Facilitating cultural exchange

Meet alumna Christy Inhulsen

I have been working at VIA, a nonprofit providing exchange programs between Asia and the US, for the past three years, most recently, as the cross-cultural and leadership program director. VIA was started over 50 years ago by a group of Stanford students who wanted to learn more about the world around them through service-learning projects. Now VIA not only places Americans overseas as volunteers at local nonprofits, it also brings students from East Asia to Silicon Valley for cultural exchanges, social innovation exploration, and leadership capacity building.

christy-inhausen-facilitating a trainingI run both the Global Leadership & Engagement program (GLE) and the American Language and Culture program (ALC). The first brings a group of 25–30 students from outside of the USA to Silicon Valley and provides them with the opportunity to meet with leaders and employees at nonprofits, social enterprises, and innovating tech companies. I do my best to tailor the program to match the social issues the students most want to solve.

In the ALC program, students from top-tier East Asian universities come and live at Stanford University and take English classes during the day. The rest of the time, they participate in enriching cultural and social activities that my team and I coordinate. These activities range from baseball games and musicals to panels focused on LGBTQ issues and intercultural relationships. Students often come with stereotypes of one another’s countries and, by the end of the month, walk away as best friends and with new insights about their own worldviews.

My experience at SIT enriched my skill set and further developed my capacity to create thoughtful, immersive programs.

My experience at SIT enriched my skill set and further developed my capacity to create thoughtful, immersive programs. The course Training Design for Experiential Learning equipped me with meaningful ways for facilitating reflection sessions and for structuring a program to reach the intended goals. In my Peace and Conflict classes I studied deeply the theories and strategies for running peace dialogue workshops, which I recently added to the programs we run. I am thankful to the professors who shared their practices and personal insights and provided space for personal reflection. I am equally appreciative of the amazing friendships I created at SIT and the powerful network I am now a part of. The work I do connects me to amazing individuals who are truly making a positive impact, and that provides me with immense hope for the future.