GTI Celebrates our May 2021 Graduates

GTI graduate facilitators with Becky
GTI celebrates our graduating graduate facilitators

The Global Training Initiative would like to recognize the great work that our four graduating student workers have done over the course of this year. Because of the pandemic, the vast majority of GTI programs shifted to an online format, and these students pitched in to help with the successful pivot. The entire GTI team is extremely grateful for their hard work and dedication and wishes them the best in their future endeavors.

Amanda Baker

Amanda Baker
Amanda Baker

Amanda Baker was the course facilitator for the English Language Teaching Certificate Program for Azerbaijani teachers. She’s also facilitating the STEM Education program for teachers in Bogota, Colombia. Baker said the remote aspect of teaching and facilitating these courses was one of the biggest challenges that also yielded some of the greatest benefits.

“I enjoyed working with the foreign teachers and the U.S.-based faculty and seeing how they interact and learn from multiple perspectives, both geographically and professionally,” she said. “I learned that I still have a lot to learn about my own cultural competence. Cultural competence and exploring culture should be a life-long journey.”

Baker will continue working this summer with GTI on programs related to Latin America. She will enroll in a doctoral program at George Washington University in Washington D.C. in the fall. Baker will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Comparative and International Education.

Audrey Egler

Audrey Egler

Audrey Egler served among our first cohort of graduate facilitators for the Developing Cultural Competence Student Certificate program. In her semester working with GTI, she has learned a lot about global cultures, particularly from our student participants in Colombia, the Philippines, China, Japan and Morocco. She also worked to teach a few of her apartment roommates who are enrolled in their first semester of SKEMA Raleigh and learned a bit more about her own multinational background. Egler said her role as a DCC facilitator improved both her teaching and public speaking skills. She also gained more insights about how to be cross-culturally effective, which will hopefully help her future career aspirations in social science research.

“U.S. Americans tend to be more direct than other cultures, so I now know to look for implicit meaning when communicating with people from cultures that tend to be more indirect,” she said.

Paige Knapp

paige grad photo
Paige Knapp

Paige Knapp was also a graduate facilitator for the Developing Cultural Competence Student Certificate program. They enjoyed the opportunity to connect with people from around the world, including the students here in Raleigh. Knapp will be participating in an archaeological field school in Wilmington, NC after graduation as the final step to prepare for a career in archaeology.

“The biggest challenge I had to overcome was my shyness and anxiety when it came to speaking,” Knapp said. “I still get nervous teaching, but I’ve gotten much better at it!”

Knapp also saw how beneficial the DCC program was in improving their own cultural competency.

“I knew to practice cultural homework before going to a new place, but had a hard time overcoming cultural gaps,” they added. “I feel much more prepared to face these differences now.”

Swathi Dinakaran

Swathi Dinakaran

Swathi Dinakaran also served as a facilitator for the DCC program while finishing her final semester for a Master’s In Computer Science. Although her studies were in a more technical field, she was able to apply a lot of her experiences as an international student to the conversations about cultural knowledge and skills.

“I feel that I was the person who learned the most from the lessons even though I was an instructor,” Dinakaran explained about her excitement in exploring this new field.

She is now excited to apply the DCC lessons to her new position with Amazon in Washington state.

“I hope that I can find a like-minded network in my new global organization.,” she added. Because of the pandemic, Dinakaran’s entire graduate experience was spent in Raleigh, so she is excited to explore more places around the U.S.

Mackenzie Lamb

Mackenzie Lamb started as a teaching assistant for the GTI’s Global Leadership Program during the summer of 2020, then she transitioned her role as an intern for the 2020-2021 school year. She provided support for various GTI programs, compiled reports on survey data, and performed research on cultural values.

Mackenzie Lamb

“I really enjoyed building relationships with GTI staff and program participants,” Lamb said. “Although we could not be together in person, we found unique ways to connect, learn from each other, and have a lot of fun this year.”

Lamb will work with RTI International’s Center for Global Noncommunicable Diseases after graduation and when international travel is possible again, she hopes to return to Germany, where she previously studied abroad, for a year before pursuing graduate school. During her time with GTI, Lamb learned that building and honing one’s cultural competence is a life-long effort.

“As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, we have more listening and learning to do than ever before,” she added. “I realized that learning about other cultures strengthens my understanding of my own background, and cultural competence exists at the intersection of celebrating differences and finding common ground.”

Shirin Vatankhah

Shirin Vatankhah earned a unique GTI certificate in her role as a Global Village Ambassador. She completed multiple semesters of cross-cultural and facilitation training to provide quality cultural learning programs and workshops for residents within the Living and Learning Community that comprise domestic, exchange and international students.

Shirin Vatankhah

“A huge part of my responsibilities as an ambassador was to connect with every member of this diverse community and create an inclusive environment,” she said. “This wasn’t an easy job and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the GTI team.” 

GTI developed a training program to help Vatankhah and other Global Village Ambassadors improve their cultural competency as well as develop the skills to plan and facilitate cross-cultural dialogue and exchange in their programs. Vatankhah remembers the large-scale North Carolina Harvest Family Dinner, the first program she organized for the Village, and the useful feedback she got after the event.

“It feels good to have a record of my starting point to see my progress in becoming a better cultural facilitator and public speaker,” she added.

Vatankhah will be returning to NC State in the fall to pursue a graduate degree in Physiology, which will bring her one step closer to pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a medical doctor. She credits the various GTI programs she has participated in for helping to turn her into a more conscientious member of the greater Wolfpack community.

“Working with GTI validated many of my feeling and identities as an immigrant to the US. In my opinion, a multicultural background creates a lot of room for personal growth, but it isn’t an easy identity to have,” she said.