"A person who speaks three languages is trilingual; two languages, is bilingual; one language, is American." --a non-American presenter at an international conference
I've been fortunate to travel internationally quite a bit, as a professor and in my capacity as dean of NC State's College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Whenever I do, I find myself with groups of very well-educated colleagues from around the globe whose ability to speak English - even when it is admittedly limited - far exceeds my ability to speak their language.
This point was driven home to me on my second visit to China this May, where I met with representatives of Nanjing Normal University (NNU) to explore collaborations stretching from study abroad programs to student and faculty exchanges to potential collaborative research and degree programs.
The North Carolina Confucius Institute located on the NC State campus pairs us with NNU in hopes that we'll develop connections surrounding disciplines we both share: English, teaching of English as a second language, Psychology, Foreign Languages, History, Sociology, and more. My job is to share what we've got on our campus and in our college, and then listen to the interests and strengths of the NNU representatives to identify viable partnerships that serve our mutual interests.
I do an adequate job of sharing information. People attending my talks usually appear to follow my structured presentations and carefully chosen and paced English without too much difficulty. In a lively talk on this trip, faculty from a nearby school for the deaf joined university students and faculty for a lively give-and-take about whether deaf students should be sent to special schools (the preferred practice in China) or included in regular schools (the preferred American practice).
We established many important understandings in less than 90 minutes, and I shared their sense of new learning and curiosity after our exchange. However, our conversation was mediated by a professor who listened to what I said, paraphrased the content for the audience, and translated their responses back to me. It created a cumbersome if ploddingly effective vehicle for mutual understanding.
I was more disappointed in my inability to expand my conversations beyond the academic bubble during my travels in China. There were a few exceptions: a taxi driver and I laughed over Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Hollywood action star and controversial governor. Another person who had helped me find a specific shop was delighted when I managed to convey an invitation for pijou (beer) in thanks for his efforts.
The moments where we shared family photos, information about our children, and questions about politics were ones that I cherish - in large part because they were so rare. I didn't have the chops to hold up my end of the bargain.
The wry observation at the top of this column notes the exceptionally lingua-centric nature of Americans. And I do cringe when I travel in a non-English speaking country and hear my compatriots simply say things slower and louder with the full expectation they should be understood.
We can - and we will - do better, so our students don't simply visit another country and stay inside the bubble of familiar faculty teaching subject matter that is provided entirely in English. We need to extend our efforts not just to our students - but also to our own faculty and staff as well.
I'm renewing my commitment to helping our campus community acquire skills to more directly interact with a world that increasingly feels like a global village. We need to experiment with and expand opportunities for all to acquire enough language skills so that they can travel to other countries and live - even if not terribly fluently - outside the bubble.
In those rare moments where we unexpectedly connect and share insights with those we meet outside our own culture, we build our competence to partner with others around the globe. In the process, we advance our understanding and appreciation for other peoples, cultures, and languages.
Dr. Blair L. M. Kelley, associate professor of history, is the subject of a video created by students in COM 437 - Advanced Digital Video, in the Department of Communication. The video profiles her research and her passion for teaching. Kelley's research has focused on the social movements that undergirded change for African Americans. Among the courses she teaches are oral history and the civil rights movement. This semester she co-taught "The South in Black and White" with historian Tim Tyson. Students enrolled from campuses throughout the Triangle to explore the history of race in the South.
Kelley won the 2010 Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Book Award, given by the Association of Black Women Historians, for her book Right to Ride: Streetcar Boycotts and African American Citizenship in the Era of Plessy v. Ferguson.
View the students' video on NC State's YouTube channel.
Tim Stinson and Dot Porter, a librarian at Indiana University, are using a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch an online resource for medieval subjects, including literature, history, theology, architecture, art history and philosophy. Creation of a centralized search engine for medieval materials will make research infinitely easier for scholars and others interested in the distant past.
At present, for example, those interested in studying the medieval era might need to visit dozens of different sites to search for documents related to their research topics, from King Arthur to church history to the Hundred Years' War.
The new site, which is part of Stinson's larger project called the Medieval Electronic Scholarly Alliance (MESA), will allow users to search all of these sites at once - streamlining the research process and hopefully bringing to light resources a scholar may have otherwise missed. The site is scheduled to launch by the end of the year, and will initially cover Europe and the Mediterranean world from roughly 450 A.D. to 1450 A.D.
Read the full story on NC State's research blog, The Abstract.
