SMU moving beyond diversity to Cultural Intelligence

In an effort to transcend traditional diversity training, SMU is working to strengthen the cultural intelligence of students, faculty, and staff. The Cultural Intelligence Initiative, known as CIQ@SMU, got underway March 2.

DALLAS (SMU) — In an effort to transcend traditional diversity training, SMU is working to strengthen the cultural intelligence of students, faculty, and staff. The Cultural Intelligence Initiative, known as CIQ@SMU, got underway March 2. Its first component, “Hidden Scripts: The Language of Implicit Bias,” is currently in its pilot phase.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Steven Currall intends CIQ@SMU to be a grass-roots, faculty-led effort. “Cultural intelligence is more than appreciating diversity,” Currall said. “It’s about ensuring faculty, students, and staff have the behavioral skills to work, learn, and live effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds based on national origin, gender, race, politics, and religion.”

Moving beyond what higher education traditionally addresses as diversity and inclusion, the program will draw on input provided by students, faculty, and staff from across campus. The first component of CIQ@SMU will provide participants with the chance to explore, create, and refine content related to the hidden scripts about others that impact daily interactions. The first “Hidden Scripts” seminar was offered March 2.

In a November letter to campus, President R. Gerald Turner said, “Whether in the classroom, the Residential Commons, the office, or the fraternity or sorority house, CIQ@SMU is designed to ensure that every member of our campus is equipped to create, collaborate, and implement innovative solutions to change the world regardless of the background of those with whom they work.”

Senior advisor to the Provost and cultural intelligence scholar Maria Dixon Hall, Ph.D., was appointed to lead this effort in August 2016. She has worked with more than 40 faculty, staff, and students to craft the overarching campus strategy to infuse the principles of cultural intelligence into every aspect of SMU’s institutional life.

“Our charge every day is to remind the campus that each of us has a cultural language that impacts the way we interact with each other,” Dixon Hall said. “We can no longer think only in terms of race and ethnicity but also must include generational, geographical, religious, gender, sexual and political identities in our understanding of the cultural differences that shape day-to-day life on a college campus. Our goal is to help our campus acquire the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to be more effective in communicating and working with one another.”

Parts of CIQ@SMU are already in place within SMU’s Greek community, residential life, athletics, and new faculty and student orientation. Students going through Greek recruitment and elected to Greek chapter leadership, as well as residential advisors, have previewed the content. “Students are eager for this knowledge and skill-set to be more widely available to campus,” Dixon Hall said.

Dixon Hall was tasked with ensuring that all of SMU’s diversity and inclusion efforts are coordinated toward one overall goal: Enhancing the campus community’s cultural intelligence. This initiative requires collaboration among Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, and each of the University’s seven academic schools.

The CIQ@SMU strategic plan outlines objectives including:

  • Curriculum and educational opportunities designed to help faculty, students, and staff to learn and implement cultural intelligence in their daily lives.
  • Consultations with faculty, staff, and students to identify opportunities to incorporate and enhance the cultural intelligence in their classrooms, organizations, leadership development, and operational practices.
  • Providing resources to the SMU community from a variety of disciplines demonstrating the practice and transformative impact of cultural intelligence as a tool of personal and professional development.

“Like many of its peer institutions, SMU strives to increase the diversity of its student and faculty population,” President Turner said. “But CIQ@SMU’s success will not be measured by traditional standards. The promise of this initiative is that it calls us to a higher standard of measuring success and accountability that exceeds statistics. Our success will be measured in the transformation of the daily lives of the people who are and aspire to become members of the Mustang family.

“Within the next year, we want to be able to say that we are adding value to our graduates’ education by ensuring that they are better equipped to work, lead, and contribute effectively in diverse environments.”

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Related Links:

Announcing the Campus Cultural Intelligence Initiative at SMU (Nov. 27, 2017)