Ensign’s Intercultural Task Force Commences

President Margee Ensign has announced her first initiative at Dickinson college: an Intercultural Competency Task Force. The Task Force, which is made up of 19 staff, faculty and students, plans to increase intercultural awareness and knowledge and, as the Dickinson website states, “make Dickinson a national leader in intercultural conversations by establishing best practices.”

According, Brenda Bretz, vice president for institutional effectiveness and inclusivity and co-chair of the task force, Task Force members were chosen through Ensign’s office based on interest and experience in intercultural relations and awareness. The team includes a variety of faculty and staff from many departments on campus as well as numerous students.

“Establishing the Intercultural Task Force was one of my first actions at Dickinson because I believe all of us…need to be able to acknowledge our own cultural background, recognize others have different cultural perspectives and develop the skills to communicate across that difference,” said Ensign.

This initiative will also focus on potential improvements the school can make. “The formation of the task force has raised the profile for that work on campus and has provided a framework to organize the work we are already doing, evaluate its effectiveness and determine, collaboratively, how we can continue to improve,” said Bretz.

To increase cultural awareness and create a safe space for everyone, the task force is hoping to expand the diversity workshops and classes already offered on campus to allow for intermediate and advanced programs throughout students’ four years at Dickinson explained Bretz.

In addition, they intend to incorporate regular events for students, faculty and staff, including a variety of speakers and films. According to Bretz, the team has also created the Intercultural Development Index (IDI) to help “determine where individuals and groups fall on the continuum of intercultural sensitivity.” The IDI will help students identify their own intercultural awareness as well as provide the college with information that the community is interested in and can benefit from.

The Intercultural Competency Task Force focuses on community cohesion.  As a campus, this initiative is supposed to work towards embracing diversity and using it as a learning opportunity for the entire campus. “In a rapidly changing world, Dickinsonians need to continue to be effective global citizens, who know how to get things done, respectfully work with a wide variety of people and appreciate that diversity and difference, while sometimes a challenge, contribute to better ideas and solutions,” said Bretz.

Another goal of the Task Force is to send students abroad better prepared and more culturally aware, both before and after study abroad. To bridge the gap between domestic and international students on campus and send students abroad properly prepared, the Task Force is working and creating new activities with experts on campus from global study and engagement. “We have multiple cultures represented here on campus and in our greater Carlisle community,” says Bretz. “Students who take advantage of the opportunities to engage with and learn from and share their learning in this environment are much better prepared to continue doing that work when they cross a geographic border to study.”

Bretz also specified the Task Force’s three main objectives: create opportunities for students, faculty and staff to effectively and constructively engage with others; create the conditions in which campus community members can take risks in learning; and improve the quality of how we live, learn and work with others different than ourselves.

“This is something our country and the wider world, needs. And it’s something our students will need not just during their time at Dickinson, but when they graduate and work in a global environment,” said Ensign. “I believe Dickinson can become a national leader in intercultural competency and communication.”