The Birth of a New Zone for Our Own Learning

Two years ago, when the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC) didn’t happen for the first time in over four decades, my staff and I searched in vain for summer professional development opportunities for interculturalists that would offer similar depth of learning and networking opportunities. Mourning the potential end of an era and with a strong desire to honor the work of the giants on whose shoulders we stand, the Center I direct–Purdue University’s Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR)–pulled together a group of a dozen intercultural and diversity, equity and inclusion thought leaders in the fall of 2019 to guide CILMAR’s strategic planning with one major question in mind: What could we do to support the sustainability of our discipline by enabling the growth and development of its professionals in the coming decades?

Listen to me discuss the 2019 think tank and its outcomes with the manager of the Intercultural Learning Hub, Annette Benson.

The short version of this story is that CILMAR’s Intercultural Learning Hub (affectionately called the HubICL, pronounced hub-ickle), the science gateway for interculturalists that lives at, seemed to be an ideal place to create a meeting space for those offering and seeking professional development. The HubICL aims to provide a “one-stop-shop” for networking, collaboration, and resource exchange. The platform empowers intercultural learning practitioners to share knowledge, research, learning activities, and best practices. The Digital Toolbox is the flagship area of the HubICL, with more than 700 curated and searchable experiential activities, reflective exercises, assessments, and curricula contributed from individuals both within and outside of CILMAR. Many of these tools are free and include downloadable resources such as handouts, slides, and lesson plans. Anyone interested in intercultural learning can create a free account at and begin their professional development journey. 

To be honest, CILMAR has a profound sense of humility about offering professional development ourselves on a large scale – we do, of course, on our campus, at conferences, and in response to requests from peer institutions. But, we are lifelong learners like all of our colleagues, with gaps in our knowledge and limitations to our expertise. What appealed to us about creating a Professional Development Zone (PDZ) in the HubICL was both that it could enable a wide range of voices to be heard in the learning “blocks” on offer and that it could broaden access to those perspectives. Everything from seminars to coaching sessions to project-based experiences, assessment administrator trainings, certificate programs, consulting services, and graduate degrees has a place in the HubICL PDZ. In-person, synchronous virtual, and asynchronous online delivery systems are all viable. Note that, in line with the science gateway model, HubICL membership is and always will be free and HubICL content is meant to be user-driven. Essentially, the PDZ will be a place for professionals at all career stages to find and track (with badges for completed modules) professional development opportunities. For PD providers, likewise, it will offer a way to market offerings and at times even deliver content. This model of resource and knowledge sharing seems to be well-aligned with the mission, vision, and principles of the World Council on Intercultural Competence.

It is not our goal to recreate SIIC. We couldn’t even if we wanted to. But, a year and a half after the 2019 think tank at Purdue, the idea born there has become a reality. To celebrate the launch of the HubICL Professional Development Zone, CILMAR is collaborating with colleagues Antimo Cimino and Lori Welch, formerly of the Intercultural Communication Institute and Cultural Global Labs, to host a three-tiered virtual learning opportunity called the Step Up Zone this summer. The Step Up Zone is a virtual workshop series that covers a variety of intercultural learning topics, such as assessment; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and global competence. Tier 1 provides an introduction to the topic offered in the series, and Tiers 2 and 3 build off of Tier 1 to promote further knowledge and professional development. The tiered structure of the workshops encourages participants to cultivate connections that lead to more long-term professional relationships. It’s not too late to register for workshops. Financial support is available for students, colleagues from developing nations, and others; simply reach out to with your need. 

If you are curious about the meaning of the tag line, “Put your foot up in it”, check out the story behind our choice of this cultural expression.

We hope our colleagues, new and old, will join us this July in the Step Up Zone and long after in the HubICL PDZ. We look forward to learning from you, as you may in turn learn from us.

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