Sarah Matthews (left) with her faculty mentor Virginia (Ginger) Wickline presented their research at the Jan. 2016 Hawaii International Conference of Education. Matthews, a Regionals student who graduated in December, was a 2015 Undergraduate Summer Scholar.
Sarah Matthews (left) with her faculty mentor Virginia (Ginger) Wickline presented their research at the Jan. 2016 Hawaii International Conference of Education. Matthews, a Regionals student who graduated in December, was a 2015 Undergraduate Summer Scholar.

Sarah Matthews: Intercultural Competence - how do Miami Regionals students measure up?

What can we do locally to work globally?

Part of a series of Miami Moments highlights on Undergraduate Research, summer 2015.

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Psychology major Sarah Matthews graduated early after taking courses on Miami's Middletown, Hamilton, Oxford and VOALC campuses and online.

By Susan Meikle, university news and communications

How can Miami Regionals students increase intercultural competence without studying abroad?

Undergraduate Summer Scholar Sarah Matthews, working with faculty mentor Virginia "Ginger" Wickline, associate professor of psychology, sampled hundreds of Regionals students to determine how they are prepared to interact in an increasingly globalized world.

Working also with researchers Chen Ferguson, associate professor of business technology, and H. Louise Davis, associate professor of American studies and chair of integrative studies, Matthews and Wickline surveyed students enrolled in the Regionals-based Bachelors of Integrative Studies (BIS) program, one of the largest majors at the College of Professional Studies and Applied Sciences (CPSAS). Many students in the program are nontraditional at some level.

“Our sample of students tends to be older, have a lower family income and have more work and family commitments than do more traditional students,” Wickline said. The vast majority report that they do not intend to study abroad. 

Matthews et. al. sampled more than 300 BIS students from fall 2013 through spring 2015 to determine if the BIS program's emphasis on service-learning helps students develop intercultural competence. It does, they found, and with greater impact than study abroad programs or a global perspectives course (G-course), Wickline said.

Opportunities for intercultural success: International students on campus

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Sarah Matthews (left) and Ginger Wickline at the English Learning Center at Miami's Middletown campus.

Apart from encouraging and supporting students in seeing study abroad as a feasible option, more opportunities could be developed on campus for students to achieve global learning experiences locally, Matthews and Wickline said.

Two components of the BIS program — a service-learning and an intercultural perspectives requirement — lend a hand in reaching that goal.

Globally-focused co-curricular and extracurricular activities could offer opportunities to increase intercultural competence, and BIS students may choose, among other things, to host a multicultural event as their capstone project, Wickline said.

Working with others from diverse cultures is another way to gain more intercultural experiences. An opportunity and resource is available at the recently established English Language Center (ELC) on the Middletown and Hamilton campuses.  

The ELC program provides full-time intensive English language instruction and integration into university-level courses to qualified students who are conditionally admitted due to their level of language proficiency. It began in 2013 with an initial enrollment of 30 Chinese students.

In fall 2015, the program enrolled 300 international students.

Undergraduate research support  

Matthews received an Undergraduate Summer Scholar (USS) award from the office of research for undergraduates (ORU) to work on the project with Wickline.  Along with the research experience, she received six hours of academic credit with tuition waived, a $2,600 fellowship and a $400 project allowance.

She presented her research at the Hawaii International Conference of Education (HICE) in January (see Wickline, et.al. final report in the conference proceedings here or email Wickline). 

"It was an awesome experience to share our findings with others," Matthews said.

Matthews received additional support from Miami to attend and present at the HICE conference.

Research experience leads to employment, graduate school

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"My USS project played a huge role in helping me prepare for my position" as a data analyst at Kroger, Matthews (right) said. She will also enter the MBA program at Xavier University this summer.

As a Regionals student, Matthews took classes at all four of Miami’s local campuses and online. Her plan served her well — she graduated in December, a semester early.

Did she study abroad? Yes, said Matthews, who loves to travel. In the summer of 2014 she traveled to Japan for two weeks as part of a psychology class led by Wickline and Deborah Weise, clinical lecturer of psychology.

After graduation she was offered a position as a data analyst at Kroger. “My USS project played a huge role in helping me prepare for my position at Kroger, “ Matthews said.

“Working with Dr. Wickline on the BIS project helped me learn how to analyze data and apply the findings to find meaningful solutions. I even used a copy of our report in my interviews.”

She has also been accepted into Xavier University’s master’s of business administration program, which she will begin this summer.

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Extensive support for undergraduate research at Miami

Miami students may apply for undergraduate research opportunities and support, including funding for travel to present at a conference, through the office of research for undergraduates (ORU) and other offices.

Matthews received additional support to attend and present her research at the HICE conference from a variety of offices, including:

  • ORU - Undergraduate Presentation Award
  • Honors program
  • Global Initiatives
  • Miami Middletown Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Miami Regional's office of student affairs
  • Miami Regional's dean's office
  • Psychology department, Crannell Travel Award