The Journey of an Intercultural/International Communication Scholar: Laura Gostens, China Media Reports. [Post 74]101 comments
The Journey of an Intercultural/International Communication Scholar:
An Interview with Dr. Michael Prosser
Laura Gostin, University of Rhode Island
Abstract: This interview was conducted via email over a period of several weeks during the summer of 2007. Dr. Michael Prosser is a renowned Intercultural Communication scholar and one of the co-founders of the academic field of Intercultural Communication. During the interview, Dr. Prosser shared some of his personal experiences as an Intercultural scholar and offered his valuable insights regarding the discipline of communication in general and the field of Intercultural Communication in particular.
Keywords: Scholar interview, Intercultural Communication, founder, China.
1. Would you please briefly introduce yourself and describe one of your typical workdays?
Growing up more or less monoculturally, something in my high school boarding school sparked my intercultural and international interest, now a guiding principle throughout my life. The western zodiac has me as an Aries, pioneer or warrior; my namesake, St. Michael, was a legendary heavenly warrior archangel. The Chinese zodiac has me as a rat, which jumped to the head of the 12 zodiac animals. I have been used to the role of leadership throughout my life. Following my university graduation, I traveled for two months in Europe, and in the following summer, I was among the first 15,000 Americans to visit Russia.
During my professional career, I have been among the founders of the field of intercultural communication; chair of the first three North American conferences to found the field; the founding chair for what is now the International and Intercultural Division of the [US] National Communication Association; a founding Governing Council member and later President of the International Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research; the first teacher for communication majors as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Swaziland; founder of six Rochester Intercultural Conferences (1995-2001); and for a period of time in the late 1990′s I was called the “father of the South Sudan Community” in Rochester, New York. As the father of three children, with nine grandchildren, potentially I will leave a considerably large group of descendants behind me like those following the rat in the Chinese zodiac.
Writing my doctoral dissertation on the United Nations speeches by US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson led both to my editing a 1969 collection of his international speeches over his lifetime and a 1970 two volume collection of addresses by heads of state and government at the United Nations. My book The Cultural Dialogue (1978) was among the first texts on intercultural communication. Still later, my co-authored Diplomatic Discourse: International Conflict at the United Nations (1997) illustrates how both rhetorical and discourse analysis can be used effectively to understand international messages in the UN. Recently, I have co-edited Civic Discourse: Multiculturalism, Cultural Diversity, and Global Communication (1998); Civic Discourse: Intercultural, International, and Global Media (1999); Sino-American Compositions of Shared Topics (2003); and Intercultural Perspectives on Chinese Communication (2007). From 1998 to 2004, eighteen books were published in my series, Civic Discourse for the Third Millennium (Ablex/Praeger).
Jointly retiring in 2001 from the University of Virginia and the Rochester Institute of Technology, I have since taught 1800 Chinese university students in three Chinese universities. Presently as Distinguished Professor at the Shanghai International Studies University, the SISU Intercultural Institute Executive Director, Steve Kulich and I co-edit an “Intercultural Research” series with our next two volumes on intercultural value studies in progress.
On every typical Monday for the last two years, I have taught five classes for undergraduates at the SISU undergraduate campus. This year in the autumn semester, I taught five classes of sophomore oral English for English majors and during the spring semester, five classes of freshmen oral English.
2. What are the most challenging issues you are faced with in your teaching and research career?
My long-term teaching positions have included: junior high school Latin, 1960-63; communication in several American universities, 1963-2001; and English in three Chinese universities, 2001-present. I have now taught more than 10,000 students in my 47 years of teaching, including 1800 in China. In introducing new communication courses like classical/modern rhetorical theory at SUNY-Buffalo and intercultural communication later, I found the development of the broad communication field always moving faster than I could keep up with it. I had to decide my main teaching and research focus: a classical- contemporary rhetorician; an expert on public address and discourse; or political or intercultural communication. Once, I introduced a seminar on Communist rhetoric, quickly discovering that one undergraduate knew far more than I. Later as a founder of the field of intercultural communication in North America, first, I had never taken courses in anthropology, sociology, or psychology. Although I required intercultural field studies in most of my intercultural communication courses in the American universities, I had no statistical background, nor the contemporary social science programs for empirical analysis.
