Intercultural Dialogue and Leadership Seminar: Summer 2015

The Kerr Initiative’s 2015 Intercultural Dialogue & Leadership Summer Seminar was an enriching experience for all concerned. The program, now in its sixth year, ran from May 12th thru June 18th. Eighteen students were enrolled –12 graduates and 6 undergraduates. The intensive course focused on communication, conflict resolution and consensus-building skills required for effective leadership in diverse cultural settings. It also capitalized on the diverse academic interests of its participants, which included: International Affairs; Education; Sociology; Media Studies & Communication; Urban & Regional Planning; and Environmental Science.

The seminar was led by Professors Terry Coonan, John Mayo and Tom Taylor. The first two weeks focused on vital human rights issues as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention against Torture and other documents. Professor Coonan is Director of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights. His lectures and case studies highlighted recent developments in the human rights field and emphasized why commitments to social justice and equality are required to advance human rights and resolve long standing disputes around the world.

Professor Taylor, who served for many years as associate director of the Florida Center for Conflict Resolution, brought his vast experience in mediation and community conflict resolution to the Institute, along with a valuable set of leadership development exercises. The hands-on planning and dispute resolution techniques he presented challenged the students in multiple ways and set the stage for their individual and group projects.

Professor Mayo, who directs the Kerr Initiative, focused on communication strategies and, especially, the challenges associated with diffusing innovations and effecting sustainable social change in different cultural contexts. Such challenges were also addressed in the students’ leadership plans.

In addition, a guest lecture, entitled "A Global Perspective on the Battle Against Hunger and Malnutrition," was presented by Mr. Bill Clay, Adjunct Professor in the Department of Food, Nutrition & Exercise Science and a former associate director of the United Nations Food & Agricutural Organization (FAO) in Rome.

In the instructors’ judgment, the Summer Seminar Institute achieved its learning objectives. By the end of six weeks, students were able to: (1) assess their own leadership strengths and weaknesses; (2) work creatively with their peers from different academic disciplines, nationalities and cultures; (3) analyze the complex human rights and development issues contained in numerous case studies; and (4) creation and present individual as well as group projects.