Welcome to the second installment of a new Gateway series seeking to draw attention to critical topics in our profession. This second installment features Pitzer College and their approach to intercultural understanding.
Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges, is a small liberal arts institution taking big steps toward promoting intercultural understanding.
Achieving student learning outcomes for intercultural understanding is a graduation requirement at Pitzer, which through its “Local” and “Global” “Intercultural Understanding” courses offers perspectives on cultural diversity expressed within or outside the U.S.
All the courses give students the opportunity to look beyond their personal views and gain knowledge and develop empathy for people from different backgrounds. The Intercultural Understanding – Global courses can be taken on campus or during a study abroad program. Pre-COVID, around 60% of Pitzer students studied abroad. Though second-language learning is not a requirement, Pitzer students are required to study the local language during study abroad programs, as a tool to facilitate intercultural understanding.
By collaborating with study abroad program providers like the Spanish Institute for Global Education (SIGE), Pitzer offers students customizable programs that promote learning outcomes consistent with intercultural understanding. “A student going to SIGE experiences the best of both worlds [because they can experience] a community program and a university-based program,” said Ms. Kebokile Dengu-Zvobogo, Associate Dean, International Programs & Study Abroad at Pitzer College. “SIGE provides a safe program with a pedagogical direction that is very similar to Pitzer-wide intercultural understanding.”
The SIGE team takes pride in creating personalized learning experiences. Their programs promote intercultural understanding through language fluency, cultural exchange, and experiential learning. The required introduction to Spain course includes an eight-day intensive Spanish course, in addition to classroom sessions and academic excursions. SIGE also has a carefully crafted homestay component that furthers Pitzer’s Intercultural Understanding students’ learning objectives.
Though going abroad is a great way to learn about cultures different from our own, Pitzer College’s Intercultural Understanding – Local courses enable students to examine cultural diversity and marginalized communities within the U.S. through present and historical contexts. Investigating topics such as intersections among identities, and social hierarchy, gives students a more nuanced and holistic view of U.S. society.
Pitzer’s strategic plan speaks to the objectives of intercultural understanding as, among other things, its goals are to “[b]roaden the interdisciplinary landscape and expand academic resources to better equip students to engage holistically with the complex problems of the world,” and to “[a]dvance a College-wide sense of community and engagement by cultivating an environment where students, faculty and staff all thrive.”
With such goals intrinsic to the institutional strategic plan, and partnerships such as the one with SIGE to help achieve them, we anticipate that intercultural understanding will remain a hallmark of a Pitzer College student’s experience.