Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Education



First Advisor

Carolyn P. Panofsky


As higher education continues to internationalize, more institutions are making it an educational priority to increase intercultural competence among all students. Despite this goal, institutions regularly place students in intercultural programs without facilitating training and reflection on intercultural learning, with the expectation that students will learn from contact alone. There is a need for investigation into situated intercultural communication, for the limited studies that do examine interactions between international and domestic students do not look at the interactions themselves, do not situate the interactions in a specific context, and often examine only the students‘ international/domestic statuses or countries of origin as the differences having the most influence on their communication. This study examined intercultural interaction in-action, through exploring students‘ experiences and interactions in a Conversation Partner Program pairing U.S. domestic students and Chinese international students to meet for weekly conversations over a ten-week period. Framed theoretically with critical intercultural communication (Halualani & Nakayama, 2010) and a discourse approach to intercultural communication (Scollon, Scollon & Jones, 2012), the focus was on the discourse-specific, relational, and situated dynamics involved in the conversations between domestic and international students, underscoring the power dynamics that were present in the interactions.

The interview data and conversation data were triangulated to explain what transpired in the communication between conversation partners and what participants said about their experiences in the Conversation Partner Program. Intercultural competence development and shifting power dynamics between participants were explored in depth. Based on students‘ comments during the interviews and their conversations with their partners, there seemed to be a lack of intercultural competence among all of the students, with the exception of one student some of the time. There was not a clear dichotomy between domestic and international students in terms of the power they held in these interactions, and there were a variety of power-laden issues such as gender, race, socioeconomic status and language differences, which seemed to influence the interactions.



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