Michael A. Brzezinski Intercultural Learning Champion

Photo of Mike Brzezinski at his retirement

In honor of CILMAR's founder and first director Michael A. Brzezinski, we present the inaugural 2024 Michael A. Brzezinski Intercultural Learning Champion award to Michael Bittinger.

According to CILMAR's director Kris Acheson Clair:

"Michael embodies the vision of Mike Brzezinski to position intercultural learning at the heart of the education abroad experience. He has been a leader at Purdue in transforming study abroad programs to feature experiential education, mentorship, reflection, and other evidence-based practices. He also models holding oneself accountable as a program leader for the growth and development of students via rigorous assessment, and he leverages formative assessment to personalize mentorship of students in his programs.

"Michael has gone above and beyond his formal role in the study abroad office in so many ways to support CILMAR’s mission. For example, he has worked on multiple research projects that have resulted in presentations and publications, helping to disseminate best practices in fostering intercultural learning before, during and after study abroad to the wider education abroad field. He has collaborated on Growing, Learning, Understanding Everyone (GLUE) curriculum with CILMAR staff and faculty across Purdue, contributing not only his intercultural expertise but also his skill in script writing and acting for video creation. And he consistently gives of his time to mentor others both in the Semester Abroad in Intercultural Learning (SAIL) scholarship course and Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) individual debriefing calendar."

The award comes with a $5000 deposit into the winner's discretionary fund.

For our study abroad programs here at Purdue this means that sending or accompanying our students abroad is insufficient. We need to do more. If we truly desire for our students to develop certain intercultural knowledge, skills and/or attitudes then we need to facilitate such learning; otherwise, it will most likely not occur.

Michael A. Brzezinski, past dean of International Programs & vice president of Global Partnerships and Programs

The CILMAR Vision Awards (2017-2023)

Each year from 2017-2023, two or three faculty or staff members were chosen via a nomination and committee review process to receive the CILMAR Vision Award for their outstanding implementation of intercultural learning on campus and/or in study abroad, their mentorship efforts, and their leadership in assessment and innovative research.

The vision of CILMAR is an inclusive and interculturally proficient Purdue community. CILMAR’s team strives to support intercultural learning, inclusive teaching, and belongingness across campus, especially with innovations in the curriculum and co-curriculum. Each year as we celebrate the history of our center, we pause to honor visionaries across campus whose collaborative efforts make our mission possible.

Kris Acheson-Clair, director of CILMAR, 2018-present

Vision Awardees, 2017-2023


Elizabeth Barajas

Elizabeth Barajas began her relationship with CILMAR in the Purdue Polytechnic Insitute (PPI) under the leadership of Dr. Robert Cox when he headed the Global Programs office there. Now, a Polytechnic leader in her own right, Barajas promotes intercultural learning across the Institute. For example, PPI continues to lead the entire campus in large-scale assessment efforts, with an exemplary first/fourth-year longitudinal data collection model that provides invaluable evidence of growth and pain points in student learning outcomes. Barajas has also designed, implemented, and assessed a demonstrably effective study abroad for pre-matriculation students, mentoring their ICL before they even come to campus, and she has been a strong voice in support of virtual exchange and other alternative intercultural learning opportunities.

Nastasha Johnson

Nastasha Johnson is also a long-time collaborator of CILMAR, with several extensive research studies and joint projects in their history together. In fact, she was a co-PI in CILMAR’s first successful grant proposal for external funding in 2018. Johnson’s nominator commented on her work at the intersection of ICL and DEIB – not only is she an advocate for and a recognized expert in ICL in the national arena in library sciences, but she is also active with the university Equity Task Force, Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and many other efforts on campus to make Purdue a more inclusive institution. Like Russell, Johnson is also a qualified administrator of multiple intercultural assessment instruments such as the Intercultural Development Inventory and the Beliefs, Events and Values Inventory, and uses them extensively to both stimulate and document intercultural learning.

Mark Russell

Mark Russell was a champion of intercultural learning (ICL) on campus long before CILMAR came to be in 2016. In addition to designing and leading multiple study abroad programs with an ICL focus, Russell was instrumental in the development of the Peace Corps Prep Certificate program at Purdue and co-created with CILMAR staff an ICL course for undergraduates in that program. Russell has supported both intercultural and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) curricular innovation efforts in the College of Agriculture. In particular, his nomination noted how he has effectively mentored many other faculty members as well as students over the years and emphasized his advocacy for experiential education and formative assessment across the curriculum.


