Diversity & Democracy: Civic Learning for Shared Futures
Diversity Innovations Campus-Community Involvement
Diversity Digest Volume 9, Number 2

Diversity Digest
Volume 9,
Number 2

Download our print issue (PDF)
Campus-Community Connections
Intercultural Learning for Inclusive Excellence
Why Allen and Joan Bildner and the Bildner Family Foundation Funded a Statewide Diversity Initiative
Learning to Listen as We Lead
Institutional Models That Cultivate Comprehensive Change
Curricular Transformation
Where Worlds Converge
Curricular Transformation through Collaborative Teaching
Intercultural Learning in First-Year Seminars
Designing Intercultural and Cross-cultural Spaces
Enhancing Collaborative Leadership of Faculty and Staff
Faculty-Driven Curricular Change
Diversity as Shared Practice
Dialogue Groups at Princeton University Library
Faculty Involvement
Epistles, Posters, and Pizza
Forging Campus-Community Connections
"Beyond Food"
Cross-cultural by Design
Student Experience
Something to Declare
Putting Student Voices in Public Spaces
Café Bergen
Institutional Leadership and Committment
Assessing Diversity Attitudes in First-Year Students
Infusing Cultural Competency into Health Professions Education

Cross-cultural by Design: The Center for Cultures and Communication at Bloomfield College

By Rashimi Jaipal, associate professor of psychology and director, Center for Cultures and Communication, Bloomfield College

The Center for Cultures and Communication at Bloomfield College aspires to promote understanding and respect between cultures. The center, founded in 2002 through the Bildner NEW JERSEY Campus Diversity Initiative, is a scholarly and educational resource for the campus and surrounding community. Its principal program is the Diversity Training Certificate, a for-credit program in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences that provides diversity education and experience to students from different majors who will be leaders in their communities. Some will become professionals in human services, business, health care, and education, where their diversity training will be put into practice every day.

The certificate offers a theoretical foundation based on implicit or subjective culture, an idea drawn from the fields of cross-cultural psychology and psychological anthropology. It involves gaining awareness of how one’s cultural conditioning can influence perceptions of others and attitudes toward cultural difference. Through center internships, students organize diversity activities and cross-cultural communications workshops while also serving constituencies in the wider community. The center was conceived as a place where theory and praxis influence, inform, and enrich each other.

The Center’s Developmental Design

The center’s programming involves three phases. First, students gain theoretical knowledge. Second, they become center interns and apply what they learn. In phase three, graduates from the program become lifelong affiliates of the center and form a pool of trained facilitators able to provide diversity training to the wider community.

The internship training is based on four approaches:

1. Peer effect: Students learn about diversity through informal peer-led workshops. In three years, interns have conducted more than sixteen workshops in freshmen classes, international student orientations, residence life orientations, and student organizations.

2. Hospitality: Local students who host international students demonstrated the enriching possibilities of intercultural interactions. Interns have organized welcome dinners, hiking, and bowling for international students.

3. Cultural immersion: By going on neighborhood tours led by knowledgeable locals, students acquire initial exposure to unfamiliar territory. Going on a guided tour of an Indian neighborhood, for instance, helped change student attitudes and misconceptions.

4. Rippling outward effect: Center students take their new intercultural knowledge and skills into their homes, workplaces, and communities.

The Center’s Niche and Philosophy

The center serves an area of changing demographics. New Jersey is the port of entry for immigrants from all over the world. Citizens are exposed to a wide range of cultures in their daily lives and in the workplace. The center offers its training particularly to the less well-served nonprofit world and offers affordable diversity workshops to agencies in the community.

The center argues that culture includes not just people’s easily observable outer behavior, but also less observable internal values and ways of thinking. In order to achieve cultural competence and attitudes of tolerance, engagement, and respect for pluralism, one needs to first understand one’s own subconscious and unarticulated layers of cultural conditioning. After this, one can begin to overcome barriers to communicating across cultures. Instead of the “color-blind” approach that ignores difference, the center promotes difference as a pathway to learning, understanding, and community.

Students state that the center’s programs, along with the certificate courses, have changed how they view other cultures, made them more culturally aware and sensitive, and given them more of an appreciation of their own culture. As a newly established entity, the center expects to evolve and expand. The center would like eventually to seed programs involving local and international collaborations, projects with local immigrant communities, and more cross-cultural research. In the face of globalization and a multicultural America, intercultural competencies are clearly becoming necessities for building stronger global and local communities.

Questions, comments, and suggested resources should be directed to campbell@aacu.org.
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