Andrew Spieldenner-Microgrant report

NCA Microgrant Report
Andrew R. Spieldenner, Hofstra University

ARSpieldenner at Sigma
I applied for one of the Center for Intercultural Dialogue‘s microgrants funded by the National Communication Association  to explore the possibilities of meeting with researchers in London. Currently, I am looking at using communication methods to better implement and evaluate the roll out, implementation and uptake of HIV biomedical interventions among gay and bisexual men in the United States. Because of the disproportionate impact of HIV in the United States on certain groups, my work focuses on African American, Latino and HIV-positive gay men – all populations that experience persistent structural barriers in the healthcare system.

Matching funds
The Hofstra University School of Communication supported this project with a faculty research support grant. The matching funds covered the costs of housing and food while at the host institution.

Local host
The Global Forum on Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) hosted a Pre-Conference focused on gay and bisexual men at the International AIDS Conference 2012 in Washington, DC. I chaired the panel on HIV, community mobilization and immigrant MSM. On the panel, Ibidun Fakoya, Research Fellow at University College London presented her formative assessment of African gay men living with HIV in London. Ibidun Fakoya works with Dr. Fiona Burns on the advancing Migrant Access to health Services in Europe (aMASE). aMASE uses a multi-site Community Advisory Group to assess clinical and health care access for migrants in Europe with some focus on MSM and substance users. As such, aMASE is constructing a framework for effectively working with mobile and marginalized populations in assessing healthcare. In follow up conversations and through social media, a relationship emerged on common research interests. Through these conversations, the project emerged and additional meetings were made through Ibidun Fakoya and social media. In the past few years, I have developed a network of other advocates and researchers who are active on twitter and whose specialty is health disparities and the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities.

Ibidun Fakoya, Andrew Spieldenner
Ibidun Fakoya, Andrew Spieldenner

Trip itinerary
My colleagues were generous with their time. I visited University College London, Birkbeck College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Each meeting opened up other doors to consider – with other researchers, community groups, medical providers, and health policy institutions.

Uni College London

Ibidun “Ibi” Fakoya and Dr. Fiona Burns of University of College London aMASE project were my primary hosts. Ibi and I met with the Community Mobilization Coordinator to discuss the Community Advisory Group and the implementation of the research survey in multiple countries in clinic and community settings.  We brainstormed on possible community partners to achieve the target survey populations in the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, Spain and Italy. I was able to review the processes that aMASE has implemented to get a shared research tool and protocols across all partner sites. In addition, Ibi and I reviewed social marketing and health messaging in order to develop marketing materials. Ibi was instrumental in coordinating with the other researchers for my trip.

At the University College London, I met with Professor Graham Hart on HIV and gay men in the London and New York City, focusing on the vastly different healthcare systems in the two countries. Professor Hart is Dean of the School, and he has extensively researched HIV and gay men. Professor Hart was interested in how the differing healthcare systems and social attitudes about health impact the treatment and service environment for gay men of varied racial/ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. He gave several referrals to visit community groups and health policy institutions.

Professor Matthew Weait of Birkbeck College is an expert on HIV criminalization laws. We discussed the ways that HIV criminalization laws operate in various countries, and how cultural views frame the laws. We also examined the concurrent passage of gay marriage legislation in Maryland alongside an enhancement of the state’s HIV criminalization law. We discussed the importance of translating research and policy into accessible language in order to mobilize community members.

Matt Weait, Andrew Spieldenner
Matt Weait, Andrew Spieldenner

Dr. Catherine Dodds and Dr. Ford Hickson of the Sigma Research Group are currently housed at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Sigma Research Group has been on the forefront of research in the UK on gay men and HIV. They have conducted surveys at gay prides in the UK for over a decade, and have implemented several Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) projects alongside community partners. We had an intense discussion about harm reduction in HIV, the limits to current public health discourse on gay men and HIV, methods of conducting CBPR projects (including the use of Skype), and how communication – as a field – can be used in public health research.

