Our institution has a multicultural program, designed to enhance and foster multicultural competencies among students. Students are selected for their high academic potential and their interest in international matters, global issues, and language learning. An important part of the multicultural methodology is based on the IES assessment. Students take the IES assessment when enrolling in the first semester. In their tutoring class, they analyze the results and draw a personal development plan. During their last semester, students take the IES assessment again and measure their evolution.
Multicultural program teachers are responsible for designing and implementing interdisciplinary projects every semester. When designing the project, teachers use the IES group report to identify specific dimensions to work on with students.
Recognizing Areas To Grow
Last year, analyzing the IES group report for first semester students, it appeared the group scored low in the Exploration key area and a substantial part was scoring low in the key area of World Orientation. Debrief sessions showed that students underestimated the transversal importance of multicultural competencies in every aspect of life, personal and professional.
Therefore, the team decided to build a project that will completely move them out of their comfort zone: something they had never done. We looked for a field highly international where multicultural competencies are necessary, but not known by students. We chose science and decided to study how scientists were working in international teams on the fields, but as well throughout extensive international collaborations.
Creating Opportunities to Expand
At the end of the semester, students were taken to the Altar desert in the Pinacate Biosphere Natural Reserve to camp and ascend the Pinacate summit. We got up in the middle of the night and walked half the way up by night to see the sunrise from the skirt of the mountain.
For most of the students, it was their first night under a tent, first big hike, first night walk, and so on. For many, it was quite a challenge but they all loved it.
In order to prepare the trip, we focused on the scientific aspects. Students interviewed scientists to understand how they were working, how international collaboration was essential to them. and how the understanding of the environment they were studying was crucial.
We hosted a conference on the geological and seismological aspect of the desert in which we discovered how geologists from all over the world work in the area. Students investigated the desert ecosystem and discovered that scientists from all over the country were watching over a very peculiar species of bats that breeds in this desert but then migrates back to Jalisco where it is the indispensable pollinator for the agave plant. This is the plant out of which Tequila is produced. Talking with the archeologists from Trincheras we discovered that the “Fin del Mundo” site was part of a network of sites throughout America that was backing up the main theory of America peopling.
Last semester when we analyzed graduating students results in their exit IES survey, we realized that for the 2nd year in a row students scoring low in the key area of Positive Regard, whereas they have been clearly developing their Interpersonal Engagement dimension, and their Continuous Learning one. So we are preparing for next semester to include a project with a strong personal connection and empathy with members of our neighboring indigenous community.