The Intercultural Learning Certificate Program, which began with 20 students, currently has 180 students.
Twenty Elon seniors in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education were a part of the initial cohort of Teaching Fellows to graduate from the Intercultural Learning Certificate Program (ILCP). These inaugural program graduates were recognized during a ceremony in McKinnon Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
“The goal of the program is to enable students to identity, synthesize and integrate academic coursework and co-curricular experiences in order to be active citizens who exercise skills and behaviors to effectively engage across differences,” said Cherrel Miller Dyce, associate professor of education and executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion in the Watts Williams School of Education.
The ILCP builds upon existing and new courses, programs and workshops within the university. Students enroll in the program in the fall semester of their sophomore year and must complete it by the fall of their senior year before they begin student teaching in the spring.
During their five semesters in the ILCP, students complete the Intercultural Development Inventory, which is 40 hours of in-field training followed by an experiential reflection. At the end of the project, students prepare a capstone poster project chronicling their learning in the program.
Xiomara Garcia ’22, a special and elementary education major and graduate of the program, said that through the eight modules, 11 co-curricular experiences and 40 hours of service, she has learned a lot about herself and looks forward to implementing what she has learned going forward.
“The whole process is to become more aware of different cultures and how to be more aware of our privileges and personal identities,” Garcia said.
Maia Tice ’22, a mathematics major with teaching licensure, said during her time at Elon she has participated in several initiatives outside of the ILCP that have shaped her view on not only teaching but the world.
“I feel like with everything I’ve learned, I’ve grown so much because I realized how little I knew and now I have way more questions,” Tice said.
Ashley Tatum ’22, an English major with teacher licensure, said that with the ILCP she’s been able to connect more deeply to her own personal identities. Before coming to college, she didn’t have a strong connection to her identities which made it hard to understand why others would be so connected to their identities.
“I was able through the program to establish such a strong understanding of who I am as a person and how that impacts my life experiences,” Tatum said. “That helped to better prepare me to understand other people’s identities.”
Two of the graduates, Caitlin Strickland ’22 and Chloe Yoon ’22, were keynote speakers at the graduate and reflected on their experience with interculturality and how they’ve come to understand it through their personal lives.
Yoon said she saw the sea of white people on the first day of Elon orientation, connecting and bonding, but she didn’t see herself – “the flustered Asian girl who questioned if she even had a place on this campus.” She assumed many saw her identity as “foreign,” an identity many would view as unknown or that many would not care to know.
Strickland, a biracial Black woman, was raised in Evanston, Illinois, by her white mother. She said it was hard growing up in a white household but was lucky to learn the “beauty of unification.” Strickland said that coming to Elon was one of the largest culture shocks of her life, and that she, like many students of color, shared a feeling of loneliness when entering predominately white institutions.
They both said they are fortunate to be a part of the ILCP to have the opportunity to change students’ lives firsthand, making them feel welcomed, understood and seen.
“Despite Caitlin and I coming from different backgrounds, we share the same experiences of isolation as people of color on Elon’s campus,” Yoon said. “We wanted diversity to be a conversation starter, not a conversation stopper. We realized that the work began with us.”
“Elon holds countless other events to educate students on these issues. But the true change begins when we all insert ourselves into different sectors with the knowledge and skills that we have obtained,” Strickland said.
Ann Bullock, dean of the Watts Williams School of Education, said the program reflects the “expertise and desire to create better educators” of Dyce, who is the leader of the ILCP. Bullock said intercultural skills are paramount in engaging with others on a more profound level. Not only to build mutual understanding and community but to deepen learning.
“In addition to enhancing your intercultural competence, you have increased dispositions you will need as educators including resilience, perseverance and patience,” Bullock said. “Students, please know that your journey as an equity-minded educator will continue. We hope that all of you will reflect on your results. We look forward to watching each of you grow.”
The 20 students who graduated from the Intercultural Learning Certificate Program were:
- Meredith Adair
- Megan Aurentz
- Anthony Cancro
- Kasey Collins
- Megan Farris
- Allie Forsterer
- Xiomara Garcia
- Ellie Gaudin
- Olivia Hoffer
- Sydnie Holder
- Grace Kennedy
- Erika Kim
- Rachel Leonard
- Lana Newman
- Celia Skulnik
- Caitlin Strickland
- Ashley Tatum
- Maia Tice
- Maddie Walter
- Chloe Yoon