Gilberto Perez works at the Center for Intercultural and International Education, or CIIE. He’s worked there for two years and is tasked with seeing the movement in three different areas.The three areas are intercultural leadership, intercultural community engagement and intercultural dialogue. Each area has a different goal that it is working towards.
The intercultural leadership area works at overseeing student programs and intercultural academies. “[In] the leadership academies we partner with the chamber of commerce,” said Perez. “Last year we did ‘Cultivating Leaders of Tomorrow.’ [We brought] business professionals together to think about their leadership style.”
Intercultural community engagement works with creating a college-going culture through the partnership with organizations who work with minority youth, and having them create spaces to motivate young people to think about college as the first option after high school. There are partnerships with different groups in many places including California and Virginia, as well as in Elkhart, Allen County and Marion County. “[This is all with] the whole movement of how do we increase the number of minority youth entering college,” said Perez.
“We’re trying to engage with members of the local community with how they view themselves as learners,” said Perez. Part of this is holding ESL classes so that people can build their English skills so they can better engage at their institutions.
The intercultural dialogue area is working to create spaces where students can have dialogue about intercultural things. Perez has worked to create difficult discussions across difference, otherwise known as “3D sessions.”
These 3D sessions create uncommon spaces to invite students into conversation. “We create spaces where students can have dialogue about intercultural awareness,” said Perez. “We need to be talking to one another about our difference, but we also need to be creating plans to make an integrated campus.”
There are conversations in place with the academic dean to create intentional places to talk about segregation on campus.
Perez previously worked at GC as an associate professor of social work for two years, before his current position became available. “I knew the position was going to be open, and so I applied and decided it that would be a job I would like to do,” said Perez.
Outside of working at Goshen, Perez runs a business called “Bienvenido Community Solutions.” The organization works with mental health of all people, with facilitator trainings and mental health training.
“The organization trains individuals in different parts of the country to become mental health promotion facilitators,” said Perez. “We also serve as a link to research organizations to link with different communities of color across the country.” The organization has partnered with Columbia University School of Social Work’s research with kids on drugs and alcohol.
Bienvenido Community Solutions works mostly involves working towards community solutions. They have also linked organizations to people, like linking police to Latino congregations for conversation on policing efforts.
Perez’s goals for the future here at GC are to work with the African-American community to increase the amount of African-American students that come to GC, as well as to partner with the Human Resources office to increase diversity of faculty and staff.
“There is an overarching goal that we create a space where we become more of a learning community,” said Perez. “Another goal is that we become an institution that is more welcoming to people that have differences.”
Part of this goal is to attract students who are more progressive, but also students who are more conservative. “Our society is polarized, and there aren’t a lot of people entering uncommon spaces to see outcomes,” said Perez.
Additionally, Perez would like to see GC have a 25 percent Latino population by 2025, as this will allow access to grant money that could allow for the creation of a cultural center that addresses multiple cultures on campus, as well as the chance to recruit more Latino students.
“A lot of the work that’s being done is not only [with] Latinos but also African-American, Asian-American and Latino communities, to build a pipeline of students of color that could potentially come to Goshen,” said Perez.