One of the accomplishments I’m most proud of is my involvement in developing and continuing the Community of Respect training program at Texas A&M and in the local community. The objective of the program is to teach participants about cultural differences and to encourage them to think critically about the impact of their cultural values and the role those values play in judging behaviors and their relationships with others.
We developed the curriculum for the Community of Respect train-the-trainer and seminar series as a multicultural diversity program designed to show how cultural values determine behaviors, which are often misinterpreted, and how to effectively communicate with someone from another culture or ethnicity.
It was developed to respond to a specific need at Texas A&M following a tragic explosion and fire in the fall of 2004 at the University Apartments. These apartments house a large segment of the university’s international students and their families. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that one of the contributing factors was cross-cultural miscommunication. At the same time, there were a number of incidences that occurred in the community targeting others who were obviously different.
We began the program with a grant from the U.S. Department of State in 2005, which provided funds to develop the curriculum. In addition to Texas A&M, the partners for the grant included the City of College Station, the City of Bryan, Blinn Community College and the Bryan-College Station Chamber of Commerce.
After the grant period ended, the program curriculum was redesigned to meet the needs of a wider audience, to provide more flexibility in the way the workshops were taught and methods to keep the material fresh and pertinent after the workshop was over. The program went from being driven by a steering committee to one managed by the Office of International Outreach at Texas A&M in 2008 and absorbed into Public Partnership and Outreach in 2010.
The purpose and goals of the program include providing trainer workshops and seminar programs that address multicultural diversity issues and to train those who deliver professional development programs or who would like to offer Community of Respect to their own constituents.
The program also provides seminar training to individuals in groups who want to improve their own cross-cultural communication skills in order to become effective communicators in their workplace.
Perhaps the most important goal is to promote a more collaborative internationalization of campuses, businesses and communities through development of a core group of cross-cultural trainers drawn from community and campus sectors who can sustain the collaborative effort. These programs help participants be better prepared to understand and interact with people from cultures and ethnicities that are different from their own.
Once the training is complete, program leaders provide trainers with facilitation materials (trainer’s manual, two textbooks, a participant manual and bibliographies), access to electronic survey programs for additional distal assessments, additional educational materials and free consultations.
During the train-the-trainer workshop, trainers have the opportunity to begin planning their own seminars that will meet the needs of their own particular audiences, practice teaching a portion of the material learned and discuss the challenges they face in their work environment while having the benefit of constructive counseling to enhance their learning experience.
Since trainers are very diverse and so are their audiences and the assortment of challenges that they face, program leaders offer continuing assistance through email to cover additional areas of interest that were raised during the sessions and new information weekly on Facebook. We offer material about individual cultures and articles on research in areas of cultural diversity. We also encourage our participants to study the work of others in the field to broaden their knowledge.
Texas A&M is offering the next Community of Respect Train-the-Trainer Workshop Aug. 16 and 17 in College Station co-hosted by the City of Bryan and held in their Municipal Building.
We invite you to consider this training program designed especially for those who are responsible for presenting diversity training in the workplace or classroom. It also is open to all who want a unique personal professional development opportunity.
Please contact me by email or by phone at (979)862-6700 if you would like more information or to register.