Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nations have interests, people have friends

On my drive into AU Thursday morning, I saw a motorcyclist texting at a stoplight. While cell phones may now be ubiquitous, I had yet to see one in this surprising context. The evolving impacts of technology and expectations for accessibility it creates were one of the interesting themes of today’s sessions.

Before these sessions began, however, Dr. Motoo Unno jumpstarted the conference with his somber yet invigorating opening presentation. One year after last year’s tragedies in Japan, he reflected upon the global response and attitudes within the country. As someone who majored in music, I was struck by the power of the music within the video. Additionally, though, I held on to a quote from a military representative in the film, that while “nations have interests, people have friends.” Our challenge as interculturalists seems to be just this: helping our students and clients look past their work and projects to more fully engage in the relationships that their partnerships offer. This is both the reward and challenge of cross-cultural work.

This theme of relationships between people ran through today’s sessions – from Suzanne Zaldivar’s reminder that work issues are nearly always about people, not work, to Profs. Carmel and Espinosa’s discussion of coordinating time zones in global teams.

As is the hope in a good conference, the comments and discussions from the participants were as thought provoking as many of the presentations themselves. I was thrilled to hear Suzanna Zaldivar again this year after enjoying her presentation so much at last year’s conference. We could clearly spend much more than two days discussing these issues, as I was reminded during Valli Murphy and Chris Cartwright’s presentation on Assessing Intercultural Effectiveness, when time prohibited us from learning more about their interesting assessment tools.

Language and the power of our word choices was a theme from last year’s conference. This issue resurfaced this year in discussions about needs assessments – with one participant offering that perhaps a more appropriate approach is to refer to them as “asset building,” since needs assessments may imply a deficit model. I found this distinction helpful as I’m working on a project related to assessment.

If forced to give a criticism or “low point”, I’d just say this: given the popularity of the sessions, we outgrew many of the SIS classrooms, which made some of the movement in our group work challenging.

In general, however, the size of this conference allows for such interesting and rich conversations amongst participants. I was still processing all the interesting presentations I’d heard and people I’d met late into the night!

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