As the field matured in the 1980′s until more recently, many teachers and researchers developed far more sophisticated theories and constructs than I was aware of. For example, though I knew generally about Geert Hofstede’s multi societal surveys, it was more than a decade later when I introduced his findings into my own teaching. In a similar way, before teaching at the Shanghai International Studies University, I had no knowledge of significant researchers such as Robert Inglehart, Michael Bond or Shalom Schwartz and their seminal value studies. Fortunately, Steve Kulich and Zhang Rui gave me a broad understanding of these scholars’ contributions.
I can claim far more editorial competence than as an author. Among my books, edited or co-edited books leave only two authored ones, The Cultural Dialogue (1978) and my co-authored book with Ray Donahue, Diplomatic Discourse: International Conflict at the United Nations (1997). My edited and authored books are rather eclectic, with two on classical/medieval rhetoric; two on international public discourse, two dealing with communication at the United Nations, and six involving my strongest interest, intercultural and international communication and media. However, these books all demonstrate my wide cultural and international interest, with the latest two books specifically on Chinese communication.
I am pleased with my intercultural co-editing collaboration with K.S. Sitaram. Preferring to work directly with book-length manuscripts, my scholarly journal articles represent a very short list. Because of my propensity for moving quickly toward a new project, unfortunately, several book ideas or books in progress have languished, sometimes leaving other contributing authors with their own committed but unpublished articles. Without any serious personal statistical or empirical background, I have not conducted any cutting edge research that the intercultural field demands. While pleased at the number of my books that did get published, I regret those intended or committed but never published, especially for the authors whose chapters were not published. Steve Kulich, Zhang Hongling and I have more books in progress.
3. Considering the impact of globalization, where do you see the discipline heading in the future?
“Globalism”, like communication, is “the broad concept”, while “globalization”, like communications, is “the process”, both positive and negative. We have not suddenly a
wakened to a globalizing society. The pre-Christian Greeks and Romans began the process for the West, where Aristotelian logic has formed a framework for modern deductive and inductive reasoning and Confucius, whose Analects is still a major life force in East Asian cultures such as China, Japan, and Korea, as well as Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, and Hindu sacred writings that developed Eastern polytheocracies .
The Catholic Church, the oldest NGO (Non governmental organization) with the Orthodox and Protestant churches deeply influences 1/3 of the world’s population. The sixth century creation of Islam is now the fastest growing religion with 1/6 of humanity. The probable visit of Marco Polo to Asia and China provided us with the first, though highly exaggerated, history of the world. Although the Chinese and Koreans perfected the printing press a thousand years before, the Renaissance and Reformation between 1400 to 1650 reopened the West to the wisdom, art, and globalizing influence of ancient Greece and Rome. At the same time, “the man of the second millennium,” Johannes Gutenberg, opened up the West through the printing press, encouraging Europeans to become literate, to develop a middle class as well as great literature, art, and music and also scientific methodologies, and to conduct major geographical explorations.
The eighteenth century gave us the American and French revolutions. The British, French, Portuguese, and Spanish colonization periods expanded globalization exponentially while placing Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans under their negative influence. The nineteenth century brought us early modern communication discoveries like the telegraph, trains, photography, telephone, light bulb, moving pictures, the bicycle, and the automobile. Marxism provided a counterbalance to the Western development of capitalism.
The twentieth century developed such positive major communication contributions as the radio, television, computer-mediated communication, and wireless technology. Negative impacts from World Wars I, and II, and in the latter case the horrors of the Holocaust led to the development of the modern field of communication. The United Nations and later WTO further globalized the world. Genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia and other crimes against humanity negatively followed the “cold war.” In the midst of nuclear tensions between the US and the Soviet Union, China began opening up to the world, first in 1972, later with the 1978 and 1985 “opening up” by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 and 1985, followed economically by later Chinese leaders, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao.