Further activities
There are several future activities possible in the future. Many of these involve future correspondence and research support. We acknowledged that there were several meetings about HIV and our respective fields that may be of interest to the others. Dr. Hickson, Dr. Dodds  and Professor Weait committed to ongoing communication about projects and possible next dates for meetings when we happened to be in the same event (such as the International AIDS Conference 2014).

Ibidun Fakoya and I sketched out two different research projects to advance, and we are looking to collaborate over the next two years on these projects.

Finally, I plan to return to Europe summer of 2014 on another project, where I will be renewing my relationships with these researchers.

[NOTE: Andrew Spieldenner’s original project proposal is available here.]

Renee Cowan-Microgrant report

NCA Microgrant Report
Renee Cowan, University of Texas at San Antonio

Project Description


The National Communication Association micro grant provided through the Center for Intercultural Dialogue allowed me to begin a very productive conversation and collaboration with renowned European workplace bullying researcher, Dr. Denise Salin (Hanken School of Economics, Finland). I first connect Dr. Salin after reading her extensive research on workplace bullying and the organization from the European perspective.  Dr. Salin and I, along with our project partner, Dr. Suzy Fox (Professor, Loyola University, Chicago) are in the planning stage of a large multi-national research study on conceptions of workplace bullying.  Our conversations allowed me to better understand workplace bullying from a European perspective and helped shed light on pertinent issues when investigating bullying from a culture perspective.  In order to begin this effort, I needed to raise research funds to allow attendance at the planning meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

Renee Cowan, Denise Salin

Raising Funds for the Trip
To fund this international collaboration trip, I estimated I would need $2,400 for airfare and hotel arrangements.  I was granted $900 from the National Communication Association through the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and $1200 in a Faculty Research Grant from the University of Texas at San Antonio.  This covered the majority of costs associated with the trip and I personally supplemented the remaining sum.  Our meeting was highly successful and because of the trip we are advancing through Phase 1 of the project.

The Project
During our meeting we discussed and finalized a three-phase international workplace bullying project.  From a U.S. human resources perspective, workplace bullying (WB) is defined as “Actions and practices that a ‘reasonable person’ would find abusive, occur repeatedly or persistently, harm or are intended to harm the target, and result in economic, psychological, or physical harm to the target and/or create a hostile work environment” (Fox, Cowan & Lykkebak, 2012, p. 10). While WB is a universal phenomenon, there are institutional, legal, organizational, and cultural factors that necessitate different approaches to bullying in different parts of the world.  We determined our guiding research question: based on the assumption that the violation of national, gendered, or other cultural norms will be perceived as rude, crude, or bullying behavior, to what extent will national differences in cultural values and communication norms be associated with differences in behaviors perceived to constitute workplace bullying?

The Center for Intercultural Dialogue grant allowed me to meet with Drs. Salin and Fox to discuss and refine our three-phase intercultural bullying research project.  We held this meeting during the week of June 1-8, 2013.  During this week-long meeting we were able to discuss important logistics of our international project including securing grants, our project schedule, securing country partners, and specifics of data collection.  The meeting was very productive and we are now able to move forward with data collection for Phase 1 in Summer 2013. We hope to complete the full project by Fall 2015.  We have secured collaboration from country partners in Argentina, Poland, Bahrain, Turkey, India, Australia, Austria, China, Greece, Mexico, the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and we have collaborators who have expressed interest in the United Kingdom and Israel.  What follows are more details on the project:

Phase 1. In this phase we have determined the participating countries and collaborators, gained commitment and alignment of the team members, developed the collaboration protocols and project guidelines, and began creating the interview and survey measures. The two main clusters of materials will be common measures of cultural characteristics and communication norms, an initial set of bullying items based on popular Workplace Bullying measures and semi-structured interview protocols. Focus groups in the U.S. and Finland will be conducted.  We have largely completed Phase one and plan to conduct most focus groups by the end of Summer 2013.

Phase 2. Focus group, interview and survey materials will be translated and back-translated, supplemented by culture-specific questions contributed by our country researchers. Each collaborator will conduct interviews with a minimum of 15 respondents, and will include Human Resource professionals, managers who have handled bullying incidents, and union leaders or other employee representatives.