Kristofer Chang Alexander

Kristofer Chang Alexander has led an impressive number of study abroad trips in the last eight years—fifteen in all to different parts of the world, including Japan, France, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In order to better prepare his students for intercultural learning before, during, and after study abroad, he has designed an innovative 10-week Intercultural Development Plan (IDP), which begins with his students taking the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) assessment. Then, Chang Alexander modifies the IDP based on CQ class scores. He has currently published two large-scale studies documenting the effectiveness of his IDP on student learning. Portions of Chang Alexander’s IDP are now available as on-line modules (PIM) for instructors to use on the Purdue campus in their classrooms, irrespective of academic disciplines and not just for study abroad students.

Since 2021, Chang Alexander has also been working with a team on creating an educational program entitled Growing Learning Understand Everyone (GLUE) that supports students’ personal and professional development regarding interpersonal and intercultural effectiveness. The 3-credit hour course consists of eight units and forty modules designed around Sorrell’s Intercultural Praxis Model theoretical framework. He is working with the team to develop curriculum by writing talking head and animation scripts, designing assignments, and creating interactive activities.

In addition to his endeavors on the Purdue campus, Chang Alexander has taken a global leadership role in educating against homophobia, queer prejudice, and trans-bullying, with a forthcoming publication on this topic.

Chang Alexander continues to deepen his students’ intercultural competence while increasing the reach of his intercultural efforts beyond his own college.

Elizabeth Karcher

Elizabeth Karcher learned three weeks before the start of the Fall 2020 semester that her large enrollment Introduction to Animal Sciences course needed to transition to remote learning. In order to meet course outcomes of increasing student intercultural competence (cultural self-awareness and empathy) and creating awareness of global animal protein production, Karcher, in partnership with her graduate student, developed new intercultural learning curriculum and tested its effectiveness by pre- and post-testing with the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). With this instrument they found significant increases in comparison to a control group. These findings support that intercultural competence can be developed in a remote learning environment and with students enrolled in a STEM-based, large enrollment, introductory course. The results of this project were published in October 2021 in the NACTA Journal, and the paper was selected to receive NACTA’s 2022 E.B. Knight Journal Award.

In addition, Karcher and a colleague recently received funding to develop agricultural-themed intercultural learning modules, which will be implemented across the College of Agriculture and made available to others through CILMAR’s Portable Intercultural Modules (PIM) program. Led by Karcher, the animal sciences department is currently implementing a revised undergraduate curriculum, and intercultural competence assessment is being implemented for all of the College’s incoming first-year class. The systemic changes which Karcher is making continue to increase in reach and depth.


Virginia Cabrera

Past CILMAR Vision Award winners have often been faculty members, so it is unusual this year to be honoring two exceptional staff members for their vision. Virginia Cabrera had an impressive nomination that emphasized long-term commitment to CILMAR's mission as well as large-scale impact. Several years ago. Cabrera began to integrate formative assessment and personal development plans using the Intercultural Developmemt Inventory into Boiler Gold Rush (BGR) leader training. Her vision was to mentor BGR leaders in a train-the-trainer approach that is near and dear to CILMAR's heart, exponentially increasing impact when those leaders in turn began to mentor the thousands of incoming students participating in BGR each year. Dr. Acheson-Clair noted,

Cabrera has exercised amazing responsiveness to times that challenge students' resilience. In the past year, she organized online focus groups and spaces where 700+ students reflected on their identities and reacted to current events such as the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Meanwhile, her work embedding intercultural learning and assessment at all levels of support programs for incoming students continues despite the move to virtual spaces for many peer interactions. Cabrera has also exhibited visionary leadership within the Steps to Leaps program by pursuing and then sharing new expertise in socially just assessment.

A nominator wrote,

Virginia’s identities as a Latinx woman, a first-generation American, a first-generation college student, and many others, drive her work around inclusivity and intercultural practices, of which she made great advances during the challenges of 2020 in particular.

In higher education, we tend to focus on the classroom more so than the important ways that Student Success and Student Life contribute to the belongingness and skill-building of the campus community. The award committee wanted to honor her accomplishments in this area, but even more so to acknowledge her passion and belief in the possibility of a more inclusive and interculturally competent Purdue.