Perhaps we are now in a post-cold war “cold war” with new verbal skirmishes between Russia and the US, as President Putin reminds us that a new US missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic may reignite the “cold war.” Other communication breakdowns as well include the devastating problems in the fifth year of the aftermath of the Iraq war, the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, other conflicts in the Middle East, plus nuclear technology and weaponry in Iran and North Korea, the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria, and Terrorism, which continues to be a menacing global threat and the source of major communication breakdowns.
The serious study, critique and practice of positive versus negative communication scholars and media, organizational, intercultural and international communication have never been so important a global issue as it is today. Communication scholars and practitioners have the most critical responsibility to make the public in all sectors of society aware both of positive global communication and the negative communication breakdowns. It is a very special opportunity for us to recognize that while globalization is irreversible, our goal must always be to promote and analyze both positive communication and communication breakdowns. We owe a very special debt to Western communication innovators such as Johannes Gutenberg and Eastern leaders who continue to open up their countries to the world and the world to them.
4. Many scholars believe that their role is solely to produce knowledge while others believe that scholars have an obligation to bring about social change. What do you consider to be the primary role of a researcher?
In my opinion, scholars have a vital double role, both to produce knowledge and to advocate social change, though not necessarily at the same time. Perhaps scholars who only produce knowledge but are removed from the real world as advocates are like cloistered monks or nuns. They have an important but limited function. We need thinkers and philosophers, but also “public thinkers” whose knowledge moves others toward one or another sort of positive action. The famous cloistered Trappist monk Thomas Merton’s books moved millions of people world-wide toward a greater spirituality. He prayed several times daily with his fellow monks and taught the young monks theology, but he was clearly an advocate for spirituality. Pope John Paul II had a doctorate in sacred theology, and wrote many books and papal encyclicals. He wrote and spoke eloquently for social change about religious and social issues, with addresses to more than 60 million people in his live audiences in nearly 90 countries. He was extremely powerful as one of the most significant world moral forces during the 25 years of his papacy. Some scholars credit him as one of the major influences both in a religious revival and in causing the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe through his advocacy.
When we advise graduate students for their theses, we encourage them to leave their call for social change out of their literature reviews, methodologies, and discussion of results. However, we may also encourage them to call for social change in clearly delineated sections of the thesis such as recommendations in the conclusion. For example, a thesis, dissertation or book on educational reform first identifies the nature of the problem, offers various options to solve the problem, and typically advocates specific educational reforms that the writer believes should be introduced. Sometimes at different times in our lives we produce knowledge at one point, and advocate social change at another stage. In this way, we have a significant double influence on society.
We speak of the need for objectivity instead of personal subjectivity in our scholarship. The field of communication has many topics that specifically call for action, for example in public speaking, intercultural, organizational or mass communication. We provide our readers the information and then detail how to use the information to make them better speakers (or writers), better interculturalists, better organizational members or leaders, or better active users or producers of the mass media. After all, we are interested in a particular topic first because of our personal subjective passion, and no matter how much we try or how objective the empirical research appears, our own biases and goals still remain a significant aspect of the research. In my view, this double perspective, as knowledge producers and as advocates of social change moves us out of the isolated “ivory tower” and makes us vital societal leaders through our advocacy for social change. Both should be complementary.
5. You have been living in China since 2001 and have had extensive intercultural experience prior to your relocation. How, if at all, has this affected your personal and professional worldview?
In the late 1960′s and the 1970′s, I was an active founder establishing the intercultural communication field in North America. I led the first three North American foundational conferences to establish the field and participated actively in German-American communication conferences and the 1974 bicultural research conference in Japan. My own long and short-term teaching opportunities, including two in Canada, offered some of the
first IC courses in the US and Canada. I actively developed professional divisions and organizations dedicated to intercultural and international communication (National Communication Association, International Communication Association, and the International Society for Intercultural Education, Training, and Research, for which I served as chair of the 1980 international congress and later as President from 1984-86). In 1977, I was also a professor for mid-level executives and co-chaired Scholar-Diplomat seminars at the United States Information Agency working with L. Robert Kohls, one of the field’s most outstanding interculturalists. Most of my edited and authored books have dealt with intercultural/international communication and media and the UN.
