Embracing Cultural Communication: A Manner of Speaking

She considers Carlisle her hometown and has no foreign or regional accent. Without meeting in person, many mistake her full name as Sue Jata, missing that Sujata Chaudhry ’88 is a native of Bombay, India. “This is actually a humorous story I share frequently,” Chaudhry said. “I think often I surprise them when I meet them in person.

"It is all perception and our bias.”

There are approximately 7,000 languages in the world. How many of those do you speak? Chaudhry draws from her personal experiences and her Ship education to help others enhance cross-cultural communication through her consulting company Tangible Development LLC. The company designs courses to develop cultural competency for specific industries. “Shippensburg University embraced me, supported my future goals, and gave me the power to change the world using cultural intelligence,” she said.

Cultural communication is a theme woven into classes at Ship in an effort to prepare students for international work and interaction. “We are living in a more globalized world where there are more international contacts,” said Dr. Jonathan Skaff, professor of history and director of
International Studies.

“There are more opportunities to work with people from other parts of the world. In many different fields that you might go into, crossing into different cultures is very important.”

PROVIDING PERSPECTIVE

Sujata Chaudhry ’88

Sujata Chaudhry ’88

Chaudhry finds it funny how frequently people mistake her name. However, “Names and titles are extremely important in negotiations and conducting business in many cultures,” she said.

You wouldn’t know it today, but Chaudhry was born into poverty in India. Her father excelled in school and received help from a mentor to become an engineer. His work supported the family, eventually moving them to England, then the United States. Despite his intelligence and determination, he found it hard to be accepted because of his cultural differences.

Chaudhry decided to change that through her own education. She earned a BSBA with a concentration in marketing from Ship, attended Penn State for two years, then earned an MEd from Duquesne University. After college, she worked as a market analyst for the US Navy, then continued her career at AMP, Inc., now TYCO. Because of her diverse background and experiences, she was sensitive to working with people from other countries.

“All cultures shape our attitude. Whether you are American, Asian, German, etc., all those cultures shape our attitude and our protocol, such as how we are supposed to speak or when we are supposed to speak. It is important to be culture savvy.”

Chaudhry said people often are challenged by language barriers and understanding their own biases and perceptions. She’s found it can be hard for people to accept differences and build relationships with those from other backgrounds. Through Tangible Development LLC, she creates customized classes to help professionals value diversity, understand self, learn
the dynamics of differences, develop different communication and negotiation styles, and institutionalize diversity and cultural communication. She also stresses the strengths and creativity of diversity.

“What I would tell students is never to assume, be open-minded, be inquisitive, and ask questions when you are not sure. Focus on creating global mindedness.”

EYE-OPENING EXPERIENCES

The culture shock and language barrier was daunting at first, but international management major Sandra Kimborowicz ’18 said her study-abroad experience was invaluable. “The day we came home, we wanted to go again. Getting experience from study abroad is amazing.”

From politics to cliff diving, Sandra Kimborowicz ‘18 (below) learned new perspectives during her summer class on European politics. Students traveled to seven different countries in three weeks.

From politics to cliff diving, Sandra Kimborowicz ‘18 (below) learned new perspectives during her summer class on European politics. Students traveled to seven different countries in three weeks.

“I definitely brought home a lot from this trip. This changed my view on a lot of things.”
— Sandra Kimborowicz '18

Over the summer, Kimborowicz took a three-week European political science class with Dr. Mark Sachleben, professor of political science. The trip introduced students to the politics, culture, and history of Europe in seven different countries. Students spent five nights with a host family in Belgium to see how Europeans live and interact.

“It is something that is transformational in that students begin to see themselves and the world differently,” Sachleben said.

English is actually Kimborowicz’s second language. She speaks Polish and has visited family in Poland, but the class exposed her to countries she never has experienced. In addition to learning about the politics and culture of the countries they visited, Kimborowicz took advantage of trying “weird foods,” learning about architecture, riding a donkey, and cliff diving.

“I definitely brought home a lot from this trip. This changed my view on a lot of things,” she said. “We feel like, as Americans, the world revolves around us, but it’s so much more about relying on each other, learning different mannerisms, and being respectful.”

Taking an internship abroad gave communication/journalism major Ali Mowers ’17 the best of both worlds. This past summer, she lived in New Zealand and worked with Five+Dime, a marketing-by-design firm. She imparted some of her American influence, but also learned from a different culture. Mowers described the business culture in New Zealand as more casual and
youthful with an entrepreneurial spirit.

Taking an internship abroad gave senior Ali Mowers a glimpse of both living and working in New Zealand. Here, Mowers views Wellington, the capital city, from Mount Victoria.

Taking an internship abroad gave senior Ali Mowers a glimpse of both living and working in New Zealand. Here, Mowers views Wellington, the capital city, from Mount Victoria.

“You have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable.”
— Ali Mowers
Ali Mowers and her fellow interns at Five+Dime in New Zealand.

