Increased engagement at Intercultural Awareness program

Queen’s University International Center responds to increased demand with more sessions and enhanced content

An Intercultural Awareness Training session.
Credit: 
Supplied by Jyoti Kotecha

Following increased demand for intercultural training, the Queen’s University International Center offers an improved comprehensive Intercultural Awareness Certificate Training Program to all members of the community to promote inclusion and safety on campus.

Offered four to five times a year, the program is delivered by the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC) in collaboration with the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre for all students, faculty and staff on campus. The partnership is an effort to align with recommendations the University’s reports on Truth and Reconciliation and the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity and Inclusion (PICRDI). 

According to The Queen’s Gazette, the number of participants in the program has nearly doubled from the 2016-17 school year figure. To date, 1,520 students, including student leaders, have participated in the tailored sessions with a positive satisfaction rating of “4.2-4.7 out of 5.”

In an email interview with The Journal, QUIC Directior Jyoti Kotecha explained how the program runs and its purpose within the Queen’s community. 

According to Kotecha, intercultural awareness is the understanding of differences that exist among cultures in respect to “values, beliefs and behaviors.” 

“The goal is to provide relevant, engaging content and context that promotes self-reflection and a commitment to integrate and apply what is learned into participants’ daily lives and actions,” she wrote.

While the program has existed since 2016, it was updated in the fall of 2017 to enhance its content.

“The QUIC has been involved in delivering intercultural training programs for many years,” Kotecha said. “In alignment with recommendations of the university’s TRC Task Force and PICRDI, the QUIC conducted a review of all of our education programs and added content related to Indigenous history and cultural safety.” 

The program includes five sessions that begin with an introductory explanation on intercultural learning and dimensions of culture as taught by QUIC’s International Training Coordinator Lee Richard. 

The sessions then integrate the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC) developed by Mitchell Hammer to “help participants recognize the characteristics of various mindsets that influence intercultural interactions.” Hammer is a professor at the American University in Washington D.C, specializing in intercultural conflict resolution tactics and is the founder of several organizations focusing on intercultural competence development. 

“In [the fourth and fifth sessions], participants take part in the KAIROS blanket exercise which is an interactive learning experience that teaches Indigenous rights history,” Kotecha wrote. “They also gain a greater understanding and empathy for the lived experience of Western colonialism by Indigenous peoples in the Americas.”

Following the completing of the five-session program, participants receive a Certificate of Intercultural Awareness. 

As efforts to increase diversity and inclusion on campus continue, Kotecha hopes to see the program grow and expand beyond the confines of a training program. 

She believes the program is a positive resource on campus that provides student leaders with the means to promote inclusivity amongst the student body by providing them “with the understanding and skills that will assist them in interacting with cultural differences respectively and effectively.” 

As the demand for the program grows, Kotecha has reflected on the success and overall importance on having an intercultural awareness program at the University. 

“Our hope is that all of our programs promote an enhanced understanding that intercultural awareness and education play an important role in promoting inclusivity in our campus community,” she wrote. “Further, we hope that they will help support respectful interactions, and improve intercultural understanding among students, staff and faculty.”

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