Course Description

This course will be both theoretical and experiential. The goal of the first few weeks will be to establish a solid understanding of the term "intercultural competency." You will learn what it is, why it matters, different theories for assessment, and a bit about your own intercultural effectiveness profile. Doing well in this class is NOT dependent on having traveled or having previous experience with cultural difference, rather success is more dependent upon the ability to consider new perspectives, and to reflect on ingrained assumptions and preconceived notions. As the semester progresses, we will use commercial films, TED talks, television shows, photos and documentaries to explore dimensions of cultural difference and similarity, and to analyze moments of cultural misunderstanding and connection. A final photo assignment will allow you to present your understanding of the different dimensions of culture.

The primary learning objective for this class is that students improve their ability to work effectively with cultural difference. The potential benefits of increasing intercultural competence are many, and range from the prosaic: increasing career success - to the profound: contributing to the creation of a more peaceful and harmonious world. We will explore the differing definitions of culture, both from a macro and micro perspective, taking time to identify what is typically thought of as US-American culture and comparing that to the reality of our multi-cultural nation.

We will not be memorizing exhaustive lists of cultural "do's & don'ts" (a near impossible task in our complex world) rather we will explore the hidden side of culture - "the bottom of the iceberg" - the attitudes, values and beliefs that are the foundation for differences in cultural behavior. As the semester concludes students will discover they have the ability to differentiate between stereotyping and generalizations, and to distinguish behavior that might be culturally based vs individually idiosyncratic, and to use various taxonomies or dimensions of cultural difference to gain a deeper understanding of intercultural encounters.

This course fulfills 3 credits of the Fine Arts/Humanities degree requirements of Liberal Studies.

Meeting Place and Times



Heather Hardester, MA.

Tuition and Fees

If you are accepted into a qualified online program, see the appropriate MSU Online Only Tuition and Fee table.

If you are also taking a face-to-face course, please refer to the MSU Fee Schedule

Required Books/Materials

E-book purchase:

  • Kolker, Robert P. Film, Form, and Culture. New York: Routledge, 2016. Fourth Edition.

Buy the digital edition here.

Other texts available online without cost:

  • Berg, Charles Ramirez. Latino  Images in Film Stereotypes, Subversion, Resistance. University of Texas Press, 2002.

Free electronic access via MSU library; link availble in course module

  • Sontag, Susan. On Photography. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970.

Free Ebook edition; link available in course module

  • Various selected texts, videos, and article provided via D2L

As this is a film course, you are naturally expected to obtain a handful of films as required preparation for assignments. I will ensure that all assigned films are relatively easy to obtain via streaming service, rental on iTunes or Amazon, checkout or Interlibrary Loan at a local library, or even at a local video store...if that's your thing and one still exists in your town! You should approach these film rental expenses akin to purchasing a text for the we will read them as a sort of text!

Computer Requirements:

  • Internet access
  • A device and browser that pass the system check for Brightspace LE, MSU's learning management system.

This course uses a learning management system. You will learn more closer to the course start date.

How to Register

You must be accepted as a student to Montana State University to take this course.

Learn how to apply.

After your application has been accepted, you will register via MSU's online registration system, MyInfo.

Registration requires a PIN. Learn how to find your PIN.

Once you have your PIN, learn how to register through MyInfo.