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Alumnus, professor emeritus launch cross-cultural assessment tools


Dr. Justin Velten (left) and Dr. Carley Dodd
Dr. Justin Velten (left) and Dr. Carley Dodd

Photo by Scott Delony

So, you think you’re ready to live and work in eastern Europe for a few years or maybe serve as a missionary in Rwanda.

What about your spouse and children? Are they as excited about the prospect as you are?

Ever wonder if those emotions are just wanderlust setting in or perhaps a false sense of calling? Wouldn’t it be better to find out before investing all that time, money, and emotion?

Thanks to an Abilene Christian University legend and one of his proteges, it is now possible to get a handle on your preparedness to live in a different country and culture without leaving the comforts of home.

The Go Culture International website,, and assessment tools are the result of a collaboration between the ACU legend, Dr. Carley Dodd, and a former student, Dr. Justin Velten, who earned a master’s degree in human communication from ACU in 2007. In his career, Dodd was named Outstanding University Teacher of the Year in Texas, ACU Teacher of the Year, and received the Top 30 Intercultural Scholars Award from the University of Shanghai. He has authored/co-authored about 140 articles and scholarly papers and 12 books.

Velten’s first contact with Dodd came in 2005 when the ACU professor called to offer an assistantship in the graduate program in human communication. During his first year, Velten learned about Go Culture International, which Dodd had developed after realizing that the average assessment and training program for potential expatriates was only 43 percent reliable. He put his decades of scholarship to work to develop Go Culture International.

“When Carley first told me about his invention,” Velten said, “I immediately thought about a business model.”

Dodd wanted to keep the focus on improving lives over making money. Keeping that in mind, the two worked together over the next 12 years to develop the online tool they have today. Development of Go Culture International means training is available to anyone anywhere, realizing Dodd’s dream of making life better for expatriates.

“All this research and development has culminated into the most prestigious and user-friendly online assessment and training program for expats to date,” Velten said, with a consistent 90 percent reliability rate, more than twice the industry average.

Last November, Velten bought the intellectual property rights and web-based products that originally were initiated by Dodd and his daughter, Jenny (Dodd ’10) Close. Velten envisions the assessment tool and training will be used by individuals, businesses, institutions, universities, and missionary-sending churches or agencies.

“Missionaries sometimes equate a sense of calling with being fully prepared,” Velten said, which can lead to failure in the field.

When businesses decide to expand into new cultures, they often do so without the proper preparation. The result can be devastating for the company and for the family that has relocated to a new country.

“The negative implications regarding business are apparent,” Velten said, “but the long-term fallout of Christian missions failure is simply immeasurable.”

After getting his master’s degree from ACU, Velten earned a doctorate in intercultural communication from Regent University in 2012. He has been a university professor for 13 years, following in his mentor’s footsteps.

Carley Dodd has played, and continues to play, an important role in Velten’s life. Two weeks after Velten arrived at ACU in 2005, Dodd introduced him to Laura Roberts, who had earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from ACU in 2004. She would go on to earn a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling in 2006. Just two years after the introduction, Dodd officiated at Justin and Laura’s wedding.

Dodd retired from ACU in 2018, leaving behind a legacy that will be preserved in the future through the lives of grateful students like Velten.

“Carley has greatly influenced my life,” Velten said, “just as he has so many others during his long and prestigious career as an ACU professor.”

Learn more about the Department of Communication and Sociology

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