Garrett Davies, a sophomore computer science major from Robertsdale, remembers the day when his Indian-born English professor explained to his class the infatuation of the Indian subcontinent with “white” skin. The fact that people spend more on skin-whitening creams than Coca-Cola was surprising to him.
“It was quite puzzling to me because the concept of being pale is quite polar to what people think here,” said Davies. “My sister scorched herself every summer just to be tan.”
This story is one example of how international faculty have a unique opportunity to educate students about different cultures while teaching their classes.
Richard Nokes, an associate professor of English and the coordinator of the visiting scholars program at Troy, said that apart from permanent faculty, Troy University also boasts visiting research scholars from all over the world studying various academic fields.
Some students say that having international scholars and faculty on campus does much more than enrich the academic environment.
While conducting their research, the scholars interact with the students, give public talks on their research and, in the long run, help the university establish a favorable reputation all over the world.
Magyn Ryals, a junior English major from Panama City, Florida, said her English professor’s knowledge of the Russian language is a big plus when it comes to teaching the acquisition of a foreign language.
“Given that she herself learned English as a second language, she can present relatable examples which greatly help the learning process,” Ryals said.
According to Nokes, the English department has worked consciously to promote the international identity of the university, and having foreign-born faculty, as well as faculty who have spent years living abroad, has done a lot to bolster the identity.
“In a classroom that not just has international students, but is managed by someone from a different culture, the cross-cultural interaction becomes much easier,” Nokes said.
Rimsha Shahi, a junior computer science major from Kathmandu, Nepal, has taken numerous classes with foreign-born professors. She said the diversity in the student population and staff makes her feel included, and the interaction with people from other countries has helped her become more receptive to different values and ways of living.
According to David Kent, a lecturer and former director of the English as a second language program, interactions with individuals from diverse backgrounds enrich one’s perception in a similar way that an abroad study program does.
Such dialogues, according to him, allow self-reflection on beliefs and also let individuals incorporate nuances into their understanding of others and themselves.
“I had a graduate student from Venezuela who said that she learned more about her own culture during her stay here than American culture,” Kent said.
According to Kent, being able to empathize with individuals from a variety of cultural and regional backgrounds can be a key component to a successful work environment in a globalized workforce.