. In my ACUI experience, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know several of our international colleagues “across the pond” and learn about their work in their student unions. I love that ACUI is an international association and continues to make strides to push us further as student union administrators.

Day in and day out, my global knowledge comes from the few experiences I’ve had traveling to other cultures and reading about them. In the office, we encourage everyone to create a welcoming environment. In customer service training, we talk about ways an employee can ask a question, rather than giving up or chalking it up to a misunderstanding. We’ve also partnered with faculty to create a program called Democracy Plaza, which allows a place for critical thinking to take place in the form of civil discourse around social and political issues.

In order to ask ourselves what is the impact of globalization and internationalization on higher education, we must be more outwardly focused. To be our best, we need to look beyond our campus, our region of the country, and even our own country. Specifically, the skill set of Global Knowledge within the core competency of Intercultural Proficiency encompasses a range of skills and abilities.

Knowledge required:

  • Understanding of current global events/concerns and changing demographics/trends related to the interdependence of nations
  • Understanding of race/ethnicity, countries, geography, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical and mental ability, and socio-economic concerns (e.g., access, violence, health care, drugs)
  • Understanding of leadership and management styles related to different cultures
  • Understanding of religious, cultural, and ethnic traditions

Skills and abilities required:

  • Ability to set training and leadership development programs against the backdrop of a global view of diversity, incorporating changing demographics and trends
  • Ability to design educational programs grounded in human relations, racial/ethnic relations, and human rights
  • Ability to provide access to and support of participation in educational programs for staff to develop the skills necessary to relate knowledgeably and sensitively to individuals of different backgrounds and experiences
  • Ability to provide educational programs for staff on integration of multicultural curriculum materials into existing programs and services
  • Ability to discuss and understand the impact of the globalization and internationalization of higher education
  • Ability to seek and partner with appropriate resources and experts in the field of global diversity within the institution or region
What do you do in order to expand your skills and knowledge in the area of Global Knowledge?

We hope you will take the time to join us for a more in-depth examination of this skill set on the next College Unions and Activities Discussion (CUAD) podcast on Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. Eastern and then further discussions on Twitter by following #ACUICC.

Beth Goad

Beth Goad is the Associate Director, New Student & Family Programs at Bridgewater State University.

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