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Dominant culture or co-culture? Students study IUSB cultures

Students in Cross Cultural Communication prepare a bulletin boardStudents in Cross Cultural Communication prepare a bulletin board

Cross cultural communication occurs when individuals from different backgrounds communicate across cultures and within their own cultures. Professor Kevin Gillen teaches Cross Cultural Communication, SPCH-S427 at IU South Bend.  Gillen’s class explores the dominant culture of IU South Bend and uses projects to show how the co- cultures exist within the dominant culture.

An example of the dominant culture on campus would be the traditional college student who is between 18 and 23. They do not have children and typically have a part time job or do not work at all. An example of a co-culture on campus would be the non-traditional student. A non-traditional student would be older than 24, have children, and work full-time. Kevin Gillen enjoys teaching this class, because it helps students, “grow beyond their comfort zones.”  The class provides students with the “skills and tools to use when they are faced with an issue that is outside their comfort zone.”  The main themes of the class are: conflict, misunderstands, and communication.

The class recently presented an assignment focusing on the dominant culture at IU South Bend and to identifying the co-culture that is missing out. Many of the projects focused on non-traditional students and their struggles with balancing work, family, and school. Some non-traditional students found it difficult to find healthy food options when they come to campus in the evening and finding a time to meet with their advisors.  The class also found that international students were at a disadvantage, because of the food choices offered in the Grille and the SAC were primarily typical American food options.  

Students in Gillen’s class enjoyed the freedom in presenting their projects by various mediums. This allowed the students to be creative in their presentation style. It also allowed them to better understand IU South Bend’s culture and the campus. Samantha Crooks, a senior at IU South Bend, says the project “helps to create an open mind and really makes you think about how you communicate with others.”

Another project the students have is decorating the glass case outside of Northside 113, which is near the Arts office. Students are divided into groups to decorate the glass case with a cross-cultural idea. The glass case for Halloween illustrated how various cultures celebrate this holiday.  Crooks felt this assignment “forces us to be creative and do some research about cultures outside of our own.” The most recent decoration is how different cultures celebrate Thanksgiving.

To better understand what cross cultural communication is Twitter proves to be an excellent example. Jessica Faye Carter, who wrote the article “Why Twitter Influences Cross Cultural Engagement,” illustrates how Twitter is used in cross cultural communication.