SIETAR-USA prepares for Minneapolis conference, focuses on various initiatives
Your board has been busy little bees since the last newsletter. While most of our efforts are focused on bringing you an amazing conference in October, we are also busy working on other initiatives such as professional development opportunities, follow-up on the graffiti wall, moving to the Intercultural Communication Institute (ICI), local groups support, and a focus on ethics. We’d love to get you involved and if you’re interested, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are nearly there with finalizing the plans for the organization to be housed within ICI. We hope to be there by May 1st
. In March, the Board of Directors attended a mini-retreat in Minneapolis to gear up for the 2012 Conference. We had the pleasure of sampling the rooms, the service, and the meals that you will enjoy during the conference, and I have to say – we are pleased as punch! The rooms were clean and comfortable, the service was impeccable, the staff friendly and helpful, and the food delicious! From the plated meals to the grab-and-go sandwiches, we were very pleased! The experience supported a successful retreat and inspired our conference team to press on with planning what is sure to be one of our best conferences yet! I look forward to seeing you all in Minneapolis.
I have recently returned from Morocco where I facilitated a couple of workshops for an organization called The Melton Foundation. This has been an inspiring group to be connected to as the mission of the Melton Foundation is to “actively promote global citizenship as a way for individuals and organizations to work together across boundaries of place and identity to address global challenges.” As I consider our theme for the upcoming conference, “Navigating Complexity in an Intercultural World,” I think of the foundation's university level “fellows” (from different academic disciplines), their education (with students from five different countries) focused on global citizenship and intercultural competence, and their ability to navigate cross-cultural terrain with skill and ease. Alumni (senior fellows) of the foundation continue to participate 10-plus years past graduation because of the friendships and professional connections they’ve made through the foundation. My time in Morocco was spent with these Senior Fellows. I love it when I have as much to learn from a client as I have to offer, and especially when I want to work with them for as long as they’ll have me. Of course I have invited the fellows as well as the professionals of the Melton Foundation to join us in Minneapolis. Since a few of them attended Young SIETAR in Cairo a few years back I think we have a chance - my fingers are crossed. I look forward to finding other like-minded organizations with which to connect and I hope that you are doing the same.
Until next time…
Professional Development: Help Us Help You
SIETAR-USA to send survey, seeks input from membership
When you think of ‘professional development,’ what comes to mind? Is it a workshop you recently attended, coaching sessions that you take part in, a conference you plan to go to (SIETAR-USA’s, per chance?!), or something completely different? According to the Macmillan online dictionary, professional development is “the process of obtaining the skills, qualifications, and experience that allow you to make progress in your career.” Of course there are many possible definitions of professional development as well as many interpretations of what comprises good professional development. At the core of these definitions is a process of seeking out new forms of learning. SIETAR-USA is, at its core, a professional development organization.
The SIETAR-USA community exists to serve as a venue for people from many cultural and professional backgrounds to come together to explore intercultural matters. The annual conference is SIETAR-USA’s primary professional development activity for members and non-members alike, and it serves as the most concentrated source of professional development workshops, networking, and intercultural community building that we currently offer. SIETAR-USA wants to offer more, however. As the Director of the Professional Development Portfolio on the SIETAR-USA Board of Directors, it is my role to spearhead the development and realization of other types of professional development offerings for interculturalists and other professionals whose work focuses on cultural matters.
For SIETAR-USA to develop offerings that meet the needs and desires of members, we want to first hear from you. In mid-May, SIETAR-USA will send out a short survey asking for your input on the types of professional development that you would like SIETAR-USA to provide. Please take advantage of this opportunity to provide feedback to the organization—your comments and suggestions will have a direct impact on the direction professional development takes in the organization.
