Why and how to understand your institutional culture

In a SEM Conference session titled “Working Smarter, Not Harder,” Medicine Hat College representatives shared one foundational element of SEM planning: understanding institutional culture.

Upon taking her position at Associate Vice President of Student Development, Irlanda Price was tasked with creating a SEM plan -- but realized she first needed to evaluate the history of the institution.

“We started looking at culture really thoughtfully and really deliberately,” said co-presenter and Brier Albano, Associate Registrar. They emphasized the importance of thinking deliberately about your institutional culture, focusing on communication and finding “interpreters” to get your message out.

To build SEM spirit, they employed "intercultural collaborations," as outlined by the Canadian Foreign Service Institute. These collaborations require:

  • Intercultural dialogue to meet people where they are.
  • Shared tools, jargon and work methods (ensure you are listening and understanding context, use tools that are effective for those you are trying to reach and include.)
  • Knowing the stakeholders and the management context.
  • Shared understanding of expected results (communicate clearly the expectations, use data, set clear goals and timelines.)
  • Clear process, transparency and trust.
  • Knowledge and acceptance of culture differences.
  • Learning while doing and iterative approach (seek out things you might be missing, gear messages to target audiences but offer key points on SEM work for larger campus population.)

“We both truly believe in this journey, and we had to think a lot about our institutional culture to get there,” said Price.

For further guidance on developing a SEM plan customized to your campus, connect with AACRAO Consulting. Download session handouts with the AACRAO Engage meeting app