The focus groups and interviews will seek to uncover underlying cultural assumptions, values, norms, and perceptions that contribute to judgments of workplace bullying behaviors. For each culture, we will work with the collaborators to develop a comprehensive and specific set of behaviors that employees in that culture would consider to be workplace bullying. This will be the starting point for the next phase, the survey.

Suzy, Renee, Denise-sm
Suzy Fox, Renee Cowan, Denise Salin

The project will produce strong intellectual significance by attending to the question: To what extent are national differences in cultural values, communication norms and gender roles associated with differences in a) behaviors perceived to constitute workplace bullying, b) how individuals and organizations respond to perceived workplace bullying, and c) preferences for organizational and public policies, including specific roles assigned to HR professionals in efforts to counter workplace bullying?

This research will result in several direct outputs that will be beneficial for both U.S.-based and global HR departments: 1) specific guidelines for what should be effective practice in addressing WB from a training standpoint, 2) specific guidelines for anti-bullying policy for global and U.S.-based organizations, 3) guidelines for identifying and addressing WB in both local and multicultural contexts, 4) dispute resolution guidelines and procedures and 5) suggestions for incorporating anti-bullying considerations into organizations’ formal performance management and disciplinary systems.  The project’s potential broader impacts are to offer guidance to Human Resource Professionals (HRPs) and managers in defining, recognizing and responding to workplace bullying complaints and situations, and to help multinational corporations develop guidelines that enable people from diverse national backgrounds to work together.

Fox, S., Cowan, R. & Lykkebak, K. (2012). Revision of the workplace bullying-checklist: workplace bullying policy survey for HR professionals. Proceedings, Academy of Business Research, New Orleans, March 15, 2012.

[NOTE: Renee Cowan’s original project proposal is available here.]

Louisa Edgerly-Microgrant Report

NCA Micro Grant Report
Louisa Edgerly, Independent Scholar

This report details my travel to the Republic of Congo to begin fieldwork on a collaborative research project with the International Conservation and Education Fund (INCEF), a US-Congolese nonprofit organization that produces educational films on topics related to public health and environmental conservation. The aim of my research is to develop descriptive accounts and interpretations of the intercultural communication that takes place between INCEF, their audience of rural Congolese villagers, and the global health workers and environmentalists who also work on the issues of human health and environmental conservation in Congo.

Identifying local partners
I learned about INCEF’s work – and its relevance to theories of intercultural communication – through conversation with an INCEF board member. Following this initial conversation in May of 2011, I drafted a project proposal outlining a possible collaboration between INCEF and the University of Washington’s Center for Local Strategies Research (UWCLSR) to study INCEF’s methods of communication and their process of project design through the lens of speech codes theory.

I sent the draft proposal to INCEF’s Executive Director, Cynthia Moses, and to UWCLSR. When all parties expressed interest in moving forward with the project, I then began to discuss possible dates for an initial research trip to Congo to observe INCEF’s work in place. Based on INCEF’s planned activities for 2012, Cynthia and I determined that November and December, 2012 would be a good time for my visit. I estimated that I could raise funds to cover a two-month stay in Congo, and to pay for travel of about a week to a remote location outside the capital city to observe INCEF’s project implementation.

Sunrise-smRaising research funds
Once I had chosen the dates for my research trip, I began by setting up an account on a crowd-funding web site called Petridish. I had done quite a lot of research on possible sources of funding for research, but as an independent scholar there were not many options available. The National Communication Association‘s Travel Microgrant was one notable exception, and I applied for this in addition to my other fund-raising efforts.

Crowd-funding offered the best – and fastest – mechanism to raise the $7,000 I estimated I would need to cover the costs of the entire trip. I created a short video to put on the Petridish web site, chose the different donation levels and the rewards for each level (a photograph from the trip, subscription to the trip’s blog, etc.), and set up the crowd-funding platform. In fifty days I raised just over $7,000 through my personal network of friends and family, using social media tools and email appeals. Petridish charged 4% of the total raised for providing the web site, and Amazon Payments also took a transaction fee from each donation made online. I was able to use the remainder to cover my direct research costs, including air fare, food, housing, and local transportation in Congo.