Laura Starr

Nominated for her long-term efforts with innovative study abroad and co-curricular programs in the College of Science as well as her more recent large-scale success incorporating intercultural learning and assessment into the new Learn-to-Be first year course, Laura Starr exemplifies perseverance in pursuit of a vision. 

CILMAR's director, Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, said of Dr. Starr's nomination packet,

What the committe found most impressive about her case was how her work spanned so many different contexts both inside and outside the classroom over the years. Her impact has grown steadily in the College of Science through innovative study abroad programs such as Invention and Culture in Spain and Morocco and peer learning opportunities such as the Global Science Partnerships Learning Community and the Global Dialogues group she mentors. Responding to the constraints of the pandemic, she moved programs online and was even able to greatly expand her reach by embedding virtual intercultural learning modules and the Beliefs, Events and Values Inventory into the first year science courses this past year.

One nominator wrote that she has focused the College's attention on increasing the inclusiveness and intercultural proficiency of the College of Science community.

CILMAR appreciates Dr. Starr's leadership and vision, especially in modeling scaled-up intercultural learning and assessment in STEM.


Stewart Chang Alexander

The article in Purdue Today said about Dr. Stewart Chang Alexander,

According to his nominators, Chang Alexander was chosen for his support of CILMAR’s vision in a variety of areas, including pedagogy and research, study abroad and on-campus initiatives. His mentorship efforts support both students and colleagues, and the impact of his work is felt far beyond his own discipline because of his innovative leadership in designing series of intercultural learning modules meant to be embedded in both study abroad and on-campus versions of Health and Human Sciences courses.

Chang Alexander was one of the first faculty members on campus to train on and implement intercultural assessments such as the Intercultural Development Inventory. Also, for many years he has led and co-led multiple short-term study abroad programs that are demonstrably effective in achieving learning outcomes. Like many past CILMAR Vision Award recipients, Chang Alexander was envisioning an interculturally competent and inclusive Purdue community in his teaching, research, and service activities long before the founding of CILMAR in 2016.

Renee Thomas

The article in Purdue Today went on to say about Renee Thomas,

Thomas is honored for her long history of work at Purdue and beyond to foster inclusivity and positive intercultural relations. Among her many innovations as director of the Black Cultural Center that support CILMAR’s mission of structurally embedded intercultural learning are formal curricula associated with various BCC programs, such as the annual educational research tour by BCC’s Performing Arts Ensembles, which presents a tangible opportunity for performance ethnography in order to bridge the gap between scholarly activity and teaching and learning.

One of her nominators noted her leadership in creating the first domestic study away program at Purdue that intentionally places international, domestic majority, and domestic underrepresented minority students in conversation with each other about race and history. CILMAR has collaborated on multiple projects with the Black Cultural Center because of Thomas’s heart for partnering across disciplinary and cultural divides. CILMAR recognizes Thomas for her commitment to the work of equity, diversity, and inclusion and the positive impact she has had on Purdue’s climate, student success, and achievement of core intercultural knowledge and competence learning outcomes.

Thomas is now the associate vice provost for diversity and inclusion in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging.



Robert Cox

The Vision Award is meant to honor institutional leaders who inspire others to work towards a tomorrow that is different from today. Dr. Robert Cox, Associate Dean of Globalization in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute PPI), fulfilled that role for many years. Although he is no longer at Purdue, his legacy lives on in PPI and across campus because he built in the faculty and students a value for intercultural development, set in motion plans to systematically embed intercultural learning throughout the college curriculum, invested in a strategic college-wide first and fourth year assessment program, and generally modeled innovation in intercultural mentorship for all of Purdue.

An excerpt from Dr. Cox’s nomination reads,

I began to realize why Dr. Cox has had terrific influence on his students as a model and mentor of intercultural learning. He doesn’t see himself as finished, but rather as a learner right alongside his students. He continues to grow in his own intercultural attitudes, skills and knowledge even though it would be easy enough to rest on the fact that he has traveled the world on behalf of Purdue. He is aware that crossing an ocean in and of itself does not cause intercultural growth. A professor once told me, “The boys who come to study at PPI enter as farmers and mechanics, and they leave as farmers and mechanics.” Dr. Cox, on the other hand, has a vision to create opportunities to prepare young minds for adaptation to a broader more global world than the small Indiana towns from whence they may have come. Through the implementation of a pre-IDI in the college to the post-IDI and global course he has added to the curriculum, he gives his students the opportunity to see themselves as cultural beings within a bigger world than they might have known existed.

