"TAKE IT UPSTAIRS:" DECONSTRUCTING CULTURE AND GLOBAL COMPETENCY IN AN UNDERGRADUATE LIVING-LEARNING PROGRAM
Haugen, Caitlin Secrest
Klees, Steven J
MetadataShow full item record
Popular conceptions of American college students traditionally include young men and women who live on a university campus in a residence hall. Today's university campuses do not always fit the traditional mold. Institutions have begun to explore drastically different learning and on-campus residence hall configurations that better meet students' needs and create a stronger sense of community. Living-learning programs (LLPs) are one alternative that college administrators utilize to better meet student needs. This research investigates a single living-learning program called International House (IH), an LLP with the stated purpose of developing global competency skills in its participants. The research period spans one academic year, August 2009 to May 2010, with data collection continuing into the fall semester of 2010. Using ethnography as a methodology, this research investigates the culture of IH, how the formal and non-formal learning experiences shape that culture, and whether the program develops global competency skills in its participants. This study aims to fill existing gaps in living-learning program literature using qualitative methods - so far underrepresented in LLP research - and contributes to overall LLP discourse about the nature, culture, and effectiveness of existing programs. This research also contributes to the body of ethnographic inquiry because there is no evidence of published research uses the methodology to study living-learning programs. Finally, this investigation aims to add a further dimension to intercultural competency literature by examining the role of living-learning programs in developing competency. The findings suggest that International House's culture is shaped by three main values: openness, cross-cultural appreciation, and a strong sense of community. According to student experiences, the intersection of the formal and non-formal learning experiences is most meaningful to them, or the "take it upstairs" phenomenon. "Take it upstairs" means that when students learn practical, concrete skills and then are given the opportunity to apply them in cross-cultural settings, their experience is more meaningful. This research also suggests that students show strong evidence of developing global competency skills. This is attributed to relevant, experiential activities intentionally designed to develop those skills in a multi-cultural environment with a strong community connection.