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Setting the Record Straight

15 Apr 2022 10:40 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Cliff Clarke and Sandy Fowler

As all good interculturalists know, when you want to check on something in another culture, you contact several cultural informants. In journalism, you rely on your readers to inform you when some facts need to be corrected. That is what happened when the kind piece written by Dorothy and Hap Sermol in the March issue of The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA came to the attention of Cliff Clarke. He rightly pointed out that without an official SIETAR USA historian focused on accurate recordings of its history, we must rely on people’s memories. Of course, that should have started at the beginning of SIETAR. Even that genesis is clouded in the memories of many who were there at the time. However, many of those who were there at the time are no longer with us to help us get our facts straight. We are in a position today to make sure that the history of the beginnings of the Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication (later called the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication) are clear and true. I know that Dorothy and Hap would appreciate this correction because they want the facts straight as much as the rest of us.

Dorothy and Hap wrote that "Janet introduced significant educational change to many intercultural situations.  For example, while living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she hosted the Annual Intercultural Training Institute (ICI) at Stanford University. When she moved to Portland, Oregon, she brought the ICI to Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon. Her creative leadership relocated this Institute, now called the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC), to Reed College in Portland.  Subsequently, SIIC has greatly advanced the interests and careers of Interculturalists throughout the world.”

The underlined passages contain the four errors in the article and Cliff has offered from his firsthand experience to set the record straight.

1) There was no host of the Institute except for Dean Arthur Colardarci, of the School of Education at SU.

2) The proper name of the summer institute at Stanford was the “Stanford Institute for Intercultural Communication” which is why it became the Summer IIC in Oregon to keep the same acronym of SIIC and not break the ten years of history of its founding and development at Stanford, i.e., name brand continuation so that the new can benefit from the gains of the old.

3) There was one founder, myself, one host, Dean Arthur Coladarci, one collaborator and fund raiser of great significance, David Hoopes, one assistant director, King Ming Young, and one coordinator, Jack May. The others were invited workshop leaders, guest speakers, and student interns. The only funding of SIIC at Stanford was in-kind from SU and the NAFSA grant for 12 regional representatives to attend.

4) The move of SIIC at Stanford University was a result of my desire to work full-time with my consulting firm, Clarke Consulting Group, that was growing rapidly at the time. Dean Coladarci said he had no one to replace me so out of his kindness he agreed that I could search and decide to whom or what to give it. Because of my friendship with Janet and respect for Milton I chose to give it to the Bennetts.  They came to Stanford from Portland for a week to discuss the essences of SIIC that I wished would continue because of its success for ten years.  Milton has recently received an early inheritance from his father for $40,000, which just happened to be the annual cost at the time for running the institute, other that my costs. I was on an RA-ship at Stanford at the time beginning my graduate studies. SIIC returned after each summer session the gains of $40,000 from participant fees which remained in the University to assist the next year’s planning and execution. The final 1986 gains were left in the SUSE general funds account.

After discussions with the Bennetts and discovering that we would have the same goals and respect for the core policies, I chose to give them the SIIC with no strings attached. I had confidence in their abilities and commitment to grow the SIIC in Oregon. They proved me right and exceeded my expectations. They stayed for five days to pack up the library of 5,000 items mostly by making copies of everything to take with them in boxes.”

May I offer another thought about the origins of the SIIC, which began in the planning stages at Stanford University in 1975.  There were four policies or principles designed into SIIC from its founding plus one from Dean Coladarci: (a) There would be a balance of workshops focused on international and domestic issues, intercultural and multicultural; (b) There would be a balance of representatives from multiple disciplines and practices, i.e., college faculties, public school teachers and administrators, counselors, healthcare workers, government agencies, community NPOs, and others; (c) There would be equality of status between participants and coordinators, which would encourage participants to feel equally valuable and be equally respected.  All invited workshop leaders or speakers would be available to participants throughout the program, i.e., no visiting “firemen” who rush in, present, and disappear. Therefore, the program would be largely focused on interaction in groups and between individuals. (d) There would be every effort to keep costs as low as possible to cover expenses and for those needing assistance, internships would be provided in exchange for services in coordinating the workshops’ administrative needs.  Dean Coladarci added, (e) there would be a balance between a “core curriculum” which everyone attended and workshops for choice by participants with no workshop hopping.

Cliff would like to offer one last thing that may help us when writing about history. In 2016 February, my wife, Naomi and I returned to live in Kyoto, Japan. I to retire and she to teach at a university around the corner from our home. In retirement I knew I would have time to write. So, I’ve been writing about history in the intercultural field. There are six new articles or chapters to date with another coming near the end of this year.  These can be downloaded from my Research Gate account.  My one guiding principle has been to only write about my first-hand experiences participating in that history.  I believe that this would be a good principle to practice for most writings on history in our field, unless reporting on direct recorded interviews of those who were there.  History by hearsay is guaranteed to misrepresent events of those treasured events gone years ago.

Cliff and I agree that history provides the context for what we do and why we do it. If you have firsthand knowledge of a piece of SIETAR history, please consider describing your recollections and submit them to be published in The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA. This periodical is in its 4th year of publication and the archives contain an Opinion article in each issue as well as other articles that capture the current thoughts as well as memories of past events of leaders in the intercultural and DEI fields. It is a permanent repository of historical importance. We need to capture these memories now!


  • 16 Apr 2022 10:13 AM | M Stringer
    Thank you for this first-hand clarification of the SIIC history. Truth matters and I appreciate this documentation. I have been sad that this history was getting lost in recent years.

    My husband, Andy Reynolds, offered to do interviews of Intercultural "legends" to help procure memories of those who came before us. He offered to do it for the simple cost of the video tapes but the Board declined this offer. Perhaps it is not too late to begin with these two authors who are integral to the history of the field and the organization.
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