Podcast with Dr. Michael “Mick” Vande Berg.

Mick has been a long-time friend and advocate of AFS Intercultural, Inc. Last week Linda Stuart had the chance to talk with Mick about his role in the development of the Global Competence Certificate, his keynote at AFS Colombia and his forthcoming book, Intercultural education from the inside out. co-edited with interculturalists Tara Harvey, Ph.D. and Charles Calahan, Ph.D.

Listen to the full podcast here:


Michael “Mick” Vande Berg, Ph.D. is an IDI Qualified Administrator and an IDI Qualifying Seminar Instructor.  Principal and Founder of MVB Associates, LLC, he has held leadership positions at a number of institutions that are unusually committed to international and intercultural education, including el Instituto Internacional, in Madrid, Spain, Kalamazoo College,  Michigan State University, the School for International Training Georgetown University and CIEE: Council on International Educational Exchange. He has been the principal investigator of several research projects, including the Georgetown Consortium Study. His publications include Spanish-to-English translations of two classics of Spanish twentieth-century literature, numerous articles, and chapters on literary and intercultural topics, and (with Michael Paige Ph.D. and Kris Lou Ph.D.) Student Learning Abroad: What Our Students Are Learning, What They’re Not, and What We Can Do About It.


Interview highlights

Linda: You were a member of a large international team that designed the original curriculum for the AFS Global Competence Certificate, otherwise known as the GCC. What can you tell us about that tool and what it was designed to do?

Mick: What struck me about it was that we were all experienced intercultural trainers and designers. And, of course, that was a great advantage, but we came to this with some different approaches. What we shared was an understanding that students weren’t learning automatically, by going abroad. We believed, and we knew from research we had been involved in, each of us, that students can learn, can develop intercultural learning abroad. But it’s not automatic, we need to intervene in student’s learning.

Linda: Let me just say that the people I know that have seen that four-step-pathway have been struck by how clear it is. At the same time, it is complex and needs to be described, learners suggest  it brings clarity and affirm “Ok, I get this.” By engaging in these phases, it starts to clarify the pathway for global competence development.

Mick: I think that’s the intention behind it. That’s it very clearly. What are the central things that we need to do when we’re training people, to help them develop interculturally? And I’ll add this because it needs to be added. It’s not only a question of our helping others develop interculturally. What’s at the heart of the four-phase development framework is that this is about us developing interculturally.

So, really, as a starting point, even before we get to the four-phases, there’s an understanding, and we shared, the seven of us on that team shared this. That we need to be really committed to our own intercultural development to be able to help others develop. We are a learner along with our students.

But it’s also we don’t want to turn away from the differences. And when we do that, when we help people do that and understand that the differences aren’t going anywhere, it presents us with a challenge. It’s easy at that point then to feel negative about the differences. So the third phase is what can we do to manage our own responses to differences that are challenging for us, differences that are disorienting for us? The way that we state it, in terms of the phases is that we’re interested in helping people become more mindful about how they are responding to the differences and the commonalities of others.

The GCC is one of the applications, that’s out there right now of these four phases. And I’m glad to have played this role in it and to continue to be able to play a role… I think it’s a really important tool. It’s a curriculum that students find it very easy to engage with. And at the same time, what can I, as an educator, do to integrate myself into this curriculum? And I think the research that’s been done using pre and post IDI assessments demonstrates pretty clearly that the GCC is very valuable as an instrument and that we are learning how to use the GCC to its greatest effect.

Linda:  I was just curious if you could expand a bit on that training that you give and maybe just say a few words, a few sentences about what it is you that make sure is present in those intercultural seminars when you’re delivering to faculty?

Mick: The experiences that we’re having with our students, from my perspective and, I think, a growing number of us, a need to have an intercultural experience with the people I’m working with. It has to start with me, the engagement that I have, the kind of modeling that’s taking place, that people see me as fully capable, both of succeeding sometimes and failing other times to engage in the cultural ethics I think is really important. And so, that’s where I would start and that’s where I do start this, talking about: what is our role as an educator? What are our expectations? What is it that we’re trying to accomplish? We’re certainly trying to help our students but what I’m saying I guess is, in order to help our students we need to help ourselves as well.

Linda: You alluded earlier that there isn’t any tool quite like the GCC out there, yet.  If we could scale this, when we scale this, could you tell us what is the difference it could truly make if this tool went beyond, even though it’s 5500 learners that are out there now? What difference would a scaled up GCC really make?

Mick: Everyday, we will visit ourselves and we will visit how we’re making sense of ourselves and we will visit how we make sense of other people and we will make sense of the idea that we could live in a world that’s more peaceful and more just. And we kept doing that. And we kept exercising the practices that we got through our involvement with a tool like the GCC. I don’t think it would take a very high percentage of human beings in a given environment to have a really profound social impact. I don’t think that’s wishful thinking. I think it’s something that happens instead of abroad groups, we know this happens.

Are we in fact interested in having the students’ half-opportunities to continue engaging in these ways when they come back home? Or students who have been abroad, who have benefited and grown and developed interculturally, offered opportunities by us, educators, when they come to their home campus. Or do we basically say to them: “been there, done that and now you come back to your lives”? So, I think that’s a challenge for us. I think moving forward, that’s a real challenge. Once we begin and once the moment begins to build in individuals and in groups, we really have to figure out ways, as educators, to continue to challenge them, to continue to offer them opportunities for their own development.