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 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, and 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.  Specific goals include 1. Building intercultural awareness and skills (with the above context in mind); 2. Forging meaningful personal and professional connections to other graduate students and guest speakers; 3. Learning more about the global energy landscape, with a special focus on Brazil and the U.S. (e.g., research efforts to reduce our carbon footprint; social and environmental energy justice issues in the two countries). The end goal is to help graduate students with intercultural interactions/collaborations and in realizing the synergy between their research and ongoing issues with social and energy justice

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 and being a global leader, 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.1

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 individual sessions).   Again, we expect the program to enable students to have more enjoyable and beneficial intercultural collaborations.

Participant Outcomes

Twenty-three graduate student participants received a final certificate.2  For a summary of the affiliation of the participants, see the table to the right of the certificate. Twenty of the 23 GIGEL participants (Ps) completed the survey. This is an excellent return rate (88%).  Survey outcomes are described below.

Program Goals Met? (N=20)

GIGEL Ps were asked, “To what extent do you disagree or agree that the 7-week program met the below goals? As shown in the below figure, there was 100% agreement that two of the four program goals were met. Thus, all the Ps agreed the program “Provided an opportunity to work on one’s intercultural awareness and skills” and “Will help me have more enjoyable and productive future international research collaborations/interactions.” The agreement percentage dropped to 90% for: “Allowed me to make some initial personal and professional connections” and “Helped me think about being a future intercultural global energy leader.” 

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Comments made it clear that some GIGEL Ps wanted more time to interact with one another and to discuss what they were learning. In future, we will increase the amount of time spent in Live virtual sessions help improve agreement with the two goals.  Overall, though, these findings show the program, which was being offered for the first time, met the goals laid out in the beginning of the 7-weeks for the majority of participants. 

Quality Program? (N=20)

GIGEL Ps were asked, “Please rate the GIGEL certification program for the…” (quality of different aspects of the program, see the below figure for each aspect of the program rated). 

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Again, there was strong consensus (ranging from 90-100%) that the quality of the program was “good” or “excellent.” A slight drop in the percentages of agreement was clarified by comments about wanting more time in breakout rooms and wanting the invited speakers to focus more on the intersection of intercultural issues and their research.    

What was liked about the GIGEL? (N=17)

All Ps commented, with the main themes being: 1. How much they valued learning about intercultural skills, 2. How the program is needed if one is going to be a global energy leader, and 3. How much they learned from talking to graduate students and speakers from other countries. Here are some quotes so you can get a sense of the comments (which were all in this vein):

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 different topics we explored during GIGEL.”

What was disliked about the gigel? (N=17)

All Ps commented, with the main themes being:  1. How they wanted to interact more with one another (breakout rooms longer; more live sessions) and 2. How they wanted more emphasis on energy. Here are some quotes so you can get a sense of the comments (which are all in this vein):

“I think the course could be a little longer and we could have more live meetings to discuss further about the energy topic with our colleagues. GIGEL was very interesting, that’s why I think we could explore it for a little longer.” 

"I think that would be interesting having fewer offline activities and more live sessions. Although the material was very good and brought interesting content, I felt like the live discussions were more enriching than the tasks. So, as a suggestion, I believe that some of the discussions we had in Brightspace should be done in the live sessions."

Valuable takeaways

16 of 17 Ps commented.  Comments were positive but idiosyncratic. Here are some examples (which are representative of many of the comments made):   

“A valuable takeaway 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.” 

"I learned 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." 

“My valuable takeaway was about being a better and more patient listener. Also, I feel that I have evolved in terms of understanding other cultures. Finally, I'm more encouraged to travel abroad.”

“A valuable takeaway 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."

Recommend the program? (N=17)

When asked, “Would you recommend this program to other graduate students?” 15 of the 17 GIGEL Ps (88%) answered: “yes” and 2 Ps (12%) responded “maybe” (with one of these Ps answering “maybe” simply qualifying that a graduate student would need to have the time to take the program).  There were 8 comments made, as follows: 

It can make even your personal experiences abroad better.”

“I got a lot out of this program.  I support the mission it is trying to accomplish, and I think anyone could benefit from understanding the way we perceive, compartmentalize, and respond to differences in culture.”

“I think this is a valuable skill and one you would not always effectively master without guidance.” 

“I think the program expands the field of vision in relation to collaborations and work protocols.”

“I think all researchers should take this course.”

“Yes, I recommend this course to every graduate student and also my friends and family.  Beyond the energy leadership case, intercultural competence is an ability that all should have.”

“Depending on the year of graduate studies, participants may not have the time to be able to participate in all sessions.”

“The course is an excellent opportunity for discussing topics that are important for the academic context but rarely discussed.”

Ideas for Next Steps

Thanks to the high return rate of the survey (87%) and the largely consensual feedback about what was disliked/needing improvement, the GIGEL program will be re-designed to better meet the needs of future graduate student participants. This means lengthening the Live sessions and trying to connect guest speakers to the material they are learning from the previous week.

Also, the tentative plan is to offer a certificate program in alternate years 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. 

Finally, there seems to be a real interest in a next-step program offering that addresses the intersection between the ongoing research in the centers, how that research makes sense in the context of a global energy landscape, and with a population who will be future leaders in the energy sector, and what implications all of it has for social and environmental justice issues. To this end, I am exploring co-teaching with a faculty or staff member who has more expertise in energy research globally.

Final Point to Share

To give those who are interested in a small taste of where the certificate program ended, I wanted to share the final discussion board question posed to the GIGEL Ps:

“As a future leader in the field of energy, what can you do to achieve more equitable energy solutions and environmental justice for all people as we focus on how to transition to cleaner energy sources?” 

The wisdom and thought that went into their answers was, quite frankly, stunning. So, my thanks to the graduate students who engaged wholeheartedly in the GIGEL program.  My hope for them, and everyone, is to have enjoyable and productive international research collaborations and that to continue to grow in your global leadership knowledge and skills.  Best of luck in your continued intercultural journey!

Please contact Dr. Driscoll if you have any questions or thoughts about the program at  Thank you!


 1 Thanks to Drs. Fabio Ribeiro, Juarez Da Silva, Abhaya Datye, and Brian Tackett, for being GIGEL speakers.

2 Thanks to Drs. Fabio Ribeiro, Abhaya Datye, and Juarez da Silva for facilitating communication with faculty across centers.