In short, Dr. Cox embodies the spirit of the Vision Award. Personally and professionally, he has supported CILMAR’s mission within his spheres of influence. We believe he immeasurably advanced our work because, following his lead, other colleges are beginning to consider the same kinds of innovative approaches to intercultural learning and assessment that he envisioned for the Polytechnic.

Cynthia Koh-Knox Sharp

In her comments upon awarding the Vision Award to Dr. Koh-Knox Sharp, Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, CILMAR's director, said,

Dr. Cynthia “Cindi” Koh-Knox Sharp truly exhibits a spirit of servant leadership. We wanted to honor her labor with the CILMAR Vision Award because for years she has tirelessly worked to make intercultural learning a significant aspect of the Purdue experience, in the College of Pharmacy and beyond. These excerpts from her nominators' comments illustrate that Dr. Koh-Knox Sharp is a CILMAR affiliate who lives and breathes vision by getting down to the hard work of it every day.

One nominator for Dr. Koh-Knox Sharp wrote,

The beauty of investing intercultural learning and mentorship into someone like Cindi is the return on investment continues to multiply exponentially through students and curriculum.  Cynthia Koh-Knox shows up and then she goes to work. She is an influencer. She makes things happen whether or not you are aware that she was the force behind what you are seeing.  She truly believes that intercultural learning is important, and she demonstrates this belief by infiltrating the system with it. Intercultural learning is not completely theoretical for Cindi.  Raised by Filipino parents in the US, she knows the value of being able to think through her own cultural upbringing and challenging her children to do the same.  She has a vision that intercultural mentoring can enrich the lives of future pharmacists, and she makes sure they have it before they are set loose in a global economy, in which their patients may look and sound very different than themselves.

Another nominator commented,

You know those people you can always count on to say "yes," who raise their hands whenever anyone asks for volunteers for a new initiative? Cindi is one of those “step up” people. Every training that becomes available, she shows up for. Every call that comes out, she answers. She does the work of changing the campus culture. In the courses she teaches, in the hiring committees she serves on, in every conversation she has with colleagues and mentees, she is working towards an envisioned future Purdue where all members of the community experience more belongingness and we are all committed to the life-long process of intercultural development. I just want to say “Brava” to Cindi for her years of unacknowledged labor.

Brava, indeed, Dr. Koh-Knox Sharp!


Pamala V. Morris

In her comments upon awarding the Vision Award to Dr. Morris, Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, CILMAR's director, said,

We are honoring Dr. Pamala Morris tonight for her many contributions over the years on Purdue’s campus. Dr. Morris is Professor in Youth Development and Agricultural Education, and Assistant Dean in the College of Agriculture.

According to Dr. Mark Russell, who wrote a letter in support of her nomination, in 2005 Dr. Morris became the College of Agriculture’s inaugural Director of Multicultural Programs, and she has served in that role in the years since:

She has successfully developed diversity initiatives that have significantly affected [both] faculty and students …and imbedded intercultural learning, mentorship, and assessment into plans of study for all in the College of Agriculture and beyond.

One of the impacts that Dr. Russell was referring to is the college’s Multicultural Understanding requirement, which Dr. Morris was instrumental in developing. Once the faculty approved this requirement for all Agriculture students in 2006, she then designed a course to meet it – AGR 201 Communication across Cultures, a course that she has taught every semester since 2007. Not only has Dr. Morris profoundly touched the lives of over 3000 Purdue students who have taken the course with her, she has also expanded her reach through online modules to Ivy Tech students from across the state and Ag extension agents nationwide. This course has also become a mentoring opportunity, since she trains graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants to help administer the small group AGR 201 recitation labs.

She also mentors her peers, providing formative assessments using the Intercultural Development Inventory to colleagues on campus and consulting for other land grant institutions as well as agriculture experiment stations across the country. In addition to her visionary teaching and mentoring, Dr. Morris is nationally recognized for her research in intercultural competence and diversity awareness. She investigates, for example, resistance to learning in the face of cultural discomfort or disequilibrium and effective techniques for overcoming that resistance. Please help me congratulate Dr. Pam Morris as the recipient of the 2018 On Campus CILMAR Vision Award.

