Where Global Becomes Local: the Global Temple Conference
By Kime Lawson, Assistant EditorIntentionally coinciding with the Department of State and the Department of Education's "International Education Week," the Seventh Annual Global Temple Conference hosted around six hundred at the Howard Gittis Student Center on November 14th. Nearly 125 Temple faculty and students displayed their cutting-edge international initiatives in teaching, learning and research to largely positive reviews from the attendees.
The Hon. Peter S. Watson kicked off the conference, assessing by continent the international policy challenges the Obama administration will face in the next four years in his keynote address, "President Obama's Greatest Global Challenge." Watson's plenary covered the all-too-familiar players in American strategic discussions like Iran and China, but added that the State Department needs also to focus on long-term goals in places where US leadership has been eroding, like Asia and the Pacific. After the convocation, the conference broke out into a full day of panel discussions, documentaries, presentations and roundtables.
Teachers familiar with interdisciplinary approaches often stress the concept of cross-cultural competency to students, and the idea is central to Temple curricular programs like Gen Ed. Yet there is no real professional scale to measure a student's progress. Dr. Janice Laurence from Adult and Organizational Development, with Nicole Pumphrey and Cliff Tironi, presented their research on developing and implementing a scale to quantify students' cross-cultural competency in "Global Competence: Through the Looking Glass (and What Students Found There)." Understanding an unfamiliar culture is one thing, but being able to perform a culture is an entirely different experience. Measuring understanding with performance together within one analytical metric had not been done. Dr. Laurence, whose specialty is in organizational psychology, has piloted a theoretical framework and designed a scale to account for both sides. Working with Dr. Laurence, Pumphrey (International Programs) and Tironi (Full-time MBA Programs) led a year-long study among forty Fox Business School students, for the purposes of increasing cross-cultural competency in their study abroad programs and building networking skills in their local MBA program. Their testing, based on a 360˚feedback model, tracked significant changes in students' performance over eight separate competencies and promises to be a baseline for more ground-breaking research.
Another panel, "Perspectives on Internationalized Education," addressed the pedagogical and cultural challenges international students may face at Temple. Elvis Wagner of Teaching and Learning and Janice Duenas-McKnight from the International Teaching Assistant Program each discussed the added cultural work International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) must do to become attuned to teaching in American classrooms. Most of Temple's ITAs have to master the various tropes of American college classroom culture in mere weeks. About 75 incoming ITAs face this problem each fall semester. Without a scale to measure cross-cultural competency, the ITA program can rely only on TOEFL scores to judge an incoming ITA's initial classroom proficiency. To train ITAs in skills that TOEFL cannot quantify, the International Teaching Assistant Program runs a training course (ITA 5221) to assist ITAs in learning the nuances of American classroom culture. ITA 5221 focuses on building classroom tools like improvisational discussion or using practical classroom technology like Blackboard, while also familiarizing ITAs with expected classroom norms. All ITAs must test out or take ITA 5221, while no additional test or course is required to evaluate native English speaking teaching assistants. Two other presenters in this panel, Benhee Lee and Lina Je, also highlighted different sides of the experiences of Korean students in the United States and studying abroad. Benhee Lee, a Ph.D. candidate from Psychological Studies in Education, introduced her research investigating the motivations of Korean college students choosing to study in the United States from an expectancy-value perspective that explores students' expectations of future value while framing students' motivations within their native cultural contexts. Lina Je, an undergraduate Communication Sciences major, shared her learning experiences from studying abroad two different summers in Korea as a second generation Korean American. She discovered that her parent's homeland was not as familiar as she had assumed it would be, but expressed joy about being able to encounter it for herself and with friends through Temple's Education Abroad.
For the rest of the day twenty six other sessions and eighteen exhibitors, too many to profile here of course, showcased the internationally oriented research of faculty and students from a variety of programs: Fox School of Business, Teaching and Learning, the College of Liberal Arts, and the School of Medicine. Latin American Studies, a program folded into the History Department by CLA, made a particularly strong showing in multiple conference panels. Overall, the conference was a success and did the important work of connecting Temple scholars who have international interests for yet another year.
Sponsored by Education Abroad, International Affairs and GenEd, the Global Temple Conference is an opportunity for Temple researchers at every level to network and to share their work with the larger Temple community since it was conceived eight years ago by the Faculty Senate International Programs Committee. Denise Connerty, Assistant Vice President for International Affairs and the primary point person for the conference, says that Global Temple is currently "for Temple and by Temple" but the organizers hope that in coming years the conference will open up to scholars outside of the Temple community. Among the universities in our Philadelphia consortium, Temple has unique advantages and opportunities in creating mutually beneficial initiatives overseas, just as Professor of Strategic Management Guntram Werther wrote in the Herald a year ago. •