Beginning any new initiative such as this cannot be achieved in isolation, however. SIETAR-USA is looking for a few (3-5) dedicated and knowledgeable individuals to make up a subcommittee of the Professional Development Portfolio. These individuals will play an active role in researching professional development opportunities of varied forms that meet the needs of members and will work together to make these opportunities a reality. The timeframe for involvement is a minimum of six months but could be longer, depending on need and level of interest. Is this something you might be interested in? To indicate your interest in participating on the Professional Development subcommittee, please complete the appropriate item on the upcoming survey or submit your name, contact information, and specific professional development interests to email@example.com (please write “ProfDev Subcommittee” in the subject line of the email). All interculturalists are welcome!
Holly Emert, Ph.D.
Director, Professional Development Portfolio
We are delighted to share with you that plans are well underway for the 12th annual SIETAR-USA conference that will be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 17-20th. We hope that you have already put this date on your calendar and that you are planning to attend. We also ask that you help us promote this conference by informing others who you think would not want to miss this exciting event!
Conference Planning Springs into Action
The conference theme is "Navigating Complexity in an Intercultural World" and the Call for Proposals is now live! Highlighted for this year's conference will be two special tracks, one on Education and the other on Business. In addition, a new feature of this conference will be an "Eye on Ethics," spearheaded by SIETAR-USA Ethics Portfolio Board Member Maria Thacker.
Please consider submitting a proposal yourself as well as informing others who you think have important intercultural knowledge to share. The deadline for submission of proposals is May 15, 2012.
One of our first big tasks as co-chairs has been to build a great team to help make this upcoming conference one of the best ever! Our team is comprised of 21 members spread across the United States:
2012 SIETAR-USA Conference Co-Chairs Candice Hughes and
Minnesota Local Team Co-Chairs Basma Ibrahim DeVries and
Master Workshop Co-Chairs Sandy Fowler and
Program Co-Chairs Kara LaSota and Holly Emert
Sponsors, Exhibitors and Advertisers Chair Patricia Coleman and
Co-Chair Naomi Ludeman-Smith
Marketing Co-Chairs Cate Brubaker and Annika Bowers
Volunteers and Registration Co-Chairs Lauren Dickinson and Nancy Tom
Finance Monica Mumford
Silent Auction Co-Chairs Patricia Coleman and
Roommate Connections Jamie Gelbtuch
Eye on Ethics Maria Thacker
Technology Rob Pusch
Conference Oversight Ann Marie Lei
Scholarships Tamara Thorpe
We would like all SIETAR-USA members who have the desire and time to help us build a wonderful conference to consider volunteering with any of these conference committees. After all, the more we have to build the conference ship, the stronger and more exciting we can make this experience of all who will be attending in October. As we have both learned from our years of volunteering with the conference, doing so is a great way of becoming more engaged and connected with others in SIETAR-USA. Interested? Please send a note to either one of us stating which committee you would like to provide assistance and we'll let the committee co-chairs know! Our e-mails addresses are: Alisa2012sietarusa@sietarusa.org and Candice2012sietarusa@sietarusa.org. Online information can be found at sietarusaconference.com.
We look forward to seeing you in October!
Candice Hughes and Alisa Poehler, 2012 Conference Co-Chairs
SIETAR-BC (represented by President Mafalda Arias, right)
SIETAR-BC wins DIVERSEcity Award
receives award for commitment to cultural diversity.
SIETAR-BC, SIETAR-USA’s neighbor to the north, was recently awarded the Cultural DIVERSEcity Award, an accolade highlighting the organization’s commitment to cultural diversity in the workplace. They were one of 18 finalists overall, and one of three in the category "Not for Profit," for which they won.
“For the past 20 years, SIETAR-BC has worked hard to promote cooperative interactions and effective communication among peoples of diverse cultures, races and ethnic groups," SIETAR-BC President Mafalda Arias said. The organization has held film screenings, networking events and discussions on various intercultural issues such as Japanese-Canadian identity.
The Cultural DIVERSEcity Awards was launched in 1995 and recognizes the value of working with and supporting organizations that are making a difference in their community every day. DIVERSEcity hosted the 17th
annual awards ceremony on April 17. For more information, visit www.dcrs.ca
Ethics and the Limits of Cultural Diversity
One of the most important developments in ethics for Sietarians is the emergence of global ethical standards that cut across cultural differences. Looked at across the vast era of human existence, global ethical standards are a very recent phenomenon. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), for example, is a mere 64 years old. This emerging phenomenon does not eliminate cultural differences, but does place a limit on the extent to which we can argue for cultural relativity.
