Intercultural Communication Skills for Faculty and Staff

International college students in language-learning classroomAs universities continue to internationalize, both academic and administrative staff face new tasks that require advanced intercultural communications skills. Individuals at all levels and in nearly all functions serve a growing number of international students on campus and, in some cases, leading faculty-led programs abroad, fostering international partnerships, recruiting international students, or participating in other international initiatives. However, few who are asked to work in these often new capacities receive specific training in cross-cultural communication.

In a study presented at this year’s annual Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) conference, David L. Di Maria, director of international programs and services at Kent State University, examined the attitudes of staff members in student affairs offices at five Ohio public universities towards international students. Half of the survey respondents said they felt unprepared to work with this growing group of students and 90 percent said they wanted more training. Nearly 64 percent said their offices were not doing anything specifically to accommodate international students.

As more colleges realize the need for such training, professional development courses and programs designed to train faculty and staff in these areas emerge on campuses across the United States.

Cross-cultural training

A number of colleges have developed workshops and courses specifically to give faculty and staff practical cross-cultural communication tools they can apply to their daily work. Carnegie Mellon, for instance, offers workshops on topics like “Communicating More Effectively with International Students” and “Teaching in a Multicultural Classroom”. Other colleges offer comprehensive programs, such as Duke University’s Intercultural Skills Development Program and the University of Iowa’s Building our Global Community Certificate Program, which combine lunchtime learning sessions, workshops, and other training to give personnel a wide breadth of knowledge.

Language training

Some colleges also give their faculty and staff opportunities to learn or improve foreign language skills in order to better serve their international students. When Texas A&M University-Commerce wanted to help faculty and staff communicate better when they travelled abroad or interacted with students on campus from over 50 countries, they partnered with Rosetta Stone. A custom online language-training program was developed that was scalable, cost-effective, and allowed for study at whatever times and locations were most convenient for the learner. Not only were language skills significantly improved, but the online program also freed 30 classroom seats for additional students, thus creating significant incremental revenue for the institution.

How does your campus prepare faculty and staff to work with international students?

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