1. What is Global Engagement?

By virtue of The University of Delaware’s Global Initiative, our school is committed to fostering knowledge and awareness of the economic, environmental, political, cultural, and social issues that face the world—and the skills to address them.  Simply put, at UD we strive to prepare students for global engagement.

But what does it mean to be globally engaged?

Global engagement involves a combination of knowledge, skills, behaviors and dispositions, which describe someone who is (or who aspires to be), broad-minded, intellectually engaged with other cultures, aware of the interdependence of nations, committed to tolerance, and appreciative of difference.

Consistent with this perspective, at IGS we focus on a small set of constructs that are specific, measurable, and likely to change as a result of short- or long-term education abroad programs –namely, Cultural Engagement, Knowledge of the Host Site, Tolerance of Ambiguity, and Diversity Openness.



Cultural engagement (or cross-cultural awareness, openness, or sensitivity, as it is variously described in the literature) features prominently in many theories of intercultural competence (Deardorff, 2006). As typically defined, it captures students’ worldview or attitudes toward cultural differences, diversity, and exchanges. It includes concepts such as global-mindedness, defined as a worldview that is future-oriented and extends beyond national borders (Hett, 1993). The notion is that increased exposure to different cultures promotes increased understanding not only of new cultures but also of the interconnectedness between various peoples and cultures.


The construct of tolerance for ambiguity measures students’ ability to feel comfortable with and competent in new or novel situations, or when handling novel stimuli or information. It has been defined as “an orientation, ranging from aversion to attraction, toward stimuli that are complex, unfamiliar, and insoluble” (McLain, 2009, p. 977). Education abroad students often are in situations in which they must navigate unfamiliar or confusing circumstances. Indeed, preliminary evidence shows that ambiguity tolerance can increase during the course of international education experiences, perhaps due to the necessity of “stretching” beyond one’s comfort level (Dewaele & Wei, 2013).


Knowledge of the host site is a relatively straightforward assessment of students’ self-reported knowledge of their host community. This can include the host culture’s norms, governance structure, history, and current issues. This type of functional knowledge of a host community is an important outcome of education abroad, demonstrating that students took the time and effort to acquire in-depth knowledge of their program’s context (Chieffo & Griffiths, 2004; Williams, 2009).


Pascarella, Edison, Nora, Hagedorn, and Terenzini (1996, p. 175) defined openness to diversity as an “orientation toward enjoyment from being intellectually challenged by different ideas, values, and perspectives as well as an appreciation of racial, cultural, ethnic diversity.” Individuals who tolerate and embrace diversity are able to take new perspectives and work effectively across diverse collaborative groups and settings (Bakalis & Joiner, 2004).  The importance of integrating diversity measures in education abroad outcomes has been well acknowledged, although there is little consistency in measurement strategies and findings (Black & Duhon, 2006; Clarke, Flaherty, Wright, & McMillen, 2009; Zhai, 2000). One particular challenge of diversity tolerance measurement is potential social desirability response effects.

Source:  Shadowen, N. L., Chieffo, L. P., & Guerra, N. G. (2015). The Global Engagement Measurement Scale (GEMS): A New Scale for Assessing the Impact of Education Abroad and Campus Internationalization. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 26 231-247.)


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