In the 1980′s, I hosted international high school students each for several months from Sweden, Belgium, France, Brazil, Spain, South Africa, and Swaziland. Being an intercultural host father also thrust my own children into various positive or negative intercultural situations. I taught about 8500 university students such courses as intercultural communication, communication and social change, international media and the Model United Nations Security Council. I created ten high school Global Awareness Days at the University of Virginia from 1983 to 1990. During 1990-1991, as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Swaziland, I initiated their first courses for the new communication major. Additionally, I got caught up in the military invasion of the campus on November 14, 1990, where two to four students were killed and 300-400 were injured. I actively assisted eleven students to seek safety outside the campus.
In 1994, I declined a Fulbright professorship in Bulgaria to assume a distinguished professorship in communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology. There I had funds for creative activities such as hosting 33 public lectures on intercultural and international issues, and presenting eleven of them. I hosted four high school Model UN Security Councils for 800 Rochester-area students; and was the faculty advisor for RIT students at five Model United Nations in Toronto and Montreal.
With K.S. Sitaram, I co-hosted six Rochester Intercultural Conferences, and co-authored or co-edited three books on intercultural and international communication. Overlapping the 1990s and early 2000s, I was series editor for 18 books in my series “Civic Discourse for the Third Millennium,” two of which were on Chinese communication. Finally, I became “the host father” in the South Sudan Community of Rochester, New York, including having young Sudanese adults living in my home over several years. I was a member of the growing welcoming committee for about half of the seventy-eight “Lost Boys of Sudan” who resettled in Rochester just before I went to China in 2001.
In a sense then, I blended my professional interests in developing the intercultural communication field and lived an intercultural life as well. Host father for various international high school students, host for many Swazi students in my University of Swaziland home and advocate for them because of the military campus invasion, finally I became a host leader for the South Sudan community in Rochester, New York. These personal intercultural activities have vastly enriched my life and have put into real practice the more theoretical constructs which I have taught and written about. It has been a pleasing intercultural life experience.
6. You have been one of the founders of the academic field of Intercultural Communication as well as the founding chair of the International and Intercultural Communication Division of the National Communication Association. Do you believe the field has changed since its inception? If so, how?
As I have noted earlier, I was among the founders of the field of intercultural communication in North America, chairing the first three foundational North American conferences (1971, 73, 74). The 1974 summer NCA, ICA, and SIETAR International Chicago conference had 200 participants studying Edward C. Stewart’s Outline of Intercultural Communication. NCA’s proceedings were co-edited by Nemi Jain, Melvin Miller and me. At my speech on China at George Mason University in February, 2007, one senior faculty member reminded me that he was there, which began his life-long interest in teaching intercultural communication. I was the third chair of the ICA Division of Intercultural and International Division founded by K.S. Sitaram and others in 1970. I was responsible for 13 intercultural and international communication programs at the 1977 ICA Berlin conference. As a founding Governing Council member of SIETAR International, I was its President from 1984-86.
In my essay, “One world, one dream: Harmonizing society through intercultural communication: A prelude to China intercultural communication studies” in Steve J. Kulich’s and my co-edited book, Intercultural perspectives on Chinese communication (2007: Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, pp. 22-91), I have included the following main sections: “The significance of values to the study of intercultural communication”; “Early intercultural communication development in the US: 1959-1979″; “Intercultural communication: A mature field: 1980-2006″; “Practical applications: Cross-cultural training: 1950s to 2005″; “China’s contributions to ‘one world, one dream’—Harmonizing society interculturally”; and 12 pages of “References.”
