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Intercultural Leadership Seminar

The Intercultural Leadership Seminar (ILS) is designed for international and U.S. students who want to learn how to be more effective in a global environment. ILS includes brief lectures, discussion, experiential activities, and small group work. While at ILS you will:

  • Increase your awareness of the impact of culture on communication styles;
  • Gain skills necessary for effective intercultural communication;
  • Discover your own leadership potential; and
  • Develop and enhance your intercultural competence.

ILS Photo

Date, Time and Location

ILS will be held during Spring Break in Anderson ABCD, Michigan Union (1st floor). The program curriculum has been designed with the expectation that participants will attend the entire program (Monday, February 29, 9am-5pm AND Tuesday, March 1, 9am-12pm). This is not an overnight program and attendance is free.


Current students enrolled at U-M are eligible to apply. International scholars and alumni who have already graduated are not eligible to apply. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and acceptance priority will be given to students who have not attended ILS previously. Apply Now. 

Questions? Contact the International Center at


ILS Participants' Reflections

ILS Participant Antoinette Debose

“Our world is becoming more diverse and provides opportunities to engage in rich in cultural experiences. Participating in the ILS 2 day experience provided me with the opportunity to learn new ways to communicate with people from around the world! What was especially insightful was gaining knowledge about the verbal and non-verbal language of cultural differences, as it relates to concepts of time, organization and values. I had the opportunity to share experiences with so many amazing individuals with the same passion and desire to learn. As a social work professional, one of my goals is to be intentional in my conversations with individuals from other races in an effort to stay culturally sensitive to the needs of the people that I serve. ” – Antoinette Debose (Masters of Social Work). 2015 fall participant.

ILS Participant Karen Lin

“Attending ILS was one of the most meaningful experience in my first semester of graduate school. It was an intensive learning process that helped me reframe my thinking about effective communication in an informed and culturally sensitive way. We explored cultural differences, learned to diagnose cultural code, and crafted our mission statement. We also had the opportunities to express our thoughts in a safe environment that ILS created. What I found most inspiring and rewarding was the moment of critical reflection where participants shared our stories about feeling the dissonance caused by cultural shock. It pushed us to slow down, listen carefully, break stereotype and heighten our awareness of others. This is critical for us to improve the ability of forging authentic relationships with people across culture. My personal goal after ILS is to implement the skills I acquired and work them into my everyday life in U-M's large campus with a diversified student body.” – Yaohua (Karen) Lin (Masters in Higher Education). 2015 fall participant.

ILS Participant Irfanul Alam

“Being a part of the ILS gave me a new perspective on team-work. Before attending the seminar, I used to take decisions haphazardly and did not take into account the concerns my team mates. However, after being a part of ILS, I am now more mindful and self-aware of my actions as a fellow team-mate, if not a leader. Being introduced to the Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument was the most interesting concept I got from the ILS. Through that, I attained a better understanding of my leadership style and realized how collaboration triumphs competitiveness. As someone who wishes to work with scientists all around the world, being tolerant of unexpected differences is essential to establishing a good sense of rapport between one fellow scholar to another. The best part of ILS was taking part in the simulation game. I understood how facial expression can be such an important tool in communication. Whether it evoked laughter or portrayed a sense of clue-nesses, I realized any gesture can be interpreted differently in each culture. I want to end here by saying to the future applicants that whatever you intend to major in, being an inter-culturally competent leader is crucial in this day and age.” – Irfanul Alam (Bachelor in Cellular and Molecular Biology). 2015 fall participant.

ILS Participant Linwei

“Attending ILS is one of my most inspiring experiences in University of Michigan so far. It presents a perfect platform that gathers like-minded people who care about cultural differences. After this seminar, I realize that despite differences of cultures and nationalities, humanity, empathy and friendship are beyond borders. I have found myself more comfortable approaching to people from different background, and intercultural communication comes more naturally to me. During the seminar, we are showed how exact same character or symbol conveys fundamentally different meanings throughout languages, and how people from different cultural tackle the same problem. Mutual respect and open minds can avoid potential misunderstanding in these situations. Valuable and interesting friends I make during the seminar stay in contact until now. We appreciate individual’s difference; meanwhile, we enjoy our similar open minds. ILS has inspired my self-reflection upon cultural differences and has encouraged me to be less self-centered but more welcoming. I would love to spread this positive message in my community, and continue exploring this world and meeting new people with respect, curiosity and awe.” – Linwei Zhang (Bachelor in Civil & Environmental Engineering). 2015 fall participant.

ILS Participant Jana Wilbricht

“The Intercultural Leadership Seminar was a wonderful, very valuable experience! As a PhD student in Communication Studies, I think a lot about the ways in which we communicate across different cultures, and for various purposes. ILS did not only provide the theoretical background for the understanding of these dynamics, but what really made it so helpful for me were the many activities and exercises we completed by ourselves and in groups during the intensive 1.5-day seminar. Especially the topics on personal leadership and conflict management were eye-opening for me. I found myself surprised and impressed by how much I learned about myself through the exercises, reflection, and the open exchange and discussion with other attendees. In knowing my personal strengths and leadership style, I have become more confident and effective in group settings. Everyone at ILS has such a positive, supportive, and intellectually curious attitude that it is the perfect environment for mutual learning, honest reflection, and for building new friendships. ILS is one of my best experiences in graduate school so far. I highly recommend ILS to undergraduates and graduate/professional students alike!” – Jana Wilbricht, LS&A Communication Studies (Ph.D.). 2015 winter participant.

ILS Participant Naoyuki Tohda

“Experiences in ILS were really helpful for me to do self-reflection and develop my global leadership. I applied what I had learned about leadership at Ross business school for group works in ILS, which gave me extra action learning opportunities. Interaction with students coming from diverse majors and cultures enabled me to develop my knowledge of intercultural communication as well as my global friendship. At first, I was not sure “what intercultural competency and intercultural leadership are” and “how I can bring out members’ skills in a diverse cultural group.” Then, activities in ILS helped me figure out them. I could realize the importance of “being externally-open,” “being other-centered,” and “appreciation for the differences,” which are now the essence of my fundamental state of global leadership. Among various activities in ILS, “crafting a vision statement” was especially excellent! By digging my life statement more deeply, I developed my enthusiasm and confidence about intercultural leadership. I strongly recommend ILS for students who are eager to make positive impact on our culturally-diverse society more effectively.” – Naoyuki Tohda, Ross School of Business (Global MBA). 2015 winter participant.


Last reviewed: 01/16