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On May 11, approximately 30 officers and enlisted personnel from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek completed a one-week, intensive cultural competency training course at Old Dominion University designed to help them better understand and work in foreign environments.

The 40-hour pilot course, which will be offered to other NECC personnel in eight additional one-week sessions over the next year, is funded by a $532,000 grant from the Navy.

In partnership with ITA International, a local small business that offers comprehensive analysis and assessments to government organizations and private industry, the university developed a cultural competency curriculum that will help sailors better comprehend, communicate with and negotiate with their allied and partner-country counterparts - particularly those in underdeveloped countries - in such areas as maritime security training and humanitarian missions.

ODU faculty taught the first three days of classes at the Gornto TELETECHNET Center and the final two at the university's facility on the Norfolk Naval Base. The classes covered the following: Fundamentals of Interpersonal Com-munications, and Home Culture Orien-tation, by Janet Bing, English; Religion and Culture, by David Loomis, philosophy and religious studies; Use of Inter-preters, by M'hammed Abdous, Center for Learning Technologies; The American Embassy/U.S.Country Team, Bismarck Myrick, international affairs; U.N. Organizational Structure and Charter, and Nuances of International Govern-mental Organizations and Non-Govern-mental Organiza-tions, by Maria Fornella-Oehninger, political science and geography; and The Art of Negotiation, by Donald Smith, sociology and criminal justice.

Overall, the course is designed to foster a fundamental understanding of cultural diversity and interpersonal relationships, as well as increase knowledge of cultural sensitivity, communication and negotiation.

"The NECC, which is commanded by Rear Adm. Donald Bullard, deploys teams to foreign countries to work with their militaries in such areas as port security and local security," said David Chase, director of military distance learning programs at ODU and the university's liaison with ITA. "This will provide these sailors with some cultural competencies and basic skills that will allow them to interface with the local militaries in carrying out their missions."

He added: "This project is one that supports the military and leverages the existing partnerships and expertise of the university. This is a good example of an area where we are well-equipped to help meet the Navy's needs, and one in which we can indirectly make a national and international impact. The faculty are very enthusiastic about this project."

Nancy J. Cooley, vice provost for distance learning, is the principal investigator for the grant, and M'Hammed Abdous, director of the Center for Learning Technologies, serves as project manager.

Chase added that ODU will subsequently adapt the pilot course for synchronous and asynchronous distance learning formats, and noted that the Navy may be interested in having future courses tailored to specific regions, cultures and languages.

This article was posted on: May 10, 2007

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