Staff member melds master's project with international education work
By Wanda Praamsma, Communications Officer
Alison Cummings, an international training coordinator in the Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), is surprised at how her career has melded and come full circle with her past education. She never would have thought that 25 years after starting her master’s in classics she’d be back finishing it, but with a new spin: looking at Greek tragedies through the lens of intercultural training, an area of interest developed while working at QUIC.
“It confirms my passion for intercultural studies that, all of a sudden, I was able to look at what I had been doing all those years ago at the University of Victoria and think about it in new terms, taking an intercultural look at the ancients,” says Ms. Cummings, who is finishing her master’s through the Queen’s Classics department.
Specifically, Ms. Cummings is using the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) – which looks at people’s behaviours and measures how they deal with difference and commonality – to explore ancient Greek literature. She began asking the question, “What can we tell about the ancient Greeks by applying the IDI theory?”
“With the IDI, you can tell a lot about a person, about their attitudes toward difference,” she says. “The Greek tragedies are very action-oriented and I thought it would be interesting to look at their behaviours – how does a Greek respond to difference?”
This investigation into the Greeks stems in part from Ms. Cummings’s work on the Queen’s International Educators Training Program (IETP), which started in 2003 under the leadership of QUIC Director Wayne Myles. At the time, there was no program of its kind in Canada. Over the years it has filled a huge gap in the field of international education, offering staff the practical skills and knowledge they need to be confident and competent at their work.
Just as Ms. Cummings’ master’s work is about looking at difference, so too is the work of the IETP. Through its various courses, it helps educators look at differences between cultures and the work of cultivating a collective respect for one another, and then brings that to the day-to-day work of advising international students and domestic students going abroad.
In turn, campuses become more globalized and richer places, says Ms. Cummings. “Difference is all around us – that’s culture and differences sometimes clash. But we also have the opportunity to engage with people, and move to a place of respect. That’s the basis of this work.”