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

Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

Elian Gerard '22 RGLP Reflection: Our Journey Has Just Begun

The Spring 2020 RGLP program will go down in the history of the Rockefeller Center as one of the most unique and relevant times for students to engage in activities and discussions aimed at bridging gaps between people of different origins and cultural backgrounds. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many new intangible challenges with regards to human empathy in the world that we live in, such as the mass discrimination against people from South East Asia. Moreover, in the United States, the assassination of George Floyd and the wave of protests that are following it are proof that humans are far from achieving equality of opportunities, treatment and respect and this is due to prejudices embedded in race, origin, sex, and social class. For that reason, this program was more valuable than ever this term because during these chaotic times, the speakers and the discussions that we had with our peers are essential to help us cope with the negative shocks to the tolerance, acceptance, and unity of the human race that recent world events have brought about.

Dominic Repucci '21 RGLP Reflection: To Help the World, You Must First Understand Yourself

Early on in the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program, our small cohort of students learned the difference between ethnocentrism and ethno-relativism.  Whereas someone who is ethnocentric has a narrow-minded view of the world and considers their own culture to be that of all humans, someone who embodies the ethno-relativist mindset thinks in a different way.  Rather than being blind to cultures of the world, an ethno-relativist is aware of their own culture and how it impacts their viewpoints, while also exhibiting the same consciousness for other cultures.  For a person like me, this requires the recognition of my own cultural identity as being a straight white male from an upper middle-class family, who after attending a local public high school, ran for his college cross country team, enjoys music, and is excited to continue learning about history from all periods of time and all regions of the globe.  All of these factors make me who I am today, and influence how I make decisions, interact with others, and go about my daily life.  I am aware of the potential bias that my own cultural identity can have on the opinions I share, and now analyze my interactions to try to remove

Delaney Marshall '21 RGLP Reflection: Overcoming Awkwardness to Be a Better Leader

RGLP forced me to take a deeper look into myself in order to analyze what learned behaviors, biases, or aspects of my culture were preventing me from truly being able to look at other cultures with understanding and empathy. The remote format for this term presented a new challenge for everyone involved, and I want to thank Leslie, Sadhana, and all of our guest speakers for showing us firsthand what it means to be adaptable by successfully maintaining an engaging and enriching program. I was able to open up with the group about other intercultural experiences I have had and through that I have learned a lot about my leadership style and how I can better understand and transcend cultural barriers as a leader in the future.

Anya Sorenson '22 RGLP Reflection: Exploring Conflict

Anyone who knows me well would admit that my conflict style is direct. When it comes to any type of problem, large or small, I’m not the kind of person who likes to “beat around the bush”. I prefer open conversations that address the problem at hand. While not always associated with French culture, the French are very direct with both positive and negative comments. As my mother is French, my French American family is no different. Growing up in South Florida added to this, as most of my friends developed the same conflict style in their families as well. While I’m in no way saying that conflict was always resolved smoothly, open and direct discussion were the norm.

Amanda McIntyre '22 RGLP Reflection: Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Culture shock is the discomfort, anxiety, and sometimes embarrassment one experiences when being in a space where that person’s own cultural norms are not the general norm. Moreover, culture shock is displacement and the constant obsession of one feeling as if they do not belong. No, I cannot speak to everyone’s experiences, but I find it hard to believe someone has not experienced culture shock at least once. No, culture shock cannot be avoided; however, yes, there are ways one can overcome the symptoms of culture shock.

Ellie Briskin '21 RGLP Reflection: The Difference Between Intention and Perception

             There is a largely under-appreciated difference between intention and perception. In our day-to-day lives, each of us may intend for our words and actions to convey a certain meaning, and believe that meaning has been clearly expressed. Yet there is no guarantee that others are actually perceiving our meaning as intended.

