Serena de la Cruz ’19 RGLP Reflection: “Learning Culture on Campus”

Each fall, winter, and spring, the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program (RGLP) brings together student leaders to increase their understanding of global leadership and intercultural competency. Through weekly sessions with speakers and a culminating experience to either Boston or Montreal, the students are able to learn about themselves and cross-cultural leadership. 

Fall 2019 participants were asked to write a blog post, reflecting on the topics and lessons learned throughout the program. Below are reflections from the Fall 2019 cohort who spent a weekend in Montreal as part of their culminating experience.

Being a part of RGLP was a rewarding experience because it created a space to talk about diversity on campus with people with backgrounds different from my own. Usually when I talk about diversity on campus, it is within my friend group, with people I already know, trust, and usually share some similarities with in terms of identity. RGLP gave me an avenue to participate in a different kind of reflection on diversity – one in which I was pushed to practice intercultural dialogue with people I did not already know. For these scenarios and conversations, we did have the benefit of being self-selecting participants. However, the skills we practiced in sessions and on excursions will stay with me beyond this program.

Something I really valued about this experience was that it pushed us to recognize our own biases in how we typecast each other and reflect on how our identities contribute to this. One of the exercises I remember most was led by Dr. Dottie Morris who had us group together by the aspects of our identities that we felt most defined us in certain scenarios. It was really interesting to see how we all divided ourselves up and to hear concrete examples from my peers. RGLP also felt like an appropriate space to be having these conversations on identity. A lot of times in classrooms, well-intentioned professors and peers can put the burden on students from under-represented backgrounds to teach the class about who they are when their identity relates to course material. While these types of learning opportunities are part of what makes diversity in education so valuable, so is respecting people to share at their own rate. RGLP was a space for people to do so, and that type of respect and openness were a key part of my enjoyment of the program.

The excursions and cultural experiences were a key part of my RGLP experience. In particular, I really connected to Fua’s Capoeira class. It was an opportunity to explore the way culture presents itself physically. I enjoyed pushing myself out of my comfort zone with the musical instruments and the way Fua pressed us to not be shy and embrace a different understanding of socialization. In particular, I really appreciated and reflected on Fua’s observation that unlike in his native Brazil, the United States does not have a standard social etiquette, which leads to the type of shyness and self-consciousness he observes. His reflections on life in the United States and Germany interspersed with dance and song was a dynamic way to learn and it deeply impressed itself on my memory. 

It would be remiss to reflect on RGLP without at least mentioning Montreal. I am so thankful to this program for opening me up to a place I had never been before and removing the hurdles to experiencing other cultures. The experience of learning from Deaf instructors pushed me to think about creating a more equitable society and diverse understandings of the world. The trip also gave me a chance to bond with the other participants in RGLP. Much of the trip was spent walking from space to space and I really treasured the conversations that our excursions spurred. 

This experience would not have been possible without the kindness and hard work of the people who lead and make RGLP possible. I am so thankful to Ariel, Bob, Sadhana, our speakers, and team leaders who went above and beyond to create a humble and smooth program. 

-Written by Serena de la Cruz ’19, Fall 2019 RGLP Participant 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.