At the heart of its mission, Rollins College aspires to educate students for global citizenship. Get to know a few professors leading the way.
Assistant Professor of Communication Ted Gournelos lectures at Renmin University in Beijing about effective storytelling for filmmakers. (Photo courtesy of Ted Gournelos)
Over the past 10 years, Rollins faculty members have traveled to nearly 50 countries, and 75 percent have had at least one international experience. These diverse learning opportunities not only help professors continue their own studies, they also bring expanded perspectives to the classroom.
This semester, communication studies professor Ted Gournelos is teaching in Shanghai. Religion studies professor Mario D'Amato is auditing Japanese 101 on campus, alongside some of his students. And Patricia Tomé, associate professor of modern languages, is planning a trip to Cuba for faculty and staff.
Ted Gournelos: International Communicator
No matter what topic he’s teaching in China or Japan, after every lecture Gournelos gets the same request. “They want their pictures taken with me, because I’m just so tall,” he chuckles. “I’m forming lifelong personal and business relationships, and am rapidly evolving the way I think about both learning and teaching. If I could get every Rollins student to study in Shanghai, I would.”
On campus, Gournelos teaches two classes: intercultural communication, and communication and social change. A few weeks ago in Japan, he was explaining how communication is a primary form of misunderstanding in personal, political, and business interaction. To demonstrate, he showed an audience of 250 how Americans might exchange business cards. They gasped in horror at the informality of it all. In Japanese culture, there are strict rules for such a process.
“In China,” he says, “similar students gasped in an a-ha moment when I showed them how marketing and PR could be used to solve environmental issues.”
These sorts of everyday experiences help Gournelos flesh out stories and make them real for students back home. “It also helps to remind me of similarities and differences and what skills and ideas might distinguish Rollins kids from the increasingly global competition.”
In addition to the Far East, Gournelos has studied Spanish in Costa Rica, business in Mexico, French in France, and poetry in Ireland.
Mario D’Amato: A Student Once More
As an expert on the interpretation of Indian Buddhist philosophy, D’Amato crosses paths with several Japanese scholars whose research addresses the same topic. One of these days, he’d like to be able to speak with them in their native language.
That’s why, every Thursday evening, you can find D’Amato in Hauck Hall, auditing Elementary Japanese I with Harue Patterson—or “Patterson-sensei,” as she’s more commonly known.
“I’ve tried to study Japanese on my own a couple times, but I’ve only gotten so far,” D’Amato says, adding that a structured classroom keeps him on track. “In some of my courses—Zen Buddhism, for example—we read texts that have been translated from Japanese. Now, I’m working toward being able to indicate some of the general grammatical features of the language that differ in interesting ways from English grammar.”
Auditing the course also serves as a reminder of what learning feels like from a student’s perspective. In turn, that helps the teacher side of him communicate the material in a more effective fashion. Students benefit from a professor always striving to learn more.
“No matter how much mastery one may have achieved in teaching, one can always go further,” D’Amato explains. “It’s an art that one can dedicate oneself to and continue to try to master without ever reaching perfection.”
D’Amato has been on a number of international study trips while at the College and in other capacities—from living with Tibetan Buddhists in India to joining a Rollins faculty field study in China. This winter, he’ll be leading his second field study to Japan to focus on religion and pop culture.
Patricia Tomé: Re-Establishing Ties with Cuba
Teaching several courses on Cuba, Tomé must stay up to date on trends in the rapidly changing country. Over the past four years, she’s taken students on three trips to the island nation. Next up: a visit for faculty and staff.
In May, Tomé and her team will study several issues relating to education, agriculture, urban development, and sustainability. The group will also develop relationships with the University of La Habana in hopes of creating academic exchanges for Rollins faculty and students.
“As diplomatic relations change in Cuba, social and cultural daily life will change for most of its citizens,” says Tomé, who spent 2014 on sabbatical in the country. “In the hopes of sharing our belief in liberal arts education as a means of generating global citizens and scholars, Rollins can play an instrumental role in the overall education system in Cuba, which I frankly believe is at a crossroads.”
Tomé explains that most pedagogues take opportunities outside the classroom as a way to critically think about their own teaching methodologies and techniques. ”Furthermore,” she says, “exposure to different cultures, languages, and peoples result in a new appreciation for our culture, thus enhancing our classrooms altogether.”
Before communist dictator Fidel Castro took power in 1959, Rollins enjoyed strong ties with Cuba. The first exchange students arrived at the College in 1896, and a few years later Rollins had more Cuban students than any other campus in the United States.
“It’s time to invite them back!” Tomé says.