UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School


Cross-cultural communication program develops global business savvy


UNC Kenan-FlaglerThough certainly not the first cross-cultural communications event at UNC Kenan-Flagler, the Cross-Cultural Savvy for Global Business certificate program was a huge success.

The two-day program, Jan. 31-Feb. 1, brought business professionals and students together with seven intercultural communication experts for lessons in developing skills for global business.

Gina Difino, MBA Global Programs assistant director and an organizer of the event, said about 65 people signed up for the intensive program. “We filled up relatively quickly,” she said. “We even stretched a little bit to accommodate the interest.”

The varied backgrounds of the participants made for lively and engaging discussions, said Difino. “The participants were a really diverse group, with representation from industry professionals, other universities and all of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s degree programs,” Difino said. “Everyone seemed to feel very comfortable bringing in their experiences, and we learned a lot from those insights.”

To help participants recognize and understand how their own experiences and biases affect how they act in cross-cultural settings, the sessions were centered around three frameworks:

  • individual and group communication style preferences
  • power, privilege and identity
  • intercultural competence as a personal development skill

UNC Kenan-FlaglerSome sessions focused on specific countries: Brazil, China and India. Others focused broadly on communication and culture. Participants also met one-on-one with intercultural experts and participated in group simulations to practice their skills.

The result, Difino said, is that participants view their cross-cultural interactions in a different light. They learned about avoiding judgment — which clouds their ability to understand the situation at hand — and instead will try to understand their reactions to influence their behavior.

“Intercultural communication is a teachable and learnable skill. It’s not a talent. It’s something we can develop over time,” she said. “We think the key to developing this skill is awareness of oneself, how one is perceived.”

Difino expects that UNC Kenan-Flagler will host the program next year. “We had a very good response, which signifies that there’s a need in the community,” she said. 

“Communicating effectively across cultures is essential for successful business leaders,” said Julia Kruse, executive director of the Global Business Center. “Whether they operate in global markets or work with diverse teams, today’s professionals need to be cognizant of their own and others’ communication styles. Our program raised this awareness and provided participants with tools to adapt their behavior to various cultures.” The program is supported by a Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

The program is supported by a Center for International Business Education & Research (CIBER) grant from the U.S. Department of Education.