The University of Iowa

Program coordinator and participants reflect on Engaging Across Cultures

October 25th, 2021

The Engaging Across Cultures certificate program creates an opportunity for University of Iowa graduate and professional students to learn more about fostering an intercultural campus while honing skills that will carry into the future workplace. To earn a certificate, participants must complete the introductory session and two elective sessions. Sessions are offered in the fall and spring semesters with some of the sessions being offered each semester.

Brandon Paulson

Brandon Paulson

As the program coordinator, Brandon Paulson, assistant director of International Student and Scholar Services, values creating opportunities for interactions between students and facilitating intercultural learning through activities, discussions, and reflections. “I appreciate the connections and community building with graduate and professional students and partnering with campus thought leaders in the Graduate College, Office of Teaching, Learning, & Technology, ESL Programs, and Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures,” says Paulson.

Moala Keshei Bannavti

Moala Keshei Bannavti

Reflecting on completing the program, Moala Keshei Bannavti, 4th year PhD student in civil & environmental engineering, says, “My biggest takeaway was understanding that my culture is no greater or lesser than someone else’s and that, as someone who hopes to lead a classroom one day, I should learn to prioritize the communication style used by students’ culture(s) as opposed to my own. This creates congruency in the classroom and is somewhat of a responsibility of a culturally competent person to mend those bridges.” Bannavti was born in Ipswich, England, and immigrated to the U.S.at the age of three. Her parents immigrated to the western world from Cameroon, where she lived for several years as a young teenager.

Johnathan D. Culpepper

Johnathan D. Culpepper

Johnathan D. Culpepper, an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago and 5th year PhD student in chemistry, attended three sessions in previous semesters. His favorite part of participating in the program was the professional atmosphere each session leader was able to create, while sharing key insights on navigating cultural differences, and the opportunities for himself and his peers to have open dialogue on the topics at hand. “There were many takeaways from the program, but one that stood out for me is always to be willing to view situations from different perspectives, because everyone does not look through the same cultural lens; therefore, cultural sensitivity is a must in the workplace and the classroom,” says Culpepper. “I believe every UI graduate and professional student should attend this certificate program as it's free and touches on so many areas we can put to practice here before entering into the workforce.”

Paulson thinks being able to recognize someone’s own culture(s) is a foundational piece of the program, as is understanding how their own cultural lens influences their interactions with others and their perspectives. According to Paulson, “Participants will have opportunities to self-reflect and apply what they have learned to practice in the classroom, lab, or research group. The intercultural skills developed will carry into their future workplace."

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