The Technician reports that when the State Government Internship Program chose 56 students this year to intern with state agencies, eight of the representatives came from N.C. State. Students from across North Carolina have pursued their interests through the internship program that started in 1969 to connect classroom material to potential future careers.
"This program brings three great benefits to North Carolina," Gov. Bev Perdue said in a press release. "It gives our best and brightest students invaluable real-world experience in public service, it gives our state employees a helping hand and it provides North Carolina citizens with extra services and important work throughout the summer."
Susan Camilleri, a graduate student in public administration, received the Policy and Legislative Affairs internship with the Secretary's Office in the Department of Administration in downtown Raleigh. Camilleri will assist the department's legislative liaison with tracking bills that could potentially impact the agency and in generating legislative tracking reports for department employees.
Cody Munson, a sophomore in communication, received the Workforce Planning: Assessment and Analysis internship with the Division of Governance Office in the Department of Transportation in Raleigh. His first assignment was to analyze the NCDOT's current workforce and project retirement rates over the next five years. Given those statistics, he will create and recommend solutions to senior leadership on how to fix the shortage of labor.
Read more about the internship program, and these CHASS students, at Technician Online.
CHASS major and Park scholar Andriy Shymonyak can't wait. The Ukranian-born student--he moved to the United States at age five--says his interest in Ukraine's economy and politics was fostered under the guidance of Clifford Griffin, associate professor of political science and director of international programs in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
"I have been working with Dr. Griffin since the beginning of my freshman year on my interests in international relations and the geographic region of Eastern Europe," says Shymonyak. "His mentorship thus far has been priceless and I look forward to continuing to work with him in the future."
When Shymonyak returns to campus this fall, he and Griffin will collaborate on papers they may submit to the North Carolina Political Science Association and the Southern Political Science Association.
Read more about Shymonyak and his Ukranian summer on the Park Scholars website.
A study from NC State University shows how people used Twitter following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan, highlighting challenges for using the social media tool to share information. The study also indicates that social media haven't changed what we communicate so much as how quickly we can disseminate it.
I wanted to see if Twitter was an effective tool for sharing meaningful information about nuclear risk in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, says Dr. Andrew Binder, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and author of a paper describing the work. I knew people would be sharing information, but I wanted to see whether it was anecdotal or substantive, and whether users were providing analysis and placing information in context.
In the bigger picture, I wanted to see whether social media is changing the way we communicate, or if we are communicating the same way using different tools.
Read the full news release on NC State's news site.David L. Boren Fellowship which will fund a year in Ethiopia. During her time in Africa, Gonsalves will immerse herself in language acquisition and a qualitative research project. Gonsalves will collect data on family planning practices and natural resource use by local communities in the region. She plans to use the data to design family planning modules tailored to each community.
Gonsalves is currently pursuing her master's degree in public health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the oldest school of public health in the world. She graduated from NC State in 2010 with degrees in international studies and biological sciences.
During her undergraduate career, Gonsalves, a Park Scholar, participated in two internships with the U.S. Department of State '- one in Washington, D.C. and the other in Honduras, and also studied abroad in Guatemala. She was a national finalist in ballroom dancing and served as president of the Ballroom Dance Team. Gonsalves was a coxswain on the Rowing Club and a member of the Order of Thirty and Three, Phi Beta Kappa, and University Ambassadors. She was selected to deliver the student address at the 2010 spring commencement ceremony.
CHASS featured Gonsalves in a video as she was preparing to spend a year in Venezuela on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
New research from NC State University shows that the United States and Great Britain share common risk factors that increase the likelihood of behavioral problems in children '" and that Britain's broader social welfare programs don't appear to mitigate those risks.
Professor of sociology Toby Parcel was the lead author of a paper describing the work. In both societies, Parcel and her fellow researchers found that male children, children with health problems and children with divorced mothers were more likely to have behavioral problems.
We also found that stronger home environments '" those that are intellectually stimulating, nurturing and physically safe '" decrease the likelihood of behavior problems in both countries, says Parcel.
Read the full news release on NC State's news site.
Walt Wolfram recently appeared on "CBS This Morning" as part of a report by correspondent Mo Rocca about homogenizing American accents. Rocca visited Ocracoke to highlight the hoi toide accents there.
Wolfram, a William C. Friday Distinguished University Professor, has been studying dialects for almost than 50 years and has been at N.C. State for the past 20. "Studying dialects in North Carolina is like dying and coming to dialect heaven," Wolfram told Rocca. "It's incredible. There's no state that has a richer tradition."
Video of Rocca's report is below: