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.
Welcome back colleagues!
I hope you enjoyed the first part of my story, Why I chose CPS to pursue my dream! Part One in a Three Part Series.
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.
The buzzer hit zero. The game wasn’t over. The buzzer hit zero again. The game still wasn’t over. We went into a shootout, five shooters required. The game still wasn’t over. The shootout went into sudden death. We scored. The game wasn’t over. Maddie Rooney made one last save. The game WAS over! WE DID IT! We became Olympic Champions, Gold Medalists, and we’re on top of the world in Women’s Ice Hokey.
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.
When I was studying at Northeastern University, I had heard about the Northeastern University Alumni Office and community. Based on my understanding at least in some Chinese universities, an alumni office aims to connect alumnus who have already gained great achievements in their field. Considering that I only have five years’ working experience, I never would have imagined that I would become an organizer for a Northeastern University Alumni Event.
I am really grateful to Professor Patty Goodman, who recommended me to become a local Alumni Ambassador. Being a Northeastern Alumni Ambassador is an extremely exciting experience. It has been delightful connecting with more alumni and getting them involved in our community, along with building a bridge between Northeastern University Alumni in China and around the world.
In 2015, Carlos Colon Raldiris, relocated from his island home in Puerto Rico to the vibrant city of Boston to advance his studies in project management at Northeastern University. He completed his undergraduate degree in Public Communication with Film and TV Production at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. Carlos reminisced about his last semester working as an intern at a small agency called Nostrom Images Group Corp. He assisted in the production processes for TV commercials. In addition, Carlos produced a short movie and a music video for his advanced film courses as a part of his final projects.
Upon starting classes for his degree in project management, Carlos discovered that the Public Relations concentration within the Masters of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication was more appealing. He decided to change his direction and pursue this new passion in public relations. “Even if you have an idea or mindset about something, that doesn’t mean that’s what you are going to end up doing,” explained Carlos. He was selected for a co-op offering the opportunity to use his public relations knowledge and broadcasting background.
Landing the Right Co-op
As the saying goes, “third time is the charm.” Carlos first worked at a public relations agency, then a marketing agency. Those two experiential learning opportunities helped to prepare him for his “favorite” and third co-op at American Public Television. Carlos was hired at American Public Television as a Business Development and Marketing Assistant. His role included but was not limited to composing press releases, notification letters to producers and creating marketing materials for international TV buyers at an annual convention in Paris.
Carlos shared, “Northeastern has a great way of preparing students for work,” as he highlighted ways in which he planned for his co-op. During the co-op preparation process, Carlos learned how to connect his personal objectives with his professional endeavors from his co-op course, Career and Development. He researched various organizations and job requirements to ensure they were in line with his career.
Not only had Carlos gained experience in storytelling, media and broadcasting, he also tapped into his acting skills by appearing in a few documentaries as a prop.
The Power of Co-op
The type of real-world experience Carlos attained during his co-op created a pathway for him to apply for a full-time position at WGBH Television. “This co-op helped me to target exactly where I wanted to go,” Carlos shared. His co-op encouraged him to hone his networking skills, cross-cultural communication skills, and gain work experience while completing his masters program. Carlos voiced, “It’s important to learn how to address intercultural differences in the workplace. I experienced this at the office, but I was never frustrated because Northeastern taught me how to deal with it.” He also mentioned how he learned to adjust to different organizational cultures while being cognizant of the various communication styles. One challenge he overcame was learning how to brand himself and network in a room filled with CEOs from popular television networks, such as PBS.
Carlos shared some advice for co-op and job-seekers:
- Don’t let the opinion of others dictate where you go. “You need to taste the waters of wherever you want to go.”
- Take your co-op seriously, be responsible. But, don’t forget to have fun as well.
- “Doing a co-op/internship is the best thing,” exclaimed Carlos “everyone should do it if they want to have a successful professional life.”
- Build relationships with your colleagues in the office. “Don’t always be formal. There are moments when the informal interaction matters.”
- “Do your job at work, but also check other parts in the office where you can help someone.”
Carlos shared that his third and final co-op was incredibly rewarding. He was able to view the TV industry through different lenses, from co-op student at American Public Television to a full-time Broadcasting Scheduling Assistant at WGBH Television. Carlos will continue to immerse himself in the TV industry. His ultimate career goal is to become a writer/producer of short films and/or documentaries.
Posted by Racquel Muir, CPS ‘17
I’ve had the good fortune to travel this year to Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand relating to my research and teaching roles. In the process, I gained some insights that I would like to share in the following anecdotes. These musings are meant to be opportunities for pause and reflection. Have you had similar experiences? Comments and open discussion are welcome.
It all began when I let go
After the closing ceremony of the International Communication Association Conference in Fukuoka, Japan, I decided to venture out of the city to find the Nanzoin Temple, famous for its 41 meter long reclining Buddha statue.
