Academic journal article Making Connections

The Global Pathways Initiative: Florida State University's Interdisciplinary Efforts to Become Interculturally Competent

Academic journal article Making Connections

The Global Pathways Initiative: Florida State University's Interdisciplinary Efforts to Become Interculturally Competent

Article excerpt

Introduction

The challenges of addressing diversity issues and preparing students for the career, civic, and social settings they will encounter constitute a central mandate for universities in teaching graduates to be effective and engaged leaders. A variety of programs and concepts found in universities attempt to address dimensions of these challenges, whether called "diversity," "multicultural," "intercultural," or "international programs." These types of programs in higher education prepare and involve domestic students from a wide range of backgrounds, as well as provide services for international students pursuing studies in universities outside their home countries. These programs and concepts are responses to developments in the world and among students, faculty, staff and alumni. They address longstanding ideals about the purposes of the community of education, scholarship, and service in the university, transcending national borders and disciplinary boundaries.

Although these multiple approaches all have something to offer and make unique contributions to various academic departments and student affairs activities, constructing links among these sometimes disparate agendas remains a fundamental hurdle in creating more effective ways to think about and design mechanisms to build on the promise of diversity. Some units or parts of the university may be especially effective in addressing domestic diversity, by focusing upon inclusion and sensitivity according to ethnicity, gender, anguage, sexual orientation, or different abilities in a national context. Other units and disciplines may be more effective in building transnational communities of scholarly interests around a more clearly defined set of disciplinary boundaries and research programs, allowing for an easier integration of scholars from a range of nationalities and backgrounds. It is the contention of this essay that for a more effective interdisciplinary approach to diversity to emerge, conversations must take place among the disciplines and with those working to advance different diversity agendas about linking available and new approaches. One way to do so, we argue, is to focus on the development of relevant intercultural competencies. The essay outlines the efforts of one public university to address the above and to highlight challenges similar institutions are likely to encounter.

The essay draws from the experiences of all of the co-authors in working on many of the initiatives described in this paper, on the review of research materials and current literature, meeting notes, and proposals and papers prepared and reviewed over the course of program development, from reports on program performance, and from student responses to the certificate program. The co-authors continue to be engaged in numerous dimensions of these initiatives, one serving on several working groups, one as the director of the Center for Global Engagement, one as the coordinator for the Global Pathways Certificate, and one as chair of the academic committee overseeing and reviewing the intercultural certificate program. In addition, three serve as members of the committee developing international exchange policies and procedures, and all as members of the university-wide International Advisory Committee.

We first provide an overview of the economic and social context in which the need for intercultural competencies has emerged, followed by a brief discussion of some university responses. The essay then focuses on the internationalization efforts at Florida State University and one successful curricular outcome, the Global Pathways Certificate. We describe how this certificate provides an interdisciplinary framework that allows students to develop intercultural competencies through a combination of courses, experiences and reflections. We close by discussing a number of remaining challenges and next steps that have importance both for program development and assessment, but also for broader discussions about promoting diversity in an interdisciplinary fashion through a focus on intercultural competencies. …

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