This in no way diminishes the importance of cultural differences but it does provide a limit to what can be deemed acceptable under the header of cultural diversity. One common example that has been discussed in this context is the practice of female genital cutting (also called female genital mutilation or FGM). The argument goes that diverse cultural practices are perfectly fine, unless they cross the line of some “universal” principle – in this case – harm to the integrity of a girl’s body and a violation of human rights. In other words, there is no absolute freedom with regard to cultural rituals – they must fall within the bounds of universal ethical standards to be acceptable… and FGM does not. Recall also the foot-binding practice in China, which was a common custom only a century ago. Today it has disappeared and would certainly be regarded as ethically unacceptable.
Rather than dwell on rituals like these, another approach to focus on the globalization of ethical standards is to examine the constitutions of the world in a comparative manner. If global ethical standards emerge from a comparative study, that would also point to the limitation of cultural diversity or total cultural relativity – again, not that we don’t want to embrace and promote cultural diversity – but simply that it is not absolute, if varied cultures around the globe share some ethical standards that do not accept that “anything goes." So, for example, if we look at the rights of women, according to a recent study (“The Evolution and Ideology of Global Constitutionalism”, by David S. Law and Mila Versteeg, 2010, California Law Review, Vol. 99-1163) back in 1946 (just prior to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) only 35% of the world’s constitutions included that right, while by 2006, 91% of the world’s constitutions had it included. This suggests that, at least from a legal standpoint, safeguarding women’s rights (especially that of equal treatment and freedom from discrimination) has only recently emerged as a global standard. The implications for culturally acceptable behavior with regard to treatment of women worldwide have therefore narrowed.
These examples reinforce the importance of global or “trans-cultural” bodies that set those ethical standards for the world, and allow cultural variations within those standards, but are there to deal with any crossing of the ethical lines that we, as a global community, draw. Consider climate change… in the same legal study referenced above, back in 1946 not one national constitution provided the right to a healthy environment, but that right has grown from 0% in 1946 to 63% of all the world’s national constitutions by 2006. The world is struggling to establish standards around carbon emissions, given the threat to human survival. Any standards agreed upon will necessarily be “trans-cultural” – meaning that current culturally acceptable behaviors (e.g., around fossil fuel use, recycling, etc.) might need to be reformed to address this global challenge.
Alan Richter, Ph.D., is the president of QED Consulting, a 24-year-old company based in New York. As a pioneer in the global diversity and inclusion field he has worked closely with many multinational corporations and governmental not-for-profit organizations in Africa, Asia and Europe and North America. His areas of expertise are leadership, values, culture and change. Dr. Richter is the creator of the training tools Global Diversity Game©
, the Global Diversity Survey©
-- a self-assessment tool which measures how we deal with difference, and the Global Leadership Survey©
– a global leadership style self-assessment tool. He is on the Board of the South African American Chamber of Commerce and holds an M.A. and a B.A.B.Sc. from the University of Cape Town, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Birkbeck College, London University.
The Eye on Ethics initiative is designed to invigorate an organization-wide conversation about the role ethics plays in every SIETAR-USA member’s work. The series will culminate this fall at the annual conference in Minneapolis, MN. At that time we will look at how far we have come and plan strategies for the future. Read the submissions every month at www.sietarusa.org, and consider writing one yourself. Be part of the SIETAR-USA conversation about ethics in our workplace. You can also contact Maria Martin Thacker, SIETAR-USA Ethics Portfolio Board Member, directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“New Frontiers: Using the IDI to Build Intercultural Competence”
Third Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Conference to be held this Fall
Attendees at this year’s conference, to be held in Minneapolis from September 21-22, will enjoy outstanding concurrent session presentations, master workshops, dedicated dialogue sessions and an awards dinner. The IDI is designed to deliver professional development opportunities for current IDI Qualified Administrators and an introduction and overview for those individuals who are new to the IDI. The conference proposal deadline is May 15, 2012; guidelines can be found here
. Questions should be directed to Karen Lokkesmoe at email@example.com.
