Seminary receives grant to host intercultural competence training

Published: March 25, 2019

By Annette Brill Bergstresser

ELKHART, Indiana (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary) — Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) in Elkhart, Indiana, has received a $5,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County to host a training for leaders in the community who are doing intercultural competence work.

The one-day training for Elkhart County administrators tasked with diversity, inclusion and anti-oppression initiatives will be conducted at the seminary in late August by two consultants from the Colbourne Institute for Inclusive Leadership at NorQuest College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The institute specializes in customized training solutions and applied research in diversity, inclusion and intercultural education and has served as a strategic training and consulting partner to more than 80 organizations across the globe.

“Our goal in offering this workshop is to increase people’s ability to negotiate cultural and other differences with greater awareness and adaptability,” said Nekeisha Alayna Alexis, M.A.T.S., AMBS Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism coordinator. “This helps create more welcoming and responsive business and learning environments and also prepares people to demonstrate these skills in their communities.”

The consultants will create a survey for local leaders who are interested in the training, she added, noting that the event would be designed “to address as much as possible the needs, challenges and possibilities of institutions and companies in this area.”

The workshop for community leaders will be held in tandem with two days of training, not funded by the grant, for AMBS faculty, administrators, staff and select board members. The seminary — which attracts students from the region, from across the U.S. and Canada and increasingly from the global south — has a strategic priority of building intercultural competence and undoing racism within the institution and a vision to make theological education “accessible to, and welcoming of, Christians of increasingly diverse traditions, ethnicities and racial identities.” This year’s graduate student body of 98 includes 21 students from 15 countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.

Alexis leads the seminary’s Intercultural Competence and Undoing Racism (ICUR) team, which consists of faculty, staff and student representatives and a student assistant. The team began in the 1990s as an antiracism committee and changed to the ICUR team in 2012. The AMBS Board of Directors also has an ICUR committee, and the seminary’s curriculum has a strong ICUR focus, Alexis said. All incoming students complete an Identity, Power and Privilege module during their orientation, which includes taking the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The ICUR team uses the IDI as part of ongoing employee formation in this area as well.

Alexis sees the training for community leaders as building on two half-day workshops that the seminary hosted for the community on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in 2016 and 2018 to foster conversations around resisting and undoing racism.

“For some time, AMBS has been developing an internal focus on these issues in order to prepare leaders who can do this kind of systemic and interpersonal thinking in their own contexts,” she said. “This workshop helps us again to face outward; we want to assist our neighbors in this crucial work and to become more of a resource to others in Elkhart County.”

To learn more about the intercultural competence training for leaders of Elkhart County institutions, email [email protected].

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