Intercultural understanding through language

Intercultural understanding through language

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.

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Episode 29: Cultural Lens on U.S. Higher Education: Analyzing International Perceptions of 'Anti-Woke’ Discourse

Dive into a nuanced exploration of the global discourse surrounding higher education in the United States. Join us for a panel discussion with esteemed international educators as we embark on a journey through the lenses of culture and international perspective, examining how global audiences interpret and engage with the ‘anti-woke’ discourse within the context of U.S. higher education. This engaging panel discussion will delve into the intersections of culture, ideology, and education, and the complex landscape of how international audiences perceive the ‘anti-woke’ narrative that has emerged within U.S. academia.

Whether you’re a senior international officer, or simply curious about the diverse viewpoints shaping U.S. higher education, this podcast episode will provide an invaluable space for critical analysis and insightful conversations.

Speaker Biography:

Fanta Aw is a distinguished leader in international education, renowned for her extensive contributions to global learning, cross-cultural understanding, and educational equity. With a deep commitment to fostering connections between diverse cultures and promoting educational excellence, she has significantly impacted the international education community.

Fanta Aw’s career has been characterized by her dedication to advancing global education initiatives, promoting diversity and inclusion, and nurturing partnerships that transcend borders. She has held influential roles in various organizations, advocating for the importance of international collaboration and learning experiences that empower individuals to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

As a thought leader and visionary, Fanta Aw’s insights and expertise have shaped discussions on the future of international education, emphasizing the significance of equitable access, cultural exchange, and lifelong learning. Her work has not only elevated institutions but has also inspired countless individuals to embrace the transformative power of global education.

Date: September 14th, 2023
Time: 12 noon ET

Sponsored by:

Mark Beirn


An experienced global researcher and administrator, Mark Beirn brings a critical approach to risk management, factoring structural racism and identity-based violence into his rubric for supporting equitable global mobility.

Specialization Areas:

– Global Risk Management
– Education Abroad
– Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in International Education
– Health and Safety
– Curriculum Development


Stephen Appiah-Padi​


Stephen Appiah-Padi is an international educator with several years of teaching and administrative experience in both 4 and 2-year HEIs. An experienced global education practitioner-scholar, with a demonstrated history of success in the field.

Dr. Appiah-Padi has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada in Educational Policy & Administration with a specialization in International/Intercultural Education.

At Northwestern College, he provided oversight in the administration of education abroad and international student services. In Lansing, Michigan, he first oversaw diversity and intercultural education at Lansing Community College, and later created the Center for International and Intercultural Education (CIIE) which merged intercultural engagement and international education programs of the institution, and he became its first director. Additionally, Dr. Appiah-Padi taught a course, “Diversity in the American Workplace”, to undergraduate management students of the College. In his current position, he provides leadership and vision in advancing strategic internationalization initiatives, including international partnerships and study abroad programs at Bucknell University.

Dr Appiah-Padi has created and facilitated several workshops for faculty and staff development in higher education and in business organizations. He has presented at several national and international conferences. In NAFSA, among several volunteer leadership positions, he has served as Dean of the Fundamentals of Intercultural Communication Workshop, the Leadership Development Committee member, Chair of the Africa Special Interest Group, and a Fellow of the Global Fellowship Program for mentoring emerging leaders of internationalization in African HEIs. He currently serves as a member of the NAFSA Board of Directors.

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Rosa Almoguera


Dr. Rosa Almoguera has worked as an international educator for over twenty years. She was trained as a Hispanic Philologist at the Universidad Complutense, in Madrid, and did her M.A. at the University of Pennsylvania. Her Ph.D., from Universidad Complutense included a field study and edition of written balladry “Romancero”. During many years Rosa combined teaching and her role as a senior administrator at the Fundación Ortega-Marañón in Toledo, Spain. At the Foundation, Rosa directed and, in many cases created, programs for the University of Minnesota, Notre Dame, Princeton, Ohio State, Arcadia, and the University of Chicago. She has also been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, University of Portland, and Interamericana de Puerto Rico.

Beginning in 2016, Rosa works as an international education consultant for both public and private European and US higher education institutions. Rosa has been successful in developing new partnerships and programs, as well as helping improve already existing ones.

Rosa is a member of Forum and NAFSA and has presented with higher education professionals on innovative academic and research programming, STEM in study abroad and Nationalism in Europe. Rosa is currently completing the final Professional Certification from the Forum on Education Abroad.

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