The timing of my travel depended to a great extent on INCEF’s schedule, and thus I had to depart for Congo before the decision about the NCA microgrants was announced. I crossed my fingers and booked my ticket for Brazzaville, Congo.

The NCA microgrant for $1,000 covered one third of the total round trip airfare from Seattle to Brazzaville, and thus allowed me to use other funds raised to cover unexpected expenses that arose during my field work, including several extra days spent in the northern town of Impfondo due to canceled flights, and the wildly unpredictable cost of gasoline, which increased travel costs within Congo.

Research Activities in Congo
The aim of my research in Congo was to study the communication methods used by INCEF, and to assess the degree to which they constituted a dialogic and participatory approach to intercultural communication. This field trip also aimed to allow me to see whether further academic collaboration might be able to offer some real benefits to INCEF, by offering a theoretical approach to intercultural dialogue that was compatible with their overall goals and experience, as well as helping them make connections with other organizations doing similar work.

In Brazzaville, I stayed in a guest room at INCEF’s headquarters, located in the Centreville neighborhood. The experience of studying human beings in their natural settings almost never goes completely smoothly, and this trip was no exception. INCEF’s Executive Director had intended in be in Brazzaville to meet me, but she was delayed several weeks and did not arrive until I had been there almost four weeks. The project that I had planned to observe was on hold due to lack of funds, and many of the activities that I had hoped to observe were likewise delayed or suspended. All of this provided me with the chance to explore Brazzaville and observe daily life there, to have longer conversations with INCEF’s staff, and to study their library of public health and conservation films in greater detail. The realities of living and working in a developing country, with inconsistent electrical supply, running water, and internet service also provided important background context to help me understand the structural barriers INCEF faces in their work every day.

My first weeks of observations and interviews with INCEF staff, and with individuals from other organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society that partner with INCEF in Brazzaville, provided me with a preliminary set of data to analyze, and important context for my later observations in the field. After four weeks in Brazzaville, I traveled north to the town of Impfondo, where I met with two of INCEF’s educators to prepare for a trip out to the village of Makolongoulou to screen several INCEF films as part of their work on violence prevention and public health with UNICEF. I conducted observations at a number of INCEF film screenings and at the facilitated discussions that followed, both in the village and in Impfondo. This trip gave me the opportunity to see INCEF’s communication methodology in practice, and added a great deal of information to the data I had collected through earlier interviews. From Impfondo, I returned to Brazzaville to conduct a few final interviews and prepare to return to Seattle.

Louisa & Mika-sm

Further research activities
Back in Seattle, I have continued to pursue new contacts and find connections with researchers doing similar work. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have found that many more people are interested in talking with me now that I have completed an initial field study, and I have begun to develop several promising contacts at the University of Washington in the departments of Anthropology and Computer Science and Engineering. I have written a paper based on my preliminary research findings, and submitted it to the NCA conference. I am also developing a project in collaboration with Public Health-Seattle & King County and the Masters of Communication in Communities & Networks program at UW. I will lead a year-long graduate student practicum to apply some of the communication methodologies used by INCEF – video, facilitated discussion, local perspectives and languages – to the task of reaching the many different cultural and language communities around King County, Washington with public health messages.

I remain in touch with INCEF’s Executive Director and I am actively pursuing ways to return to Congo to conduct more field research with INCEF staff. My research experience thus far has shown that there is a very clear connection to theories of intercultural dialogue in INCEF’s practice, and that engaging with these theories could enhance INCEF’s work on future projects. It has also become clear that continued involvement in scholarly research will benefit INCEF by raising their profile among possible donor organizations and academic institutions. In addition, this collaboration will offer them access to new technologies to assist in the dissemination of their films and educational tools. Another possibility that has opened up would involve INCEF in training local people in Congo to produce their own videos on public health and environmental topics, thus creating a more participatory process of two-way communication between citizens and policy makers in Congo. This methodological shift has emerged from the research connections I have begun to build as a result of my initial fieldwork.