Ali Mowers and her fellow interns at Five+Dime in New Zealand.

Taking a leap of faith, Ali Mowers prepares to jump off the Nevis Swing—the biggest swing in the world.

Taking a leap of faith, Ali Mowers prepares to jump off the Nevis Swing—the biggest swing in the world.

“For a study-abroad internship, you’re not only learning valuable information from the internship, but you’re putting yourself out there. You have to do that in order to learn and grow,” she said. “You have to be uncomfortable to be comfortable.”

Previously, she traveled with the French Club for a service-learning experience in Haiti. Although she said she hates “bugs, sweating, and physical labor,” she loved the trip. “We were fully immersed in the culture.”

In the John L. Grove College of Business, the MBA program offers a European Business Environment course that includes travel to places like Prague, Paris, and Brussels. “Students have an opportunity to work closely with people from other countries. It enhances everyone’s skills in overcoming cultural and language challenges,” said Dr. Robert Stephens, associate professor of management and marketing and director of the MBA program.

While on the MBA European Business Environment trip, students learn about politics, business, and culture abroad.

While on the MBA European Business Environment trip, students learn about politics, business, and culture abroad.

Dr. Christine Royce, professor and chair of the Teacher Education Department, earned her MBA and traveled with the class several times. She enjoyed the architecture of old-world Prague, marveled at the efficiency displayed at the BMW motorcycle plant in Germany, and relished the food in Berlin. She also noted how differently new and seasoned travelers reacted to the experience.

“One student had never been anywhere outside of the United States. It was eye opening for her, because everything is new—the people, food, transit, etc.,” Royce said. “Others were well traveled and adapted well. …Their experience really enabled them to express their curiosity.”

CHANGING COURSE

Ship integrates the study of other cultures in courses across disciplines to educate and enlighten students.

In Grove College, global perspective is part of its mission statement, said Dr. Tony Winter, assistant dean. “Cultural communication is particularly important at Shippensburg because we are a rural area,” he said.

“It’s critically important for our students to understand and appreciate other cultures.” While on the MBA trip, Stephens said students see a difference in work and home balance in Europe. There are fewer working hours, extended vacations, and generally a greater separation between work and home responsibilities. He also encourages his graduate students to make the most of
their free time. “I expect them to go out on their own, explore, and interact. Most students report that they get as much learning through those kinds of activities. They have great stories to tell and questions to ask.”

“You have a deeper understanding of yourself and your country’s culture. You become more aware of the norms of thinking in the United States and gain a broader world view.”
— Dr. Jonathan Skaff

Students who choose an international studies major or minor take classes in a variety of disciplines that have an international emphasis, Dr. John Skaff said. Students can specialize in Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America, and Europe. Based on their specialization, they learn a language and study abroad in an area that uses that language. Classroom theory evolves into real-world practice as students assimilate to new cultures, he said.

“Students should come out of the program with expertise from that country’s culture and understand cross-cultural communication.”

Skaff said his understanding of the world has improved through his travels. “You have a deeper understanding of yourself and your country’s culture. You become more aware of the norms of thinking in the United States and gain a broader world view.”

Sachleben stressed that cultural understanding is important regardless of major. “There is no downside to learning about those barriers and trying to overcome them, because essentially, whatever your line of work, having smooth communication is key.”

ON THE HOME FRONT

Not everyone has the opportunity to travel abroad, however, the principles of
cultural communication are just as important at home. According to the US Census Bureau, Caucasians will be a minority in this country by 2050, Chaudhry said.

“This means that the majority of our workforce will be diverse. Cultural communication is no longer about borders, travel, or international work. It’s about a globalized economy and a multicultural workforce that exists in US companies.”

Although study abroad is the ideal way to gain this experience, Winter said SU’s exchange program also provides this perspective. “We take in a lot of students through the exchange program. Now, students are sitting in class with someone from Germany, Denmark, Poland, etc. Many courses include group work that provide an opportunity to understand and appreciate other cultures by working with students from other countries.”

Winter said Grove College also brings in speakers to discuss international issues with students from companies such as Volvo, which has a location in Shippensburg but is headquartered in Sweden. During the college’s annual etiquette dinner, presenters teach students how to eat and socialize with those from different cultures. He said the college hosts a study-abroad expo as well, in which students present information and food from different countries.

Understanding differences such as verbal and nonverbal communications, gender roles, and social interaction is valuable in any career, Royce said. Her experiences on the MBA trip also impact her work in teacher education. The classroom often is the first opportunity students have to learn about and engage with people from different backgrounds.

“Cultural norms are important to understand, and help me to make students of different backgrounds more comfortable,” she said. “Everybody, whether they choose to leave this country or not, will interact with people of different backgrounds. These skills will benefit you in any field.”

Jessica Richardson ’17, SU Magazine intern, contributed to this story.