For general information online, check out the conference website
Spreading the word via Twitter
Local Chapter News
At SIETAR-MN, we started using Twitter at our monthly meetings as a way to get the word out about our meetings, our topics, and the values of SIETAR. We started Tweeting our meetings in January when we discussed Intercultural Training Experiential Activities. Here are a few highlights from the Twitter feed:
We did a VisualSpeak activity, “With visuals, what one person sees as the obvious ‘experiential’ connection another person may not see or may find a different thing obvious”
On experiential activities: “You may be really excited to facilitate a certain activity, but you must be receptive to the needs of a group - they may not need it”
On debriefing an activity: “Learning when it is important to give people ‘the point’ and when to give them the time to work to it on their own is important”
In February, we started a two-part series on storytelling. Part one of storytelling was an opportunity for different members to tell a story from their culture or another culture. Most people read storybooks from their childhood or home collections while one member challenged expectations and created the story of Silicon Valley Garages through images on the projector. Some Twitter highlights include:
“4 functions of narratives: how the world works, your place in the world, how to act in the world, how to evaluate what goes on in the world”
Anything can be a story, Hall, 2005, defines “narrative: a retelling of events from a particular perspective”
Morals are often important when telling stories: “The moral for Gaston? Be yourself!”
When the Storytelling topic continued in March (on World Storytelling Day!), we took a practical application approach: Storytelling in Intercultural Teaching and Training. We used StoryCubes to create a story as a team building exercise, worked in pairs to tell each other the story of our names, one member took us through the stages of the IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory) through video stories, and in small groups we talked about using stories for community building/NGOs, education, corporate settings, and for study abroad. Here are some Twitter highlights from March:
“When giving IDI feedback it can be very helpful to ask a client to tell a story - rather than focusing on how to get from stage A to stage B”
“Stories can bring people together - so many people have made fools of themselves in a different culture!”
“Stories must be appropriate and relevant - and not too numerous - or the storyteller loses credibility”
“We all need to hone our listening skills so that we can benefit from others' stories - and have an audience when we want one!”
One member made a great point to close our meeting: “You can never know someone's story unless you ask them”
At SIETAR-MN we are still getting the hang of the technology, but we’re excited to be trying it out as a test-case for the national conference in October. If you want to follow our meetings, you can find us on Twitter at SIETAR_MN.
Lauren Dickinson, SIETAR-MN Planning Committee Member
Cross-cultural dining: SIETAR-MN meets IEarn Pakistan
On a drizzly Monday evening in March, members of SIETAR-MN and IEarn-Pakistan gathered around a table for 12 for an evening of Pakistani cuisine and cultural bridge-building. While the temperature outside might have been cool, the cross-cultural ambiance inside the India House Restaurant on Saint Paul’s historic Grand Avenue was warm and welcoming.
IEarn’s executive director Farah Kamal and financial officer Shahrukh Shah had arrived in Saint Paul the night before, traveling with SIETAR-MN member Bob Boyce. All three had been in Washington, D.C., to attend a 4-day conference on high school international student exchange focusing on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program
. The US Department of State sponsored a number of 3-day extension visits to different regions of the US after the conference. For both Pakistani visitors, it was a first-ever visit to Minnesota. For Shahrukh, whose American sobriquet is “Shark,” this was also a first-ever visit to the US.
The menu for the three-hour dinner was filled with typical Pakistani dishes judiciously selected by the IEarn visitors (mild by Pakistani standards SIETAR members were later told). Throughout the meal, participants shared experiences and compared cultural perspectives about the opportunities and challenges facing the Intercultural Communication field.
Bob Boyce, SIETAR-MN Planning Committee Member
Next Issue of SUSA News: July 2012