In my discussion on IC as a mature field since 1980, I highlight Geert Hofstede, Michael Harris Bond, William B. Gudykunst, Stella Ting-Toomey, Young Yum Kim, my “Civic discourse for the third millennium” series, D. Ray Heisey’s series on Chinese communication, selected books, and our IC program at Shanghai International Studies University, and others. In my section on practical application in cross-cultural training, 1950s to 2005, I stress the US AID Communication Seminars and the Portland SIIC Summer Institute (now in its 31st year). In the essay, I have not discussed IC developments in European, Latin American, Middle Eastern or African countries, or Asian countries besides China, intercultural business communication, interpretation and translation, comparative literature, social linguistics, cross-cultural psychology or intercultural mass media studies and my references miss reporting on several recent important books in IC, with much more historical work needing more careful consideration.
Thus, in my own review of the field, I have left out a lot of the important history, though some other essays in our book highlight sociolinguistics, for example by Steve Kulich and Yuxin Jia and Xuerui Jia, or cross-cultural psychology, for example by Michael Harris Bond, and the indigenous cross-cultural psychologist, Kwang-Kuo Hwang. Gudykunst’s last edited book, Theorizing about intercultural communication (2005, Sage) provides a very strong identification of IC today as a mature field. Samovar and Porter’s Intercultural communication: A reader (1972-2005, Wadsworth) has now been a significant student anthology for the last thirty-six years. Cultural competence and cultural identification are now major topics in IC studies.
The major point that can be made is that since 1980 as the field began to mature, IC has become a very important concept not only in North America, but in many other regions of the world. A remarkable contribution in China is seen in the IC development, especially since 1994. In the last year, I have attended conferences in Russia, Peru, Germany, and seven communication conferences in China, including the most recent June, 2007 Intercultural Communication conference in Harbin. All of them have had at least an intercultural communication component, with several having IC as the major feature. The changes are very significant in theory, practice, and case studies since our nascent beginning
s, and suggest that more and more theories, including an increasing number of indigenous ones, will push the field into greater maturity. In China, IC leaders are beginning to consider requesting that the Ministry of Education designate IC as a principal field in Chinese universities, with a national roundtable on creating IC as a discipline under planning stages at Shanghai International Studies University.
7. In his presidential column from the June/July 2006 issue of Spectra, Dan O’Hair calls attention to NCA’s failure to provide an “opportunity for interaction and collaboration with international colleagues”, a concern which you yourself mirrored in your essay entitled “The Communication Field Reaching Out to International Scholars.” What effect, if any, do you believe the opportunity to exchange ideas and scholarship with our international colleagues could have on the field in general and on the individual cultures in particular?
William Howell, President of NCA (then SCA) in 1971, earlier recommended that SCA should demonstrate its commitment to internationalization by holding its 1970 convention in Hong Kong, then still a Crown Colony of the UK. The small SCA Committee for Cooperation with Foreign Universities of which I was a member enthusiastically supported this proposal, but the Legislative Council reacted in shock with the idea that the organization was more than an American-based one, and that such a convention would be impossible for most American members to attend because of the transportation costs. At that time, our Committee had already successfully co-sponsored the first German-American communication conference in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1968, and was going to co-sponsor the first Japan-US communication conference in Tokyo in 1969. These, however, were only footnotes in the history of the organization. When the Legislative Council turned down the Hong Kong convention idea and selected New Orleans for the 1970 convention, Howell and our Committee recommended that our keynote speaker should be Angie Brooks of Liberia, then the UN General Assembly President. Racial sensitivities on the part of our colleagues in the SCA leadership and local potential sponsors in New Orleans also found this idea to be unacceptable.
Nonetheless, under the leadership of K.S. Sitaram, the fifth division in ICA, Intercultural and International Division, was formed in 1970, and ICA may have held its first conference outside of the US with the 1973 Montreal site. SCA and the Canadian Communication Association held it first foundational meeting in 1971 for what later became our International and Intercultural Division under my leadership at Indiana University. In 1995, Sitaram and I co-chaired the first of six Rochester Intercultural Conferences, entitled “Intercultural Communication at Twenty-five: The Present and the Future” to celebrate what we identified as the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the intercultural field in 1970 under Sitaram’s leadership for ICA and 1971 for SCA under my leadership.
