In a conversation with Dr. Lindsey Richter1 and Debora Wilhite2, they explain Grace College’s Institute for Global Studies and the new intercultural opportunities that will be available to Grace students. Read on to hear about the Institute’s new vision, to glean insight on how the program is expanding, and to learn the new ways that students at Grace and abroad can get involved.
How did the Institute for Global Studies come to be?
Richter: Last summer, we realized that we had an opportunity to bring together two pieces of an equation. By bringing together the Modern Languages Program and what was the Global Initiatives office, we are able to expand the opportunities we have here on campus and also overseas for cross-cultural learning to happen. We want to break down the divide that can happen between classwork and social life. We’re really hoping that we can be more intentional about the ways that we welcome international students. By having students who will be willing to serve as a welcoming community and also giving our domestic students an opportunity to put their classroom learning into practice, we will be able to better serve both sets of students.
What are each of your roles within the Institute?
Wilhite: I am the program coordinator. I help handle all of our cross-cultural field experiences and our international students. Cross-cultural field experience includes Go Encounter trips, Study Abroad, and Go Exchange. For international students, we handle their cultural transitions and F1 Visas. We try to offer what support we can.
Richter: I oversee the Modern Languages Program as well as teaching the French classes. What I would hope to do in coming alongside Debora is to expand some of our academic-focused offerings. We really feel like we have an opportunity to facilitate the study of other cultures and other languages – not just for the set of students who might be a language major.
Why is it important that we focus on global initiatives and global perspectives?
Richter: There are two pieces to that. There’s the practical side, which is global and intercultural fluency. Employers expect today’s graduates to be capable of dealing with people who have different values, different backgrounds, and different outlooks. If our students are not able to do that, they are not going to be competitive on the market. It is absolutely essential and expected. You may think, ‘What if I want to stay in Indiana for the rest of my life?’ The rural midwest is experiencing an unprecedented surge in diversity. Just in our backyard, we have people from so many different backgrounds. Even if you’re not planning on living overseas, this is a capability that is expected in today’s job market.
I also believe that, as Christians, it is essential that we be prepared and that we be preparing for the Kingdom of God. And when we look at the Bible, we see a very clear picture that God loves diversity – that he is a God of every tribe and every tongue and every nation. When we get to heaven, it’s not going to be all people that look like us. I think we need to remember that our God is so big that God forbid he ever have anything less than the full breadth and width and depth of worship from every people. We need to learn how to love people from other backgrounds and how to reckon with our own set of assumptions that are culturally and historically specific.
What is the vision for this Institute?
Richter: For one, it’s for this to be the start of having an integrated learning space, which would bring together offices and apartments and learning spaces so that students have the opportunity to not just see the learning that happens in the classroom…but that we would bring learning outside of the classroom and life into the classroom. We’re excited to see Grace become more diverse and more globally-minded.
Wilhite: One big goal for all of Grace is promoting issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’re trying to hire an associate dean for that purpose – to serve underrepresented groups and minorities and even international students. Our vision for the Institute is to help in this big vision that Grace – and institutions all over the country – is working towards. We want to facilitate that in any way that we can by hosting events, having lectures, or even being a safe space where people can talk.
Richter: We hope that students from all different majors and backgrounds would be excited to come in. We really want to have events that are focused on business and missions – even connecting students with internships overseas. We want to see students who are going into different kinds of careers coming together and having good conversations that go across the disciplines. It can take the form of social and informal events, just for getting to know some international students or trying some international food, as well as having lectures and cultural workshops that would allow students to enhance their ability to communicate across cultural divides. We’re going to have two professors visiting from Karoli Gaspar this spring. And we expect to have some lectures and workshops with them that will be open to any student. You don’t have to be a specific major to come in and participate in the events we’re doing.
What should students know about the exchange program?
Wilhite: It is offered to all majors and you can study anything. Our exchange schools offer any field of study both in Budapest and in Korea, and the classes are all in English, so you don’t need to learn another language.
Richter: Something else that students don’t realize is that studying abroad can be very affordable. You pay Grace’s tuition with your financial aid package, but you pay the exchange school’s room and board, which is often cheaper. You can go to expand your courses in your major or you can study another niche subject area that maybe Grace doesn’t offer.
What are other ways students can get involved?
Richter: We are opening the global living-learning community here in Encompass starting in the 2020-2021 academic year. We are inviting students of all majors and all minors who have an interest in intercultural study and cross-cultural communication to come live here and be a part of the program. We’re very excited about the living-learning community and excited to start accepting applications for that soon. We want to work with students. As students have ideas, we want to partner with them as they dream of things they would like to do.
1 Director of the Institute for Global Studies and Director of the Modern Languages Program
2 Program Coordinator of the Institute for Global Studies