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Stellenbosch University (SU) hosts first of its kind Trilateral PASS Development Programme
Author: Daniel Bugan
Published: 11/10/2022

​​​Stellenbosch University (SU) recently hosted a first of its kind Trilateral PASS Development Programme which focused on the professional development and continuing education of administrative staff, the learning of new skills and the gaining of international experience.

 The Trilateral PASS Development Programme is a joint initiative between Stellenbosch University, Northwestern University (USA),  and Universität Hamburg (Germany).

The four-day programme 4-7 October 2022, themed “Inclusive International Competences", addressed the topics of inter-cultural skills and inclusion. The topics were introduced alongside best-practice examples from Stellenbosch University, and were explored in joint discussions by participants over the course of the event. Participants were made up of staff members from the three partner universities whose daily work within faculties and central administrations involve working across cultures.

 In his presentation entitled “Being an Internationalisation Practitioner", Robert Kotze, senior director: SU International, shared three characteristics which he considers as “quite valuable" for an internationalization practitioner.

 “One is the layered or different identities you have to bring to your role. Depending on the situation, there is a special designation which is applicable for each situation. The other is the value you bring to the workplace: How do people benefit from working with you? What do you do differently? What can you do to help others to achieve? Why do people come to you for help? And, most importantly, how do people introduce you? This often says a lot about how the value you are adding to your workplace is perceived. The third one is the level of empathy that you display. A person who has empathy has compassion and an understanding of human nature that allows him or her to connect with other people on an emotional level. The ability to emphasise allows a person to provide great service and to respond genuinely to others."

 Kotze then elaborated on the role of an internationalisation practitioner.

 “You need to understand what internationalization of higher education is. You either must have your own idea or buy into how the university sees it. You also need to ask why we have to internationalise. Why should we in this office also contribute to it? And to think of the university's broader vision and mission because internationalization cannot be separated from that. Lastly, you need to ask how you can contribute to building a mindset at the university where people think about internationalisation."

 Werner de Wit, programme manager: Short Term Mobility, presented an intercultural competence workshop where he discussed the definitions of culture, the iceberg theory, functions of culture, the cultural dimension model and cultural identities.

 At the end of the workshop, participants were better equipped to contextualise culture, discover their own cultural values and understand how culture shapes their identities.

 SU participant Yeki Mosomothane, a multicultural engagement coordinator within the Centre for Student Structures and Communities, said he was drawn to the programme as a lot of his work involves dealing with students, staff and cultural competences.

 “I saw this programme as an opportunity to interact with other colleagues from SU, but also to gain new connections and networks with colleagues from other parts of the world and to find out how they address issues around intercultural competences, social justice and inclusion.

 “I am now motivated to explore how I as a representative of the Centre for Student Structures and Communities can become an internationalisation ambassador, how I can make sure that students see themselves as internationalisation agents and how we can become intentional in promoting internationalisation."

 Janka Pieper is a senior director of communications and intercultural learning in the Office of International Relations at Northwestern University. Part of her job is to offer workshops to staff members, international students and research associates collaborating abroad to not only navigate cultural differences within their workplace but also within the global university workplace.

She said taking part in the programme provided her with a first-hand account of South Africa's cultural differences and an insight into other people's perspectives regarding internationalisation.

 “When it comes to internationalization it is so important to be aware of (cultural) differences and to get a better understanding of them. I also wanted to see if there are ways we as a trilateral partnership can work together on something in terms of intercultural competences. If we can all bring different perspectives from our own cultures into some kind of common setting, I think there is much more that people can get out of it."

 T Bleck, a librarian at Hamburg University, said they were inspired to attend the event not only to learn more about internationalisation but also what they can learn about diversity and inclusion at SU.

 “Those are things that are of interest to me and I wanted to know more about what Stellenbosch is doing and to compare it to what we are doing in Hamburg. One thing that stood out for me is that everyone I met is extremely passionate about what they are doing, no matter what field they are in, and that really inspired me."

 The next editions of Trilateral PASS Development Programme will be hosted by Northwestern University in 2023 and Universität Hamburg in 2024.