Today, the Fulbright Program, NCA , ICA, the American Communication Association, the World Communication Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the American Broadcast Association, the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies, the Chinese communication associations in North America, the Korean Communication Association, the Japan-America Communication Association, the African Association for Communication Education, SIETAR in various regions, the Asia–Pacific Business Communication Association, the Asian International Mass Communication Association, the International Academy of Intercultural Researchers, the China Association for Intercultural Communication Association, and many other communication organizations in Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East all are recognizing the critical importance of academic scholarly and practical exchanges in the field of communication.
I was pleased to serve as a co-keynoter with former NCA president, Dan O’Hair, at the May 31-June 2, 2007 Chendu, China, “Globalization and Western China conference, where we exchanged useful views about the importance of the internationalization of the communication field. Later I was one of six co-keynoters at the June 22-24, 2007 Harbin, Seventh International China Intercultural Communication Symposium, co-sponsored by the International Association for Intercultural Communication Studies, with more than 500 participants, including 30 from Russia, on the theme “Harmony, Diversity and Intercultural Communication.”
Naturally, I have been convinced for most of my professional and cultural life that internationalization of the communication discipline and exchanges among communication scholars, practitioners, and students is every more critical. Middle Eastern scholars, for example, recommend that instead of a view toward Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations,” we should instead be having a “Dialogue of Civilizations” as a way to better understanding between cultural groups throughout the world. As the internet used to be called the “information superhighway,” for me personally, it now allows me frequent exchanges with faculty, professionals, and students in several countries. A few thousand people have viewed my website, www.michaelprosser.com and some remind me regularly to update my essays there.
Ongoing contacts through being interviewed earlier 12 times on China Central TV International and more recently regularly on China Radio International; at the ten international communication conferences which I have attended in the last year; and engaging with hundreds of students annually in my teaching or lectures in China all enrich my communicative world. I hope that those who encounter me in these ways have their world enriched as well. Our goal should always be to move from communication breakdown to international communication competence, and from misunderstanding to understanding in the words of I.A. Richards many years ago in Ideas Have Consequences.
8. Could you tell us some of the experiences you have had that are important to learning the ropes as a new student and scholar in the discipline?
With BA and MA English degrees (and communication and Latin minors), I first joined the University of Illinois Ph.D. program in English, but I switched to communication, making English my minor. Thankfully, significant reforms in MA and Ph.D. education have occurred since I was a student. In English for example, though I had already taken the history of English as an MA student, I was required to take it again. As English majors we were required to take a semester of Beowulf in the original early English, but my intended major concentration was American literature. We also had to memorize hundreds of English authors, their works, and first lines, for an early departmental exam. As a Ph.D. student, I requested Latin as one of my two foreign languages, but was turned down because it was considered irrelevant to my study. Afterwards, I was a serious student of classical rhetoric, where both Greek and Latin were highly relevant. My year-long post graduate courses in French and German, only to translate 3 pages in 3 hours with a dictionary, meant that I learned these languages superficially, and with zero use as a scholar. The first communication comprehensive exams dealt not with what we had learned as post graduates, but drama, phonetics, speech science, and debate, all learned as a college sophomore or junior.
Fortunately, my Ph.D. advisor, Hal Gulley, had me audit communication theory for some background outside of rhetoric. He wisely challenged my early dissertation topics, but encouraged me to concentrate rhetorically on the addresses of Adlai Stevenson at the UN. He got me a $1000 grant to collect information there. This very valuable research led to 3 books, one, Readings in Classical Rhetoric, a second,
a collection of Stevenson’s speeches on international topics, and another, a two-volume collection of addresses by heads of state and government at the UN. I did not have the reasonable time to study anthropology, despite the University of Illinois having outstanding cultural anthropologists such as Oscar Lewis which would have informed my later serious involvement in intercultural communication.