The NCA travel microgrant played a very important part in the successful completion of my field trip to Congo. Completing this initial pilot study has given me a foundation of preliminary data and access to a whole new network of connections that would not have been possible without the travel grant.

[NOTE: Louisa Edgerly’s original project description is available here; further information about her project in a report to the Center for Local Strategies Research is here.]

NCA Microgrant Reports

In fall 2012, the National Communication Association funded five international travel microgrants, as described in detail here. The reports are now (as of July 2013) all turned in, and have been posted to this site to serve as models for similar projects. The authors have provided details about how they funded their trips, how they made international connections, what they did while abroad, and what they learned from their trips.

Award winners were:

Sarah Bishop
Renee Cowan
Louisa Edgerly
Andrew Spieldenner
Santoi Wagner

Once again, my thanks to NCA for being willing to support these projects.

Wendy Leeds-Hurwitz, Director
Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Sarah Bishop-Microgrant Report

NCA Micro Grant Report
Sarah Bishop, University of Pittsburgh

With generous support from the Center for Intercultural Dialogue and the National Communication Association, I traveled to San Jose, Costa Rica March 29-April 7, 2013 to gather the reflections of graduate students who had studied abroad at universities in the United States for academic credit.  My goal, in short, was to discover how international academic travel influenced an individual’s sense of national identity.  In preparation for the trip, I worked to familiarize myself with the relevant research about study abroad.  Additionally, I read many of the multitudinous study abroad testimonies written by students and currently available on study abroad websites at numerous institutions.  By the time I boarded the flight for San Jose, I felt confident about the kinds of effects academic travel had on students, and I looked forward to adding the dimension of “effects on national identity” to the impressive canon of existing research.  During the interviews themselves, however, I was surprised to find that the interviewees reported experiences, emotions, and challenges about multiple aspects of the academic traveling experience that I had not encountered in any of the relevant literature.

The preparation for this project included a two-month process of correspondence with the Director and other relevant staff at the Office of International Affairs at the University of Costa Rica (UCR).  I owe my deepest gratitude to this staff, including Ana Sittenfeld and Fatima Acosta, especially, for providing me with a list of interested participants as well as details regarding the group’s areas of research and U.S. destinations.  In addition, I completed extensive oral history training from Dr. Ron Zboray at the University of Pittsburgh.  One unexpected challenge arose when I estimated (based on flight costs at the time), that round-trip airfare to San Jose would cost no more than $800 USD.  The Center for Intercultural Dialogue generously granted this amount, but between the time the grant application was due and the time of my actual travel, flight costs had risen by more than $300, and I had to use my savings account to cover the remainder of the flight.  In the future, I will account for fluctuations in flight costs before finalizing my budgets.  Another challenge arose when I realized that none of the roads around the University of San Jose, where I conducted my research, are named.  In the absence of road signs, I relied on an iPhone photograph I had taken of a map I found on UCR’s campus and the patience of students willing to forgive my uncertain Spanish for direction.

UCR-smIn an effort to understand the ways an academic travel experience affects an individual’s sense of personal and national identity, as well as the intersection between study abroad, intercultural competence, and career preparation, I spent approximately one hour interviewing each graduate student.  Our conversation ranged from issues surrounding the legal preparations required before traveling abroad to negotiating needed friendships while away from home.  While I have yet to code and transcribe all of the interviews, one unexpected theme became apparent: though study abroad programs have been especially credited with encouraging a sense of global—rather than national—citizenship, in my own interviews, I found that the majority of students reported that study abroad strengthened, rather than compromised, their sense of national or geographic identity.  This finding requires further exploration and I hope to have the opportunity to find out whether study abroad alumni in other areas of the world report similar outcomes.

While multi-sited, international research is logistically complicated and time-consuming, my time in San Jose confirmed that in cases where interpersonal interaction and nonverbal communication are central to a project, video conferencing remains a poor substitute for face-to-face interaction and exchange.  I am honored to have had the opportunity to conduct this research, and look forward to reporting my full findings at a later date.


