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CCEE student among Honors Program students developing cultural competence

Navya Jonnalagadda

Environmental engineering student Navya Jonnalagadda was among fourteen University Honors Program students who recently completed the distance education Developing Cultural Competence Certificate offered by NC State’s Global Training Initiative, all financially sponsored through the program by the University Honors Program and the Engineering Enhancement Fund. 

The Developing Cultural Competence program “aims to improve students’ cultural competence and cross-cultural awareness by facilitating virtual exchanges among participants. The course is designed to provide a theoretical framework for understanding culture, learning about cultural dimensions and improving cultural competence.” 

“The program also introduces cultural skills that are immediately applicable to activities on and off campus. The certificate program appeals to students in all academic disciplines and prepares students to:

  • Identify their own cultural preferences and have the tools to understand the preferences of others;
  • Promote cultural awareness in personal and professional settings;
  • Implement strategies for working effectively across cultural differences.”

Regarding the time commitment of completing this co-curricular experience, Raven Rodillas, a first year design studies major, said, “I do recommend this course as a great opportunity for Honors students to gain a high impact experience, as well as learn something new and useful. With the condensed and remote format of the DCC program, the flexibility is what worked best for my academic schedule and workflow.” 

Jonnalagadda agreed, stating, “It is only a four-week course with one assignment each week, so the time commitment is not that bad. You get to meet students studying in China as well as students from different cultures who go to NC State, so it is like a mini study abroad experience.” 

Rodillas knows that “it is easy to get centered in one’s own culture, forgetting that others perceive and communicate in ways completely different from us. In a professional setting, to anticipate cultural gaps is to create a more efficient workplace, with less miscommunications and cross-cultural friction. In personal life, being aware of cultural gaps allows for smoother communication with people of different backgrounds.”

“People are more similar than they seem,” Jonnalagadda said. “I think in college people think they are alone or think people won’t be able to understand them. However, through this course I was able to meet a lot of different people who come from different cultures and backgrounds, and getting to know about their experiences was not only interesting but I found many similarities as well. Throughout the course, you learn about different skills to incorporate to be more culturally competent. I use a lot of style switching in my personal life because, as an Indian American, I come from a unique background, and I try to be an approachable and considerate person when I am working with people who come from different backgrounds. I hope to carry the new skills I learned in this course to my professional life as well.”

Meredith Robbins, a graduating senior now alumna, squeezed in this final opportunity offered by the Honors Program before she graduated with her degree in industrial engineering this month. She said the program has better prepared her to “work across cultures throughout [her] career.” 

“The number one takeaway I got from the Developing Cultural Competence Certificate is learning the importance of cultural due diligence, or the idea of doing research into a culture before interacting with it to understand the potential impacts of the cultural gaps between one’s own culture and another culture. Cultural due diligence can help mitigate the shock of cultural differences and can allow one to go on to either change their behavior temporarily if necessary, or have conversations around how the two parties can work together cross-culturally. I plan to use cultural due diligence as the first step in understanding other cultures and to bridge these potential gaps when traveling and working across cultures. I definitely recommend other Honors/Scholars students to take advantage of this opportunity as well.”

Graduating communications major Catelyn Meredith believes in the power of exposure to global cultures when it comes to relating to and working well with others. She studied abroad in Prague during her first year Summer Start experience in 2019, and has been working in the Study Abroad Office for the past two years as an intern. Now, as she is pursuing graduate school opportunities in international education, she says that completing the certificate program “was vital for me to take advantage of the resources available to me and further develop my knowledge. We learned about cultural holidays, foods, celebrations, school traditions and more! It really opened my eyes to the common ties that we share and the differences that make us unique… The program is also a great networking opportunity!” 

Rising junior in social work Briseyda Hernandez-Jaimes makes an excellent point when she says, “The Developing Cultural Competence Certificate program provided me with new ways to build upon my cultural knowledge and learn from different cultures. Cultural competency does not end with a certificate; it is a life-long learning journey supported by the foundational skills I learned from the course.”

The University Honors Program will continue to partner with the Global Training Initiative to sponsor students through the Developing Cultural Competence Program for the foreseeable future.

To learn more about the Global Training Initiative, visit their website at


This story was first published on Academic and Student Affairs News.