Hopefully, North American MA and Ph.D. programs now concentrate on what is really important for one’s development as a scholar. Thus, an important recommendation is to remember that the ultimate educational goal develops in the thesis or dissertation, for which one needs to be passionate. All possible efforts should be directed toward that end, eliminating as much irrelevant material as possible. The right open-minded advisor is as critical as is the best choice of a thesis or dissertation. Post graduates should remember that very important future possible research topics may originate in their early research. Additionally, post-graduate students should remember that they may forever be linked to their thesis or dissertation, so they should choose their topic wisely. As an MA student, Tom Bruneau got deeply involved in silence studies. He read everything possible on the subject, and today much of his reputation as a scholar is linked to that topic (silence, silences, and silencing). Later, intrigued with the brain, he researched every possible aspect of brain study, and made it one of his recognized areas of expertise. In a similar way, one of my chief teaching and research topics today remains the United Nations, generated by my dissertation enthusiasm.
9. Could you describe some of your most memorable experiences since your move to China?
Coming to China in 2001 began perhaps in the late summer of 1989 when I became a volunteer community host for a new physics Ph.D. student at the University of Virginia from Peking University. The dean of English in a Guangzhou university invited me to teach in Guangzhou in 1992-93. It was then impossible. In November 2000, at the Seattle NCA Convention, Kluver and Powers’ 1999 book, Civic Discourse, Civil Society, and Chinese Communities in my Ablex “Civic Discourse for the Third Millennium” series won an outstanding book award. Chinese colleagues asked me about teaching in China after retiring from UVA and the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2001. My response was “Why not?” Shuming Lu organized my joining the Yangzhou University English Department in 2001. Wenshan Jia organized for me to be a keynoter in the 2001 Xi’an China Intercultural Communication Association Forum. Beijing Language and Culture University’s vice president invited me to come to teach there. Steve Kulich at Shanghai International Studies University encouraged me to join his intercultural communication program in 2005. I found myself teaching in English departments or colleges at these three universities. In Yangzhou, my teaching included mass media for juniors; intensive reading for seniors; intercultural communication, rhetoric and public discourse, and American literature for post graduates; and oral English for young instructors of various subjects whose English was limited. AT BLCU, where there are 7,000 international students and 4,000 Chinese students, I taught primarily Western civilization for all of the English major seniors, debate and advanced writing for juniors. At SISU, I have taught freshman and sophomore oral English, my model UN Security Council for juniors and English and international relations postgraduates, public speaking, intercultural communication, and global media and culture.
Numerically, I taught 1800 Chinese university students, plus many primary and secondary Saturday and winter English camp pupils. I have given public lectures to more than 6,000 secondary and university students in China, India, and Russia. I was interviewed 12 times on China Central TV International’s “Dialogue” Program. I have visited many Chinese cities, plus Cambodia, El Salvador, Greece, India, Peru, South Korea, Russia, nine countries in Europe, and Viet Nam during my time in China. I have attended 15 Chinese communication conferences as keynoter for about eight. I have reviewed 32 books about China for the online journal Review of Communication. I am known beyond China for my many CRTNET posts on China. I have co-edited two books related to China. I have read 24 MA theses in intercultural communication.
Intellectually, and more importantly, I have vastly expanded my own knowledge base both in the field of English as it complements communication studies, and in intercultural communication, but particularly in values and Chinese communication studies, where some of our post graduates have had a much broader background. Now, I have more or less caught up with the latest research trends in intercultural communication and am eager to continue to contribute to Chinese communication conferences and scholarly editing and writing, as exemplified by Steve Kulich’s and my co-edited Intercultural Perspectives on Chinese Communication (2007), and the values studies book that he, Zhang Hongling, and I are co-editing for the Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press as a special mandate for SISU’s new Intercultural Institute.
10. As our interview comes to an end, we would like to thank you for your participation and ask that you make a final conclusion and share with us any final words of wisdom that you may have.
