Finding My Place in the Cross-Cultural Communication Field
It was three years ago that my career gained what I thought was to be my launch into the global market. After graduating from college and achieving my dream job of working at a huge corporation in Tokyo, the unexpected occurred. Within six months, I quit and moved back to my home country, the USA.
Deciding to leave so quickly shocked not only my community, but also myself. I had spent four years learning about Japanese language and culture. Having studied abroad, researched, and interned in Japan. I had braced myself for expected sexism in the workplace, strong drinking culture, and even power harassment. However, the one thing that was I had not prepared for was my own lack of cultural agility.
Despite knowing what the Japanese perspective might be, I found myself defining right and wrong. I would often deem Japanese corporate culture to be unhealthy for its collective mindset, in contrast to my valuing individuality and freedom as someone raised in the USA. When I ended up leaving Japan to pursue a career in cross-cultural communication, I came away from the experience subconsciously wanting to fix Japan. I had a vision and a strategic plan; next steps were to gain the tools.
I appreciated the many opportunities available while I studied at Northeastern University. As the Head Student Life Coordinator for NU Global International Pathways Program, I was responsible for event operations. In my last semester in the Corporate and Organizational Communications program (COC), I coordinated one of the biggest events and collaborations between NU Global International Pathways and the Office of Global Services — Global Voice II.
This second part is about what was, for me, a remarkable journey and experience at CPS. My time in the MS COC program was full of global workplace learning opportunities, intellectual challenges and my personal and professional growth. There is a quote by Benjamin Franklin that is very close to my heart and my personal philosophy of life: “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” And, this quote guided me throughout my learning journey at CPS.
Overwhelmed, confused, and nervous… I was sitting in front of my computer screen at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday night (2014), staring at a list of hundreds of schools around the world that appeared in the search result for “Masters Degree in Communications.”
As we forge into this Information Age and World of Robotics, the concept of Human Literacy has been introduced to the stage. What is Human Literacy? Northeastern University President Aoun has proposed Human Literacy to mean our unique abilities to adapt, collaborate, and offer empathy in comparison to computational literacy generated through artificial intelligence. This new use of the term human literacy is an example of a cultural linguistic adjustment in professional studies within higher education. This is where the idea of a cultural audit takes footing. So, what is a cultural audit?
A fundamental skill of all communicators is the ability to tell a compelling story. ePortfolios enable students to tell their own experiential and educational stories, using words, images, and multimedia. A strong ePortfolio makes a statement about your professional brand – who you are, your values, your commitment to lifelong learning.
A judging panel of our Alumni Advisory Council selected three ePortfolios created during the 2017-2018 academic year as outstanding exemplars of what students can create.
I am a learner. I love reading articles, books, taking courses – you name it. If I can learn from it, I’m in.
But, even so, it took me a while to go back and get my master’s degree. I knew it would be an investment, and because of that, I wanted to choose wisely. I left college years ago, went on to have a series of great jobs, and slowly came back around to the idea of going back to school.
Communications? How did I end up in Communications? This is a question I have asked and have been asked. I find the study of communications fascinating from an interpersonal perspective, intercultural point of view, anthropological, business management, economics, political science, the list could continue. Not a simple answer for what seemingly should be a simple response. Let me share with you a defining moment in my past that secured the value of communication studies for my professional career.
We must go back to 1997 when I was the Community Support Services Director for a Central Florida mental health center covering two counties. What inspired me most about this leadership role was the opportunity to change the face of mental illness. The stigma facing the mentally ill was associated with negativity. There was discomfort and fear in the thought of working with or even being near someone diagnosed with schizophrenia. Literally, I was told, I can’t trust someone who is crazy. In an effort to increase mental health awareness, I collaborated with a local group from the National Alliance on Mental Illness to create a community event. Having experience with project management, I thought this would be a simple project while being beneficial for the community.
To my surprise, we had doors close on us left and right when seeking sponsorship, venue location, and media interest. How is this not an important topic? Why won’t people want to learn about mental illness? People just don’t care, was what I was told. I was shocked and more determined then ever. We need people to make a connection as they would with heart disease or cancer issues. We need to bring schizophrenia alive.
About that time, we learned of a one woman traveling show. This actress had a sister with schizophrenia and wrote a short drama about her experience. We were able to gain support for this theatrical production within a community church. Next step was to gain sponsorship for media. Being a member of the Ocala Jaycees, I was able to secure backing from numerous rising business leaders interested in hearing about this woman’s story.
The public relations plan started to fall into place, imagine your sister, your mother, or your daughter struggling with illness, an illness of the mind…come and join us to experience the emotional roller coaster ride of a lifetime. People were interested. We had a diverse group of audience members who may have come to see a show, but left with insights into schizophrenia. Our event was awarded community recognition, but more importantly the event set into motion greater discussions on the topic of mental illness. People did care. It was all in listening and getting the words out in a meaningful way.
Patty Goodman, Ed.D., recently joined the faculty of the MS in Corporate and Organizational Communication program as an Assistant Teaching Professor.