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To Hell With Good Intentions

To Hell With Good Intentions

Tool Objectives:

  1. To better understand the implications of global service-learning through a critical perspective.
  2. To identify and reflect upon one’s own motivation for engaging in global service-learning.
  3. To enable one to develop a better sense of social responsibility and community engagement.

Tool Description:

In recent years, there has been astonishing growth in international programming that embeds service-learning or some form of community engagement.  This discussion-based activity builds on Ivan Illich’s famous 1968 speech, “To Hell with Good Intentions.” Through a facilitated discussion and reflective assignment, students are asked to collectively critique their program and their motivations for engaging in global service-learning. The faculty leader/program director may want to invite an external facilitator who can openly engage with and challenge the students in the spirit of Illich. The planned service-learning program should be focus of discussion.  Alternatively, a sample case study has been provided.

Tool Procedures:

  1. Students should be required to read the transcript of the famous 1968 speech by Illich prior to the group meeting, as follows:
  2. Initiate a discussion with the students by posing various questions about the upcoming service-learning program.
    • What is the nature of the program and the program purpose?
    • What type of work will be done?  Are materials are being brought with the group (and at what cost) or bought locally?
    • Who are the community partners and how have they been engaged in the development of this program?
    • Are any local people being hired to work with the group, and if so, at what remuneration?
    • How much will it cost for each student to participate in the upcoming program? Calculate the total amount it will cost for the full group.
    • What is the average annual income of a person in the host country?  Relate the total cost of the program to the number of annual salaries earned in the host country.
    • What is the language spoken in the host country?  Determine how many students in the group speak the host country language.
  3. Three passages from Illich’s speech have been selected for small group discussions.  As time allows, work through the small group discussions with students. Select students to read aloud each passage. Consider the following facilitation questions for large group discussions:
    • What do you think you could do to try to become aware of other culture’s criticisms of dominant US culture?  What can you do before and during your time abroad to learn about diverse cultures within the host country?
    • Why do you need to go there? What will you bring that is needed (i.e., skills, knowledge, etc.)?  Why not just send the resources?
    • How have you been preparing yourself for this service-learning program?

After the small group discussions, move from Illich to facilitate a broader discussion of what all of this means for the upcoming service-learning program. Discuss the expressed needs of the host community, the needs and goals of the students themselves, and the broader issues of reciprocity and equity. Review the goals of the service-learning program and how the program will respond to the stated needs and goals of the host community.

Optional:  While abroad, facilitate a discussion with the students in which the topic of “helping” is revisited.  Upon return, facilitate a discussion on social responsibility and community engagement with students.  Ask what they will be doing differently now that they have participated in this particular service-learning program and how they will continue to engage in service now that they are back, whether on campus or in the local community.

Tool Evaluation:

Based on the discussion-based activity and the reading of Ivan Illich, each student should submit a 2-3 page reflection paper prior to departure addressing one of the following questions:

  • If I believe that I should still go on this trip, what do I need to learn about myself and my own culture before I go?
  • Before I go, how will I learn about [Ethiopia] and the diverse [Ethiopian] cultures with which I will have contact?
  • What are the pitfalls of travel that Illich mentions that most worry me? How can I avoid those?
  • How can I meet [Ethiopians] who can tell me to “go to hell” and therefore try to develop meaningful relationships with them?

Tool Time Requirement:

At least one class session prior to departure.

Tool Author(s):

Adapted by A. Ogden, E. Hartman, and A. Lutterman-Aguillar, 2014 based on Kent Roth’s presentation on “To Hell with Good Intentions.” Available at, youtube.com/watch?v=hhQcYMs0SmA

Tool Handouts [.doc or .docx]:
To Hell with Good Intentions

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.