A diverse adult student body poses challenges—and global opportunities
University of Phoenix attracts students from around the globe who bring a variety of ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds to my classroom. It’s one of the University’s strengths. As a faculty member who was born in Kiev and moved to the United States from the former Soviet Union, perhaps that’s why I prefer to teach Global Business Management and general management courses. It’s also why I teach both on campus and online. As a University of Phoenix instructor, my goal is to reach all students, regardless of who they are, where they are or where they came from. I’m willing to do whatever it takes for us to connect, and the learning model at University of Phoenix enables me to do so.
Diversity is valued at the Bay Area Campus in San Francisco, where I teach undergraduate- and graduate-level business courses. We do not lecture. We facilitate. We are interactive. This instruction method helps our adult students learn better and gain more useful knowledge. It also encourages interaction among students, and they learn more than just the basic curriculum. They come to develop a greater appreciation for diversity in the classroom that helps them better understand how to navigate in the global marketplace. By getting to know peers one-on-one who have diverse backgrounds and ethnic ties that differ from their own, they can put real faces and names to cultures they might not otherwise have encountered on a personal level.
Diversity enriches learning
University of Phoenix uses an andragogical teaching model, which focuses on learning strategies for adults. Dr. John Sperling implemented this learning model in 1976 when he founded the University. Adults like to be heard. They like to discuss, to argue and to understand their classmates’ experiences and opinions. They also want to express their opinions and listen to their instructor’s insights. Integration of these elements creates broad knowledge that is much more effective for adult students than simply showing up at a lecture hall and taking notes. When those opinions come from a diverse group, their value—to everyone—grows exponentially. Through these discussions and other interactions in class, students learn to recognize similarities among them. They also learn to appreciate their differences.
Challenges can be overcome
The diverse population that the adult learning model attracts comes with rewards as well as challenges. In some cases, diverse students come to us from underserved communities. Their experiences have often taught them to lack self-confidence and doubt themselves. The University of Phoenix teaching model was designed for individuals who perhaps thought higher education was out of their reach. We provide resources to get them where they need to be. Online tools help students with writing and math, and one-on-one feedback is always a phone call or mouse click away. They graduate with a high level of knowledge and skills, and their degrees are recognized.
They also graduate with a greater appreciation for each other. Our faculty members create learning teams to enrich their students’ educational experiences. One learning team recently completed an assignment to develop a plan to create an international restaurant. They brought in food for the presentation from India, Vietnam, Florida and Mexico. It was all professionally packaged and labeled, and while it might seem an unusual combination, they made it work. Everyone on that team, and in the class, benefitted from the experience. The exercise demonstrated how people from a variety of backgrounds could blend their individual experiences to create something more interesting than any one of them could have on their own. It also demonstrated the impact each team member brought to the project in terms of cultural heritage.
Rewards are global
My travels have taken me around the world as both a businessman and an educator. In the process, I’ve learned what does and does not work when doing business abroad. One of my favorite discussions on international business communications helps students understand how much culture factors in when completing global business transactions. In England and Germany, for example, punctuality is a must. In Saudi Arabia and Mexico, however, punctuality is not seen as a virtue. In Saudi Arabia, your client might be late or not show up at all. In Mexico, it’s polite to be 30 minutes late. When in Spain, you will be expected to be on time, but be prepared to wait for your client. They do not feel the need to reciprocate by being on time. My discussion also includes tips on when and when not to give gifts, shake hands and what’s considered the norm in negotiations. By focusing attention on diversity and international protocol in an academic setting, everyone is able to see how their background fits in with the rest of the world. Students who have ties to the countries or cultures being discussed often contribute their personal experiences. Because so many of our students come from a variety of backgrounds, everyone has a chance to learn firsthand from someone else’s experience and to enrich others by sharing their own.
This article originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, UOPX Campus Viewpoints section. To review our current faculty articles, visit: https://chronicle.com/campusViewpoint/University-of-Phoenix/29/.