456662 Global Culture Exchange

Monday, November 14, 2016: 10:16 AM
Continental 2 (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Christi Patton Luks, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, Missouri University of Science & Technology, Rolla, MO

At a public engineering school in the Midwest, the undergraduate students are frequently faced with their first introduction to people from other cultures and races. The current political climate and the recent events at the University of Missouri have polarized students and many have chosen to embrace their prejudices rather than learn to overcome them. At my university, the majority of the clashes and negative attitudes have been strongly tied to country of origin. After hearing students’ harshly prejudicial comments about classmates and faculty and seeing these negative attitudes in evaluations of teammates on group projects, I developed a plan for a program to help our students see each other in a new way. The department quickly adopted this program.

The Global Culture Exchange program is a monthly program where a student or faculty member presents information about their home. This frequently includes a bit about the history of their country, the geography, and the educational system. Presenters usually include photos of their homes and families, favorite recreational activities, favorite music, and the food. After the presentation, the group is invited to a light lunch featuring foods from that area. The presenter is typically bombarded with questions during the lunch. In each case, the students that present have become, instantly, a more integrated part of the student body. This new attitude persists long after the presentation.

So far, presentations have been skipped the globe from Iran to Russia to Bangladesh to Honduras and more. At the request of the students, we plan to incorporate a few regions of the U.S. as well. The Global Culture Exchange program has been a useful tool to open up communications within the department and encourage the student to be more accepting of those who are different from them.

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See more of this Session: Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division