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LA GRANDE, Ore. – “Being different is not bad. We should strive to understand each other, whether that be understanding different cultures, ethnicities, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses and so on,” said Michael Fields, a business professor at Eastern Oregon University. “When we understand each other better, we work together better, learn together better and create a better society for people to work and succeed in.”
On Jan. 16, Fields will share his findings at the Eastern Oregon University Colloquium. His research explores, “the impact of pre-college characteristics, the college experience and study abroad on students’ intercultural competence.’”
Intercultural competence is “a set of skills, knowledge and abilities to communicate and interact with people who are different from one another in a positive and productive manner,” Fields said. He found that the value of intercultural competence and its impact aren’t widely known.
Fields sits on EOU’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. His research has allowed him to train faculty, staff and students on how to improve intercultural competency skills on campus and in the real world.
As a business faculty member, Fields incorporates intercultural competence into his classes. He said these skills are a key tool for future managers, leaders, employees, neighbors and participants in the global world. One of his classes participates in an end-of-term international expansion project that asks students to research cultural and economic differences in a foreign country.
He furthered the project by inviting five graduate students to attend his undergraduate classes for a Q&A session. The mentors shared their cultural experiences and had discussions with students about their differences.
Fields found that high-contact, positive experiences like this with people who are different from one another influence intercultural competence.
In March, Fields will attend the Western Business and Management International research Conference to discuss his findings. He said intercultural competence is a powerful skill for people in every field.
“I use this research everywhere,” he said. “One of the aspects of intercultural competence is communication, which is something we do daily as humans, as faculty members, as parents, as community members, as coaches and more. We are often speaking to people who have different views than us, which is what intercultural competence helps prepare people for.”
The Colloquium presentation begins at 4 p.m., Thursday in Ackerman Hall, Room 210.
All EOU Colloquium presentations are live-streamed. The event is free and open to the public.
Written by PR Intern Briana Rosenkranz.
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