             People often don’t bother going out of their way to assure their actions are interpreted as planned, for we often make the mistake of assuming that everyone sees the world as we do. Along this line of thinking, we assume everyone has the same, uniform understanding of the norms which define things like what it means to be sexist, what it means to be racist, what it means to be rude, and what it means to be kind. Yet so many of these “norms” are actually socially and culturally dictated, leading to a high level of misunderstandings in cross-cultural interactions.

Sam Tabrisky '22 RGLP Reflection: How History Informs Present-Day Intercultural Communication and Leadership

The most interesting RGLP session for me was Dr. Gama Perruci’s. As an avid lover of history, I find the ways in which history can inform our decisions in the present to be fascinating. This poses the question: how can history inform present day intercultural communication and leadership? Dr. Perruci walked us through the history of national identity and how that has evolved recently in our increasingly globalized world. Reconciling historical national identity with globalization is a problem that many countries around the world are wrestling with right now and has led to the rise of reactionary leaders who promise a return to a mythical, less connected past. If we are to apply the categories of cultural understanding, then these reactionaries and the people that support them are most likely in stages 1 or 2, denial and defense. Historically, the average person did not have to interact with members of different cultures, or at the very least, members of cultures drastically different than them. These centuries of isolation make a lethal combination when combined with nationalism. Nationalism, like many human cultural developments, has its place in history.

Selina Noor '22 RGLP Reflection: Culture as a Gateway to Identity

As a first generation American-born citizen, I’ve had the privilege to grow up in an environment where my cross-cultural experiences have shaped me and influenced my perspectives on the things that define me. It’s possible to say that a child raised to enjoy quintessentially Bangladeshi dishes like murgi bhuna, listen to Bruce Springsteen on Sunday night drives, wake up at five in the morning to start prayer during Eid al-Adha, and scream her lungs out while watching her hometown football team, the Kansas City Chiefs, score a touchdown has a diverse outlook on the atmosphere around her. I’ve been blessed to be able to incorporate my two cultures into my daily life such that my identity would be incomplete without them. The perspectives I’ve gained while learning about what it means to be a Bangladeshi American with multicultural interests have enabled me to appreciate others’ diverse backgrounds and try to learn more about the connections different cultures share. RGLP helped me understand how realizing that such connections exist is vital to leadership through a global lens.

Sasha Kokoshinskiy '22 RGLP Reflection: A Dual Identity Amongst Dueling Cultures

Growing up, I was always fascinated observing Russia and America engage in a power struggle within the world. As someone who grew up with an American upbringing in a Russian household, I could not understand why these two cultures were always exchanging various undiplomatic tit-for-tats. If the Russian and American parts of me were able to peacefully coexist, why was that not mirrored in the real world?

I came to later learn the various reasons as to why this conflict continued to take place (political tensions post-Cold War, etc.), but I still could not come to understand the lack of cultural appreciation and understanding that people continued to have, from both the East and the West. Just as there were times where people in Russia were inconsiderate of my American culture, there were equally as many times where Americans were inconsiderate of my Russian culture. 

Whether it was making rash, stereotypical comments, not being willing to recognize a certain custom I have, or being ignorant of my dual identity, I have questioned (far too many times) whether or not I would ever feel comfortable being a “Russian-American” in my day-to-day life.

Sam Zhang '22 RGLP Reflection: "Immersing Yourself in Unknown Situations"

It often seems to me that people in the 21st Century are both closer and farther apart. People nowadays are more aware of societies and cultures detached from their own, both geographically and culturally. However, there’s also a certain comprehension that can only be achieved through immersing yourself in unknown situations and places. It’s true that through pictures, one can discover and recognize foreign cultures. However, pictures are only a snapshot in time. The element of interaction is what I’ve discovered to be the most important – through unscripted conversations with strangers, you genuinely understand the ideas that drive them and how they, in return, respond to your unconscious habits and beliefs.

Life does not always go according to plan, and it’s important to accept that reality. However, I don’t believe that a conversation gone astray should be written off as a loss. That’s where the concept of the culture shock comes into play. Certainly, every person responds to strange situations differently.

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