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Recruiting Intelligence

Small Talk, So Underrated

You are welcome here.

DEI efforts to address inclusion.

These are big concepts that deserve big discussions on campuses everywhere. Discussions with senior leaders setting policies and developing programs to make everyone on campus feel involved and connected.

And to make all that happen, that feeling of being welcome and included, will rely on some of the small things that often are met with eye rolls. Yet, these small things are really important to this whole inclusion effort.

You know that inside joke and the trendy celebrity stuff you are not on top of? The conversation that just kind of left you like roadkill as it blew right by? Maybe silly. Perhaps kind of uncomfortable. Happens to all of us. And it happens to your new students frequently. Domestic, yes. International, all the time.

If you think small talk is meaningless, think again.

In our work for a large, highly ranked Midwestern institution, we were talking with Pham (not his real name). He traveled from Vietnam for his US studies. A natural networker, smart, interested in business, he chose to major in Business Management Information Systems and Finance. With that degree, it is no wonder he was snapped up by Deloitte where he currently works as a Senior Consultant in Tax Management.

To hear Pham tell it, connecting to the US community with small talk was critical to his success. He came to understand this during his studies as he tried to connect with the other international students and with his American peers. He found he was struggling to make friends.

Read on for Pham's perspective and our tips for getting these really important conversations started. It is all about personal and student success. 

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Integration vs. Inclusion & Cross-Cultural Competency on Campus

So, you have international students on campus. . . now what? We all know that the work doesn’t stop there. Your colleagues must have the tools and resources available to help students adjust both socially and culturally into campus life. 

As educators, we always strive to promote global awareness and perspective, but sometimes it can be difficult to foster this development on our own campuses. Questions that need to be asked every year—do we give students opportunities to interact across social and cultural backgrounds in all aspects of campus life? In the classroom, are there ways to foster greater inclusion with curricula and team assignments? In the end, are we producing alumni who are culturally literate and effective in a global workforce?

Achieving long-term institutional success through internationalization requires organizing on-campus resources to facilitate the types of interactions that open minds and build cross-cultural competencies. With supply chains, basic communication and daily business interactions in all industries going global, graduates entering the workforce need cross cultural perspective and skills. They need to be comfortable working with and managing a diverse set of colleagues. The universities that "get" this will produce more effective and powerful alumni.

This is a topic that has been discussed for years at NAFSA, AIEA and other higher education forums, so we wanted to highlight some of the best practical solutions that we have heard, read and discussed with higher education experts. As we take our regular summer hiatus from posting to this blog, we thought this discussion on integration and inclusion would send us off on a positive note. We hope that you will take the opportunity to join us at the NACAC conference in Boston this September or at NAFSA Regional in Princeton, New Jersey this October! We will be offering up some great new research on international student trends and the digital tools that help you reach them.

Read on for a selection of innovative tips & techniques for achieving inclusion on campus and fostering cross-cultural competency...

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