Certificate program for faculty and staff fosters intercultural campus community

Building Our Global Community is a certificate program offered by International Programs in collaboration with UI Learning & Development that educates University of Iowa faculty and staff about the experiences of international students and scholars, and methods in which they can foster our increasingly intercultural campus community. Participants who complete the series of sessions (one “core” course and four electives) earn a certificate that demonstrates their commitment to supporting international students and scholars in the classroom and workplace.

The program has awarded 379 certificates since its inception in 2004, with 48 awarded in the spring of 2015. Each session has around 40 spaces available for UI faculty and staff. Session topics and instructors vary by semester, often focusing on specific countries or drawing on current trends. Fall 2015 session topics included Muslim students on a secular campus, navigating intercultural conflicts, China, and more. Beyond the initial appeal of certain topics, Brandon Paulson, senior advisor for International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and coordinator of the Building Our Global Community program, believes it is the networking and discussion opportunities that keep people coming back.

 “I especially like meeting my fellow University employees from different departments, hearing about the challenges they face, and seeing that we all have the same common goal of making studying and working at the University of Iowa a positive and fulfilling experience for all” said Sonatina Fernandes, a benefits specialist in Human Resources who has participated in the certificate program.

As the program has progressed, Paulson has noted that the support and resources for the international community have grown, along with awareness of the ISSS office and what it does.

 “What I really like about the program, in addition to the networking, is the professional development piece,” Paulson said. “These topics are really important, but we don’t oftentimes stop and take the time to explore them further during our busy workdays. This program provides a space for us to do so.”

BGC China Presenters
A panel of UI staff members and students present at a Building Our Global Community session on Chinese culture in December, 2015

Course topics for this spring include: “Examining and Enhancing Your Perspective Consciousness,” “Exploring the Chinese, Korean, and Indian Academic Systems,” “Enhancing Your Cultural Insight,” and “Pronunciation of Chinese Names and Greetings.”

Anat Levtov, director of global experiences in the College of Engineering, has extensive international experience and has lived on several different continents, but appreciates the opportunity the course offers to learn more about Asia.

As the University of Iowa campus and community continue to become more international, the importance of a global and cultural education and perspective will become increasingly important.“I am looking forward to the workshop on Chinese name pronunciation so that I can improve my service to our students and let them know how much I care about getting their names right!” she exclaimed.

“We have to accept that we are a global society, and having a broader view and a better understanding of other cultures will only enhance our own life experiences,” says Fernandes.

Levtov agrees, “The world—and our campus—are increasingly multinational, and global experiences are crucial to our understanding of each other. It is heartening to see that so many faculty and staff at different levels of the university care about the international experience and success at Iowa.”

Building Our Global Community classes begin each fall and run throughout each academic year. To participate, register online through Employee Self-Service. Participants may take courses individually, without working toward a certificate. Faculty and staff can also participate in the program even after they have earned their certificate. Questions regarding the Building Our Global Community certificate program can be directed to Brandon Paulson.

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