History of Collaboration
Alliant International University, a private, not-for-profit accredited institution, prepares students for professional careers of service and leadership in psychology, education, business, law, and forensics. Alliant stresses the importance of multicultural and international education, with a mission statement that explicitly underscores this commitment. While the institution-wide commitment to diversity and internationalization had long existed at Alliant, the synergistic nature of multicultural and international education had not been fully explored. A foundation was laid in 2006 when the Alliant I-MERIT (International, Multicultural, Education, Research, Intervention, and Training) Institutional Plan was adapted. I-MERIT, reporting to the provost for academic affairs, is an example of a diversity office with blended responsibility for international and multicultural initiatives for the university across 10 campuses in California, Hong Kong, Japan, and Mexico City.
Catalyst for Advancing Collaborative Efforts
Alliant International University strives to empower its students to develop the professional edge—multicultural and international competency—that will set them apart, both locally and globally, in their areas of practice, which include business, education, forensics, law, and psychology. In doing so, Alliant recognizes the need to train practicing professionals with a blend of multicultural and international competencies, so that Alliant students emerge as global professionals able to work effectively with people from other countries and cultures.
Alliant’s project for the American Council on Education’s At Home in the World initiative has integrated multicultural and international competency training into the curricula in master’s programs in business and psychology offered at the San Francisco, San Diego, and Mexico City campus locations. The Alliant team worked strategically to develop definitions and a common language through which to communicate; identify new intercultural competencies for student learning; create a curricular strategy that infused courses with blended international and multicultural components; and design an assessment plan that included the development of the Alliant Intercultural Competency Scale (PDF) and Alliant Intercultural Competency Evaluation Rubric (PDF) for pre- and post-evaluation of student learning.
Alliant has identified two major impacts of this work. The first is a paradigm shift among the faculty as they consider what it means to infuse courses with intercultural competencies. Originally, faculty chose between either imbedding a multicultural dimension or an international focus. Now, faculty are exploring intercultural competence as a way to bring both concepts into the classroom simultaneously. Additionally, the Alliant team has noticed that as intercultural competencies are being infused into the schools of business and psychology, other schools at the institution have started spontaneously integrating the competencies developed for the pilot program.
A second impact on Alliant has been the creation, evolution, and adoption of the term “negotiated space.” Negotiated space refers to the process of how individuals, groups, or cultures can successfully come together to form a respectful space for dialogue. Negotiated space was adopted as one of the intercultural competencies for students; however, it is a term that also represents a process for collaboration. As a result of using negotiated space to define collaborative interactions, faculty members from various disciplines are now working together on numerous institutional initiatives, including the strategic-planning process.
Sustaining Efforts and Next Steps
The ultimate goal for Alliant is to implement this training solution across all schools and campuses. Alliant leadership has endorsed the pilot program as a forum through which the team developed the intercultural competencies and associated assessment tools; evidence can now be gathered on their effectiveness. As outcome data is generated over time, it is hoped that other Alliant disciplines will adopt the intercultural competencies in their professional practice areas. Over the course of the pilot, Alliant leadership has found that its three other schools (law, forensic science, and education) have been making their own strides in this direction, so the future is promising. Next steps include continuing efforts to validate Alliant’s Intercultural Competence Scale and gather outcome data.