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South of the Border
South of the border with Dr. Christine North
“I can’t pack up every student from Northern into my suitcase and take them with me around the world,” says Dr. Christine North, associate professor of communication arts.
“I wish I could, but I can’t.”
To North, experiencing international cultures is a vital component of any communication curriculum, and it’s a part of every class she teaches. But she understands that not everyone has the resources to travel the world as a college student. So she provides the next best thing.
“If you can’t be there yourself, learn from someone who has.”
North leaps at every opportunity to see the world. She recently spent four days in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, conducting workshops and consulting with the School of Communication Sciences at the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí (UASLP).
While there, North encountered significant differences in the ways the two countries approach the study of human communication. In Mexico, there are few tracks of study within the discipline. Instead, students take classes from a set curriculum based heavily in mass communication and mass media.
“The university was very interested in some of the courses offered in the United States that are not currently available in Mexico, specifically interpersonal communication and health communication,” she says.
To capitalize on these interests, North conducted a 30-hour interpersonal communication workshop attended by 25 UASLP students. “The workshop was very well received by both the students and the faculty in the School of Communication Sciences,” she says.
It was so well received, in fact, that North has already made plans to return to San Luis Potosí next fall. This time, she’ll lead a health communication workshop open to professionals from local hospitals and students from UASLP’s colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and dentistry. “Health communication is not taught in any of the health science areas in Mexico,” North says. “It’s a topic that has a great deal of interest among Mexican students and professionals alike.”
Back home in Ada, North regularly brings stories and anecdotes of Mexican culture, lifestyle and education to her classroom.
“By sharing my experiences with other cultures, I can give my students a much bigger picture about the world they live in and will work in,” she says. “My students read case studies in books, but to hear first-hand examples from someone who has been there is much more engaging.”
Not content to simply share these experiences with her students, North hopes to someday develop an ONU-UASLP exchange program that will send Northern students or faculty to Mexico and bring their counterparts to ONU.
“Bringing cultural exchange into the classroom helps build ties between UASLP and ONU,” she says. “Though small now, these programs may lead to greater relationships in the future.
“I don’t know where this will lead, and that’s what’s exciting about it.”