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KNOXVILLE –- This semester, the University of Tennessee’s Ready for the World initiative is moving forward with a strengthened team focused on promoting interculturalism.

Mary Papke is the director of “Ready for the World: The International and Intercultural Awareness Initiative.” Prior to this year, Papke, an English professor, served as co-director of Ready for the World, as well as the associate dean to the graduate school. She became the sole director of Ready for the World last fall.

Now in its third year, Ready for the World seeks to increase the diversity among students, faculty and staff; encourage faculty to incorporate international and intercultural aspects in all of their courses; infuse such principles into the core curriculum; expand study-abroad and work-study opportunities; and encourage students to take advantage of all of these opportunities.

Last semester, Rita Sanders Geier was named associate to the UT Knoxville chancellor and charged with helping to lead intercultural efforts and implement goals of both Ready for the World and diversity efforts.

“We’ve got a strong commitment to interculturalism, which is an equal pillar of Ready for the World, and the diversity of our students and faculty is essential to creating the environment for intercultural education and engagement,” Geier said. “Diversity and interculturalism are synergistic: the absence of one will limit and diminish the other, while their joint pursuit will yield the greatest educational and societal benefits.”

“Our goal, through both of these efforts, is to prepare culturally competent as well as technically proficient students who are equipped to succeed in the 21st century,” Geier said. “As Tennesseans, as Americans and as citizens of the world, it is in our national self-interest to harness all of our human potential and to become a cohesive and inclusive society.”

Working hand-in-hand with Papke and Geier are Pia Wood, the new director of the Center for International Education, and Marva Rudolph, director of UT’s Office of Equity and Diversity.

Also on a policy-making team with Papke, Geier and Wood that meets regularly to guide and institutionalize the university’s intercultural commitment are: Provost Robert Holub, Faculty Senate President David Patterson, Graduate School Dean Carolyn Hodges, and Human Resources Executive Director Alan Chesney.

In addition, Denise Harvey, who formerly was the recruiter for the Tennessee Governor’s Academy, is serving as an assistant to both Geier and Papke.


Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034,