Intercultural Strategy

Overview of the Intercultural Understanding Mid-Level Strategic Plan

The Aspiration
UBC aspires to provide a learning experience and university environment that:

  • Equips students with the intercultural skills needed to be more effective leaders, bigger thinkers, exercise more empathy and contribute more in the increasingly complex societies of today and the future;
  • Fosters more dynamic interaction and greater levels of community cohesion across UBC’s diversity of faculty, staff, students and alumni;
  • Produces a deep understanding of the diversity of cultures, worldviews, language and intellect at UBC, ultimately leading towards greater innovation and social sustainability.

The above aspirations around intercultural understanding are essential for achieving UBC’s vision around research, learning, engagement with local and international communities, international orientation, and towards being a place of innovation. The above also take fuller advantage of the diversity of UBC’s student body, the University’s relationship to Musqueam and position on and proximity to the Asia Pacific.

+ The Immediate Need
The needs assessment conducted for The Intercultural Promise revealed the following highlights:

For Faculty and Staff

Faculty observed the following as the top intercultural challenges they face working at a highly diverse university (described in further detail in Appendix I, page 31):

  • A growing cultural gap between faculty and students on academic expectations;
  • The increasing demands of complex intercultural teaching environment;
  • Insufficient incentive for excellence in intercultural teaching and service; and
  • The lack of cross-cultural connection between students and faculty.

Overall, faculty expressed that UBC has diversified (especially as a result of rapid internationalization) faster than it has given faculty the time or resources to adapt, resulting in a decline in their enjoyment in and quality of teaching. Similarly, staff expressed a need for greater intercultural skills, cultural knowledge and interpersonal capacity to adequately support the diversity of the student body and the changing needs of faculty (as a consequence of the increasingly diverse student body).

Both faculty and staff both expressed that management needed greater intercultural aptitudes and skills. Moreover, many faculty and staff felt that UBC was a difficult place to establish and grow meaningful “high-quality peer relationships”, especially with “culturally different” colleagues.

Students and Alumni

Students identified the following intercultural issues:

  • Cultural misunderstanding in the classroom (sometimes developing into conflict);
  • Cultural difficulty and/or barriers meeting new people in class;
  • Self-segregation in class across culture, ethnicity or race;
  • Inability to engage in “difficult conversations” (about cultural differences); and
  • Not knowing how to engage instructors and profoundly different students.

Student focus groups also identified a list of intercultural anxieties found in the Intercultural Promise (Appendix I, page 32). The most acute intercultural issue amongst undergraduate students was identified as a growing tension between Canadian-born (or Canadian-raised) students and students that are new to Canada (either as international or new immigrant students), especially of the same ethnic group. 

= The Strategic Framework and Goals

Addressing the root causes of UBC’s intercultural challenges: In extensive consultation with faculty, staff and students, three core issues surfaced as the root source of UBC’s intercultural struggles:

  1. To be a campus where students, staff and faculty more easily form meaningful social relationships by fostering a culture of dynamic interaction across cultural differences and disciplines;
  2. To grow the capacity for students, faculty, staff and alumni to engage in difficult or courageous conversations about and across social and cultural differences;
  3. To experience intercultural understanding as classroom content, through curriculum, pedagogy and/or student intervention.

Targeted organizational change: Three adjustments are needed to effectively and meaningfully embed intercultural understanding into all aspects of the University experience, in a concrete and lasting way.

  1. To employ intercultural understanding as a means to advance academic and operational excellence;
  2. To be at least the sum of our parts by tightening the connections between existing expertise and experience; and
  3. To enhance our leadership expectations and support of UBC staff through leadership and staff development, in ways that are structurally effective and innovative.

For more information on the implementation of The Intercultural Promise visit or contact Alden E. Habacon through Twitter @aldenhabacon, email, or by phone at 604-825-9618.

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