The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Cultural Competence

Muhammad Ahsan '19, a student participant in RGLP, learns about the impact of his cultural competence through the Intercultural Development Inventory. 

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When I joined the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, I lacked an actual understanding of what the program really endeavored to achieve, or the methods that it would use. I knew that it was centered around the development of inter-cultural skills to facilitate leadership in an increasingly multi-cultural world, but I never really knew what this would entail, or even, what this meant. Even if they were to attempt to make us more culturally apt, I had no idea how this would happen.                        

I found out how this week when we were introduced to the IDI, or the Intercultural Development Inventory. Rather than just being bombarded with random training sessions, our development would actually be highly regimented, and our progress would be gauged using IDI’s own development test. So, instead of forcing us to attend as many lectures as possible on intercultural growth, our development would have a set routine, and rather than being random, would actually focus on the parts of our personality which needed further development.

This week, we discussed the IDI, and the spectrum of intercultural ability that each individual can lie on. Moreover, before Monday’s session, we had been asked to take a test to gauge our cultural competence. Not having found out the results of my test just yet, I went to the second session of the RGLP, curious as to whether I really was intercultural as I deemed myself; I had to be – I was from Pakistan after all! It turned out that as a group, our perceived competence far surpassed our actual ability, something which was disappointing, but had carried on from previous cohorts. While the results of us as a group were slightly disappointing to me, there was a small flicker of hope that maybe, I did better than the group. A couple of days later, I found out that that was not so, and that in fact, my cultural competence was actually quite close to the group average. An individually scheduled session with an expert in the IDI followed, and I discussed my disappointment with my results, and what I could do to improve on them. After a long discussion of my own inter-cultural background and the challenges that I was facing during my transition to Dartmouth, we were able to develop a schematic which told me exactly what I could do to improve my own cultural ability.

While this week of the IDI was enlightening when it came to informing me about the various stages of cultural aptitude a person could lie on (and how many of us adopt various positions on the scale at different points in our lives), it was also disappointing because it made me realize that I was not as culturally apt as I had previously deemed myself. Having said this, the fact that I now realize that there are certain areas that I need to work on, I am more capable of substantive improvement. The plan that the RGLP helped me develop, I deeply believe, will allow me to do so.

- Submitted by Muhammad Ahsan, a participant in the 16F Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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