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Stories from the Field

Lessons Learned: Building Intercultural Competence

Anne M. Hornak is an associate professor and chair at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. She recently received an NEA Foundation Learning & Leadership grant to become certified in measuring students’ intercultural development. Here’s what she had to say about her project and its impact.

Tell us a little about your project.

Through the generous support of the NEA Foundation Learning and Leadership Grant, I attended the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) qualifying certification seminar. The seminar was an opportunity to learn the skills to be eligible to administer and interpret the tool to students engaging in study abroad experiences.

It is imperative that as educators we understand the impact of international experiences on intercultural learning and development. Preparing students to live and work in a global society is a hallmark of the work we do in higher education. This inventory helps us understand the impact our work has on students’ learning and development.

How does this project help your students?

In the past few years, Central Michigan University has increased its focus on study abroad and international education. The outcomes of study abroad experiences vary with each student and depend on their past experiences and cognitive abilities. Using the IDI, we can develop more beneficial international experiences for individual students.

The entire experience will be strongly grounded in strengthening intercultural skills and abilities, and the IDI results establish a baseline.

We must facilitate intercultural communication skills so students can be competitive in a global marketplace upon graduation.

What inspires you most about your work?

I am inspired when I can watch students transform their thinking through international experiences. I truly understand and embrace the impact international experiences have on their worldview as leaders and scholars.

I teach in a program that prepares educational leaders in K-12 as well as higher education. I have personally worked on research projects that investigate transformational learning and cultural competencies, and this opportunity has further inspired and motivated me to continue this work. As well, having the experience and education to facilitate intercultural learning opportunities to a broader campus community has been very beneficial across campus.

What is your passion - in or outside the classroom?

My passion in the classroom is co-constructing knowledge with students. Watching students wrestle with difficult subjects and abstract ideas is very exciting.

Outside the classroom, I love to run, read, and travel. I have had the great privilege of sharing my passions with my partner, David, who is also in education, and my two children, Olivia and Maxwell.

In 2014, my family took a trip around the world. We traveled for 30 days and visited seven countries on three continents. We logged 72 hours of time on planes, trains, and one boat ride. It was a truly once-in-a-lifetime adventure. I encourage all those who can travel to take the risk; this can be local, regional, national, or international. It is an investment you will not regret making!

You can apply for an NEA Foundation grant of your very own! The application deadline for Student Achievement and Learning & Leadership grants is February 1. For help developing your proposal, be sure to check out our grant-writing tutorial.

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