Growing Intercultural Global Energy Leaders A Graduate Certificate Program

The Growing Intercultural Global Energy Leaders (GIGEL) program is a 7-week certificate program designed to build intercultural awareness and skills, forge international personal and professional connections, and encourage thinking about the global energy landscape as part of the C2C collaboration between CISTAR, the Center for Innovation on New Energies (CINE) and the Research Centre for Gas Innovation (RCGI).


About the Growing Intercultural Global Energy Leaders (GIGEL) Summer Graduate Certificate Program

A Growing Intercultural Global Energy Leaders (GIGEL) Summer Graduate Certificate Program was created by CISTAR’s Diversity and Culture of Inclusion Director, Dr. Denise Driscoll, in collaboration with a Senior Intercultural Learning Specialist at Purdue, Dr. Dan Jones, to address the diversity and culture of inclusion goals outlined in the Center-to-Center (C2C) grant that was awarded to CISTAR (U.S.), RCGI (Brazil), and CINE (Brazil) to engage in research and professional development together. In addition, the GIGEL program was offered to provide a virtual intercultural learning opportunity for all the graduate students after several years of not being able to travel in-person because of COVID-related travel restrictions.

Overarching Purpose

The modules and live sessions were designed to get graduate students to think about how intercultural development, and one’s primary culture, affects thoughts and actions toward 1. collaboration, 2. their research, and 3. the future of energy. Thus, the program’s focus was on self-discovery (i.e., learning to be more culturally savvy, building better intercultural skills with “active listening” and “building empathy” techniques), all in the context of understanding why intercultural skills are critical to being a global energy leader. 

Design and Benefits of the Program

The GIGEL program was a 7-week certificate program specifically designed to build intercultural awareness and skills, forge international personal and professional connections, and encourage thinking about the global energy landscape, with a focus on Brazil and the U.S. A grant secured by Dr. Driscoll covered participant program costs. There were 7 modules - with videos, short articles, and guided activities - created on Brightspace, a learning management system, for students to complete asynchronously before attending one-hour “live” in-person virtual Zoom sessions. At these live sessions, the first ½ hour was reserved to discuss the module with the instructors and other graduate students in breakout rooms; the second ½ hour was reserved to listen and ask questions of an invited speaker.

Each graduate student participant received a year-long license to Country Navigator, a dynamic, interactive online tool for improving intercultural knowledge and engagement ( Participants also benefitted from a pre- and post- Intercultural Developmental Inventory (IDI) assessment. Group scores were shared and explained during a live session; an additional 9 participants met individually with Dr. Driscoll, an IDI certified administrator, to learn their individual pre- and post-IDI scores and to be debriefed (45-minute sessions).

Participant Outcomes

Those graduate students who complete the program receive a final certificate (sample shown here).  Program survey outcomes can be summarized as follows: 

100% of the participants agreed that the 7-week program:

“Provided an opportunity to work on one’s intercultural awareness and skills,” “Helped me think about being a future intercultural global energy leader,” and “Will help me have more enjoyable and productive future international research collaborations/interactions.” In addition, 90% of participants agreed the program “Allowed me to make some initial personal and professional connections.”

Thus, the program achieved its stated goals.

Participants overwhelmingly rated the program as high quality (between 90-100% depending on the specific program attribute). Below we share some comments about what they liked and what some valuable take-aways were from the program:

It was an excellent opportunity to get to know other cultures and get to know myself better, as I was able to relate in environments outside my comfort zone. I believe that GIGEL was one of the most important moments of my career and the knowledge I acquired in the course will be very useful in my professional and personal life.” 

“Intercultural competence is something I never thought we could develop, so I am thankful for this experience. It made me think more about previous interactions I had with people from different cultures and how difficult it was in the beginning. If I was more self-aware about these differences and knew about the importance of learning about other cultures, I would probably have adapted much more easily. Besides, I enjoyed the videos, the tools we had a chance to explore (such as the CN); I also found the exercises and group discussions very interesting, and the live sessions were an opportunity to discuss with my colleagues about the different topics we explored during GIGEL.”

“I learnt to be more self-aware of the intercultural differences in the world, be more open-minded to change and about the importance of intercultural competence to the scientific career”

“A valuable take away from this program for me was recognizing that though there may be common threads among people, cultural differences do exist and should not be overlooked or minimized. In doing so we can neglect or, worse, refuse the subtle characteristics that make a culture so rich. It really helped me to better understand that trying to find commonality among all people can itself be a barrier to my growth and understanding as a person living in a multicultural world.”

“A valuable take-away is that we are not as developed in terms of intercultural skills as we think we are. This is something that we should always keep improving in order to better collaborate with people from other cultures.”

Future Offerings

The plan is to offer this certificate program in Summer 2024 when there are sufficient numbers of new graduate students across the centers to form another cohort of 20-25 graduate students. In the meantime, we are weighing whether to offer a modified version of this program in Summer 2023 for undergraduates in science and engineering who are interested in energy and affiliated with the C2C grant, RCGI, CINE, or CISTAR.  Please get in touch if you are interested or have any input to inform this decision by contacting:


Denise M. Driscoll

CISTAR Director of Diversity and Inclusion