My two-month solo European travel at 22, again to Europe, including Russia, at 23 gave me a strong intercultural/international interest. Early attendance at conferences in Canada, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the UK and teaching in Canada enhanced it. My Ph.D. advisor, Hal Gulley’s openness, for my Ph.D. dissertation relating to addresses at the United Nations and collecting materials for six weeks there were very informative. Distant mentors like Fred Casmir, John Condon, Edward Hall, Ray Heisey, David Hoopes, Robert Oliver, Beulah Rohrlich, K.S. Sitaram, Edward Stewart, Lynn Tyler, and William Howell and having outstanding intellectually curious postgraduate students further developed my enthusiasm. Serving as chair of the first three North American foundational conferences to develop intercultural communication, publishing early books and my intercultural leadership in NCA, ICA, and SIETAR International all strengthened my intercultural/ international background.
In the 1980′s as the field began to mature theoretically, I became very active experientially as an annual host father for several international high school students and organized annual Global Awareness Days for 2200, including 500 international high school students. In this way, I began to live an intercultural life as well as being professionally dedicated to IC. I lived an intercultural life more fully as a Fulbright Professor at the University of Swaziland in 1990-91.There, we faced significant cultural and intercultural conflict when the military invaded the campus on November 14, 1990, killing 2-4 students and injuring 300-400. On that single day, as we protected five women students and helped Canadian friends get 11 frightened students to safety outside the beleaguered campus, we and other expatriates thought we might surely die. Subsequently, we and our students lived through two months of university closure and later a national judicial inquiry. This extended event became for me one of my worst days and one of my best—seeing the yin and yang of evil and goodness.
In the 1990′s at the Rochester Institute of Technology, I had the opportunity for significant intercultural creativity: as an advisor for university and high school model UNs in Rochester and Canada, hosting 33 lectures while delivering 11 on intercultural and international topics, publishing 3 books, serving as series editor for 18 books in the Ablex “Civic Discourse for the Third Millennium” series, and with K.S. Sitaram
, hosting six Rochester Intercultural Conferences, in joint intercultural endeavors at the beginning and ending of our professional North American careers.
My 2001-07 Chinese teaching experience has brought me to a full circle for intercultural communication, both theoretically and experientially. Besides teaching China’s youth, China’s future, I have lived the most comprehensive intercultural life possible, including traveling and living with young Chinese. I have moved from being Eurocentric to Africacentric to Asiacentric. I have traveled in and outside China extensively, opening up both my world and that of Chinese friends.
As intercultural teachers and scholars, we have the opportunity to expand the field of intercultural communication exponentially in many cultural and national settings. Ideally of course, we are not just developing our now mature field theoretically, but practically through case studies and applications, and our own lived experiences. My favorite secular quote is that of Socrates: “I am neither a citizen of Athens, nor of Greece, but of the world.” Our goal as interculturalists is becoming world citizens.
Department of Communication Studies
University of Rhode Island
Kingston, RI 02881
101 Responses to “The Journey of an Intercultural/International Communication Scholar: Laura Gostens, China Media Reports. [Post 74]”
Leave a Reply
Photo of the day
- June 2013 (111)
- May 2013 (62)
- April 2013 (52)
- March 2013 (56)
- February 2013 (73)
- January 2013 (91)
- December 2012 (71)
- November 2012 (155)
- October 2012 (115)
- September 2012 (171)
- August 2012 (112)
- July 2012 (111)
- June 2012 (57)
- May 2012 (19)
- April 2012 (42)
- March 2012 (45)
- February 2012 (57)
- January 2012 (22)
- December 2011 (21)
- November 2011 (9)
- October 2011 (18)
- September 2011 (21)
- August 2011 (18)
- July 2011 (22)
- June 2011 (12)
- May 2011 (26)
- April 2011 (22)
- March 2011 (20)
- October 2010 (1)
- June 2009 (2)
- May 2009 (1)
- April 2009 (3)
- January 2009 (13)
- November 2008 (11)
- October 2008 (4)
- March 2008 (2)
- December 2007 (1)
- November 2007 (2)
- September 2007 (2)
- September 2006 (49)
- July 2006 (18)