H. Parker

In her comments upon awarding the Vision Award to Dr. H. Parker, Dr. Kris Acheson-Clair, CILMAR's director, said,

The recipient of the CILMAR Vision Award for Study Abroad is Dr. H. Parker, Assistant Director of Latin America & Spain in Global Engineering Programs and Partnerships.

From her nomination letter, written by Darshini Render:

Dr. Parker redesigned various global engineering courses to incorporate…global and intercultural learning outcomes and objectives…as well as evidence-based assignments and assessments. Some of the courses she redesigned and currently facilitates are a sequence of 2 courses which make up the first-year Global Engineering Learning Community [ENGR 103 and GEP 200], ENGR 297 study abroad pre-departure course, and ENGR 497 global engineering capstone course.

In her nomination letter, Render also pointed out Dr. Parker’s substantial positive impact on inclusivity in Engineering Study Abroad through her administration of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas grant:

The first study abroad program she led in May of 2017 had 14 male and 2 female students, [only one a minority] student. This year, that same program has 6 male and 11 female students, and 45% are minority students. Moreover, she designed and will facilitate this summer the first ever Minority Engineering Program study abroad, which is an innovative pre-freshman program that will have 100% minority student participation.

Finally, a comment from one of Dr. Parker’s recent study abroad students:

Thank you for being an amazing mentor, coordinator and teacher during the study abroad trip to Mexico. I was continually motivated by your ability to deal with problems and still keep a smiling face throughout, and I hope to emulate you in the future. Your ability to handle stress and make a positive impact in someone’s life is matched by none.

The Vision Awards review committee could not help but agree that Dr.Parker goes above and beyond to make the CILMAR vision a reality in study abroad at Purdue.


Charles A. Calahan

In his comments upon awarding the Vision Award to Dr. Calahan, Dr. Mike Brzezinski, vice president  (retired) of Global Partnerships and Programs, said, 

Study Abroad is one piece of the puzzle when it comes to seeing our CILMAR vision become a reality. This Vision Award is meant to acknowledge the importance of integrating intercultural learning into on campus courses and co-curricular programs at Purdue. We are pleased to honor Dr. Charles Calahan with our first On Campus CILMAR Vision Award.

From Dr. Calahan’s nomination letter:

When it comes to embedding intercultural learning into the curriculum, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Calahan stands in a class by himself as a visionary scholar-practitioner, empathetic mentor and a ‘Johnny Appleseed’ of organizational change… He has worked tirelessly to translate the concepts of the AAC&U Intercultural [Knowledge and] Competence VALUE Rubric into active-learning lessons which foster students’ reflective self-awareness and development, and to disseminate pedagogical best-practice in intercultural learning throughout US higher education.

Many people in this room tonight--faculty, staff and students--have benefited from the mentorship of Dr. Calahan. He has quietly enabled numerous course revisions, program evaluations, research projects and training seminars, and humbly modeled for us all how to help “move the needle” for others while constantly seeking skill development for oneself. Congratulations, Dr. Calahan, and thank you for all you have done to make CILMAR possible.

JoAnn I. Phillion

In his comments upon awarding the Vision Award to Dr. Phillion, Dr. Mike Brzezinski, vice president  (retired) of Global Partnerships and Programs, said, 

The vision of CILMAR is that intercultural adeptness will become as well-known an element of the Boilermaker identity as technical and scientific virtuosity. As we celebrate this new Center and all of the work that we hope to accomplish, we want to honor visionaries who, long before CILMAR existed, have been laying the foundation for our work. These Boilermakers not only share our vision, they embody it in all that they do.

Dr. JoAnn Phillion is the recipient of the CILMAR Vision Award for Study Abroad. In reviewing nominations for this award, the committee found that Dr. Phillion stood apart in not only the length of her commitment to embedding intercultural learning into her Maymester study abroad course in Honduras, which has been in operation and in continual improvement since 2003, but also in the breadth of her activities that spanned mentorship, assessment and research in addition to learning.

Her nomination letter highlighted how she integrated curricular and co-curricular elements to help participating students develop the intercultural competencies of the AAC&U VALUE rubric, including cultural self-awareness, openness, empathy, and more. It was also clear from her nomination that Dr. Phillion is a skilled and passionate intercultural mentor, using formative assessments, reflective assignments, and dialogue to support her students before, during and after their study abroad experiences. Thank you, Dr. Phillion, for your long-standing commitment to shaping interculturally competent teachers at Purdue.