I was a bit apprehensive about taking the subway to the regional train station since few of the locals spoke English. Once I showed the picture of my destination from my phone to the woman behind the ticket window, I had my round-trip ticket to Kidonanzoin-Mae. Excited to figure out the right train track and which station to get off, I had my confidence back.
As I stepped off the train with no one in sight, the little voice in my head said, “what now!” I turned to my left and noticed a woman looking at a map on her phone. “Would you happen to be heading to the Nanzoin Temple?,” I asked. Her response in English was, “Yes, want to find it together?” Esther was on holiday from her work in Australia and knew a bit more Japanese than I did.
Even so, we ended up getting lost, coming across many cultural treasures along the way. Eventually, we found the Nanzoin Temple despite missing signs.
The entire episode was a great learning moment: Just ask and go with it! Could the essence of intercultural communication be accepting your current circumstances and being agile with your surroundings?
There were boundless opportunities to test my ability to employ intercultural communication techniques in Tokyo. Through discussions with Japanese friends, I was prepared for the basic cultural customs of an indirect communication style, distance in personal space, and emphasis on punctuality.
The Japanese also value efficiency, as I realized when scanning a map of the Tokyo train system.
As the photo shows, the public transportation authorities created one map showing all the routes. From the perspective of an international traveler, I admit to being completely intimidated by this map. I recall wise words offered to me, “Being efficient might not always be the best.” Those words rang true for me in this situation. As a visitor to the city, I would have been better served with a different map displaying options for traveling in specific directions. Thank goodness people were helpful when I asked questions, and asked questions, and asked questions. Get the picture. From a communication perspective, one size (of map) did not fit all!
Recognizing the big picture
During an early morning in Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, I observed several vignettes, snapshots of daily life, that seemed so familiar. A woman held a small bicycle while a little girl climbed onto the seat. With one push, the little girl pedaled and was off. With a smile, the woman jogged beside the bike and redirected the handle bars as needed. Another woman was cradling a baby in her arms and balancing a bottle. There are some security guards resting on a bench; their long night patrolling the park, I imagined, is coming to a close. Further along, a group of mature women were exercising to music with a special percussion instruments.
I could have been at Danehy Park in Cambridge, the English Garden in Munich, Herastrau Park in Bucharest, or Parque Centro America Quetzaltenango in Guatemala, seeing very similar vignettes.
A realization hit me that we all belong to one culture — the culture of humanity. When I look for differences in cultures, I can certainly find them. There is value in seeking to understand these differences. Yet, when I seek similarities, I can find those too. Could the best means of mastering intercultural communication be finding a balance between the two?
Maintaining cultural history
I often wonder, as we become more global, how cultures will maintain their heritage. Will stories start to blend or histories become blurred?
In Ho Chi Minh City, I witnessed just the opposite. Here, the Vietnamese authorities have enshrined the legacy of Ho Chi Minh in very visual ways. In Ho Chi Minh Square, there are permanent storyboards to commemorate his life and his relationship with city.
While walking around the square, which is the hub of the city and crowded with people, one can see pictures of the revolutionary struggle and read about Ho Chi Minh’s rise as a leader, as well as the government’s role in providing services to the people and in nurturing cultural customs.
When heading to the main center of the town, more storyboards are found along the side of government buildings. This series shares more recent events and celebrations hosted by the government and the community. There is a clear sense that the emphasis is on the collective unity and shared success of the Vietnamese culture.
Is this the kind of very public symbolism that will counteract the blurring of cultural heritages? Has anyone seen similar displays? Been to Havana?
The Power of a Sign
While in Bangkok, Thailand, I experienced a real eye opener. I had spent the day with a local guide learning about Thai history and religious practices. It had been a fascinating day, one with many moments of awe and wonder. Honestly, it wasn’t until I saw this sign that I realized I had been disrespecting what I thought was a beautiful symbol of peace.
I am not a practicing Buddhist and mean no disrespect to those worshiping Buddha. I appreciated what this sign communicated. I had a learning moment that intercultural communication is not always seeking to understand, but recognizing when you have misunderstood. Have you experienced such an eye opener?
Intercultural Communication vs Crisis Communication
In our internet-driven society, cyber hacking is a common occurrence. From an intercultural communication perspective, should corporations take into account different communication styles when communicating a case of cyber hacking? One example might be using Hofstede’s National Cultural Dimensions to guide wording and emphasis to tailor messages to specific audiences. Or is one message conveying clear and timely information about the hacking incident, along with sincere regret effective for all audiences?
Taking a realistic business perspective, sensitive customer data is vulnerable when exposed. A crisis management plan that takes into account clear and direct information, in a timely manner with sincere regret might be the most effective from a customer’s perspective. I received this message from Vietnam Airlines within 24 hours of the identified incident.
I would have liked to also know what the airline is doing to prevent future hacking. I did appreciate the quick notification. How would you rate this communication?
Posted by Patty Goodman, Ed.D., Faculty
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.