Intercultural Competency


My first and most enduring research interest is located at the intersection of language learning and intercultural communication. As a language teacher of many years, and as a student of Applied Linguistics during my MA program, I was fascinated by the connection between the failure of language classrooms in the U.S. and the ethnocentric attitudes in those classrooms. I began researching in this field with two papers I presented and published during my master’s program. The first of these, “Bien-Educado”, explored the differences between U.S. American teachers’ and Mexican immigrant students’ and parents’ conceptualizations of “school,” as well as role expectations for students and teachers in the school setting. The second, “Do Our Kids Have an Attitude?,” published in 2004, questioned the role of ethnocentrism in the failure of US foreign language classrooms.

This line of research continued to be important to me through my years of study at ASU and beyond. After finishing my PhD and returning to the public school system in Georgia, I conducted a long-term research project in this area, incorporating intercultural communication curriculum into the high school foreign language classroom to gauge its effects on language learning motivation and ethnocentric attitudes. I collected and analyzed quantitative data to document the lack of integrative motivation in US high school foreign language students and to demonstrate change in that attitudinal scale after direct intercultural communication instruction. This study was recently published in ACTFL’s prestigious journal, Foreign Language Annals. In addition, I  administered intercultural competence instruments to students before and after their Spanish II courses and jointly analyzing that data with ethnographic observations and other qualitative data. My goal with this project (in preparation for publication) is to provide evidence of the widespread need for and benefit of instruction in intercultural communication in venues other than the typical university-level intercultural communication classroom.

Electronic copies (Adobe Acrobat .pdf files) of these papers are available by email, if you are interested in reading them.


Much of my curriculum development has revolved around intercultural competency development. In 2011,in collaboration with Dr. Gayle Nelson, I designed a new senior captstone “Critical Thinking through Writing” course for the department of Applied Linguistics at Georgia State University. This course, AL 4151 Communication across Cultures, teaches students cultural discovery skills as they complete ethnographic projects with an unfamiliar micro-culture. During the first offering of this new course, we implemented a process of peer review that proved highly successful in improving the quality of our students’ writing. Gayle and I were honored with the GSU’s 2012 Instructor Effectiveness Award for this pedagogical innovation. We developed a peer review assignment for AL 4151 and later modified the activity based on feedback from students who indicated two issues: negative attitudes and lack of skills. Our revised activity held students accountable for the quality and timeliness of their work, trained peer reviewers to provide appropriate feedback, and maintained anonymity while still allowing authors and reviewers to dialogue about papers. We documented student improvement both quantitatively and qualitatively, comparing AL 4151 with another CTW class that completed a similar assignment without peer review. The peer review activity succeeded in helping the
lower-performing half of AL 4151 move their CTW rubric scores from Not Yet Competent and Partially Competent to Competent. See  for further details about the success of this curriculum project.

Each semester at GSU, I currently teach graduate and undergraduate courses that build students global competencies – courses such as AL 8330 Intercultural Communication and AL 4151 Communication across Cultures. I teach them both on campus and internationally on faculty-led Maymester study abroad trips (Switzerland and China), and I teach them exceptionally well. Over the past five years, my student evaluations have averaged 4.9 on a 5 point scale and I have achieved the highest possible rating of “Outstanding” in Teaching on my past three annual evaluations as a lecturer at GSU. In addition to my teaching at GSU, I have represented Georgia State as an instructor in several international settings recently, including a summer TESOL teacher training institute in Guangzhou, China in 2014 and 8 months as a Fulbright Scholar in Honduras in 2015.

In my five years as Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department of Applied Linguistics, I have transformed the bachelor’s program from one with virtually no international opportunities to one with multiple faculty-led study abroad trips and international exchanges, an international internship course, and GSU’s first international co-operative education program (still in the works). The percentage of Applied Linguistics majors who have studied abroad is now five to twenty times the overall percentage of GSU students, depending on the semester. Beyond the department level, I also contribute to curriculum development related to intercultural competency across the university, I was heavily involved in the Global Education Initiative, a teacher training program at GSU that helped instructor’s globalize courses that traditionally have had a local focus. Not only did I lead the team that developed the training for faculty and supported participating instructors throughout their involvement, but I also directed the assessment of the initiative, documenting its effectiveness and impact through quantitative and qualitative pre/post testing of students in globalized courses.


Although as a lecturer I have no obligation to invest my time and energy in research, I continue to maintain an active research agenda related to intercultural competency development and assessment. Some of this work has been supported by internal and external funding, such as a Faculty International Peer Engagement grant from GSU’s Office of International Initiatives (2013), an eight month Fulbright Teaching/Research Scholar Award to Honduras from the US State Department (2014-15), and an inaugural University Fellowship from GSU’s Center for Instructional Effectiveness (2015-16). On Fulbright in Honduras earlier this year, I conducted an analysis of my host university’s language program and an organizational ethnography of the institution’s struggle to internationalize their campus and curriculum, as well as a profile of students’ global competencies using the BEVI, or Beliefs, Events and Values Inventory, a robust quantitative instrument that yields rich data on a variety of attitudinal scales. I am currently collecting data with the BEVI from GSU’s Freshman Learning Communities and graduating seniors in order to contribute to Georgia State’s narrative as a remarkably effective minority-serving institution whose students are successful despite the obstacles they face and whose curriculum encourages their development of global competencies. With a large sample of GSU students, I want to build a profile of our student body in terms of global awareness and sociocultural openness, among other constructs. Although the ultimate goal is a longitudinal study, for this year I would like to compare freshman and seniors in a cross-sectional study to get some idea of how students’ attitudes shift during their tenure at GSU. Subgroup analyses will also shed light on the relationship between attitudes and various types of international programming, for example language study, study abroad programs, globalized coursework, etc.