by Ursula Brinkmann, PhD

Last Friday, I had the privilege and true pleasure of being awarded the Margaret D Pusch Founders Award at this year’s SIETAR USA Congress. It’s great, and I am still a bit surprised. Here’s my acceptance speech, which I hope you’ll find worth your 3 minutes reading time. Thanks, Monika de Waal from Unique Sources, for accepting it on my behalf and delivering the speech!

“Hello from Holland to all of you, dear fellow intercultural professionals on the other side of the Atlantic!

It’s been a most eventful week for all of us – in particular of course, for the US citizens amongst you. Rest assured, all of us here in Europe have been following the debates closely.

I am certain that you could recharge your batteries at this year’s SIETAR US Conference, thanks to that special spirit that emerges when intercultural professionals meet. I wish I could be there with you in Tulsa, which is after all not even 24 hours from Amsterdam.

I´d like to thank the nomination committee and the congress organizers for making me this year’s recipient of the Margaret D Pusch Founders Award. I feel truly honored and grateful. It’s not a small thing to be in one line with professionals like Sandra Fowler and Janet Bennett, who have made extraordinary contributions to the field. And of course, to be in one line with Margaret Pusch herself.

I am grateful to Margaret Pusch if only because of her superb chapter Intercultural training in historical perspective, in the Landis, Bennett and Bennett Handbook of Intercultural Training. It made me realize that the intercultural profession in the US already had a history when here in Europe, it was just starting. Her chapter also helped my partner, Oscar van Weerdenburg, and myself, to explain why, in our readiness research, the US scored better on Intercultural Sensitivity than Europe.

Europe is arguably culturally more diverse than the US. But this diversity doesn’t by itself make Europeans interculturally more sensitive. These days, some people want to convince us that cultural diversity comes at a cost, that it makes us less tolerant, less accepting of others. That line of thinking is wrong, and it is dangerous. Instead, the US scores better on Intercultural Sensitivity than Europe because professionals like you have had two decades more time to excel in your work – not in the least because of edge-walking leaders like Margaret, who were there from the start to push you in the right direction.

Margaret Pusch was also among the first to stress how important intercultural friendship is for intercultural competence development – over and above just spending time abroad. Oscar and I have started to dig deeper into this topic, and indeed have found that intercultural friendship is vastly more important than just being abroad. Intercultural friendship still lacks the academic attention it deserves, which we hope to help change. It is a topic that will go viral – and till it does, I am deeply grateful for the many intercultural friends I could make – thanks to SIETAR and its founders.

My thanks also go to Oscar van Weerdenburg, for being such a great partner at Intercultural Business Improvement and resourceful co-developer of the Intercultural Readiness Check; and to my colleagues at SIETAR Netherlands, for their wonderful spirit and collegiality. Look forward to celebrating with you!”

Amsterdam, 12 November 2016