[NOTE: Sarah Bishop’s original project proposal is available here.]

Santoi Wagner – micro grant

Santoi WagnerDr. Santoi Wagner, Associate Director of TESOL at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 in order to work with Dr. Eun Sung Park, Assistant Professor of TESOL/Applied Linguistics and Director of the General English Education Program at Sogang University, Korea. They share research and professional interests in issues surrounding second language teaching and learning. Through this international and intercultural collaboration, the project will contribute to a deeper understanding of the interactional competencies and expectations of appropriate communicative behaviors for the classroom that non-native English speaking teachers bring to their training, and take home with them. The collaboration will also help ensure that the question of how to best support international students will receive balanced consideration from the perspectives of training in TESOL programs in the United States and teaching in students’ home countries.

Project background: With the spread of English around the globe, and the growing use of English as a lingua franca, there is an increasing demand for English language teachers. A significant proportion of students in many TESOL graduate programs in the United States are non-native English speaking (NNES) international students. While the experience for these students is often a positive one, an under-examined aspect of their training is how well the programs prepare students to teach in their home countries. For researchers interested in the interface of language and social interaction in the classroom, an issue of concern is the potential diversity in culturally appropriate norms of classroom communicative behavior. Although the impact of teacher education on actual teaching practices is an established field of inquiry, there has been much less research with respect to NNES teachers. Much of the work relating to NNES teachers of English has only been completed in the past fifteen years, and is predominantly centered around teacher self-accounts through narratives, interviews, and surveys, rather than investigations of actual teaching practices. This project seeks to explore two related questions: (a) How are NNES teachers’ communicative behaviors in the classroom altered by undergoing a training program outside of their home country? (b) How is this communicative behavior affected when NNES teachers return home to classroom and educational contexts that may be significantly different? Because the focus is the interactional practices of NNES teachers as they engage in their teaching, the study will primarily employ a qualitative micro-analytic approach to analyze the data collected from classroom observations.

Andrew R. Spieldenner – micro grant

Andrew SpieldennerDr. Andrew R. Spieldenner, of the School of Communication at Hofstra University, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to London to meet with Dr. Fiona Burns (principal investigator) and Ibidun Fakoya (research fellow), of University College London, to discuss, plan and learn from a community engagement research project started there. Communication methods still have not been used to look at HIV biomedical community engagement. The particular community engagement research project – advancing Migrant Access to health Services in Europe (aMASE) – looks specifically at migrants and immigrants across Europe in health disparity research, with a special focus on HIV/AIDS and gay men. Spieldenner will review research protocols, conduct interviews with Community Advisory Board members and research partners, assess tools for adaptability to the United States framework, and give a presentation on current state and challenges of community engagement in the US.  He hopes that this is the beginning of ensuring that the best practices are developed to engage racial/ethnic minority gay men in life-saving HIV/AIDS services.

Background to the project: Even with the advancement of HIV treatment, African American and Latino gay men in the United States still suffer disproportionately from poor HIV-related health outcomes – including infection, late-stage diagnosis and higher mortality – compared to their White counterparts. With the expansion of HIV biomedical interventions, racial/ethnic minority gay men – as well as their service providers – need to be educated on the science, eligibility, solutions and challenges of these interventions.  HIV biomedical interventions require community acceptance, access and affordability in order to ensure adherence and success. Community engagement is an ongoing communication process that involves community members, key opinion leaders, service providers and researchers in the identification of issues, barriers and solutions. Research has shown that ongoing community engagement can play a critical role in the community acceptance of HIV biomedical interventions, such as vaginal microbicides, but there is a dearth of activities specifically targeting gay men.  In addition, much of this information is framed by clinical practice rather than social science. Communication, as a practice, is ideally situated to provide more relevant theoretical and analytical contributions to community engagement processes.

Renee Cowan – micro grant

Renee CowanDr. Renee Cowan, of the Communication Department at the University of Texas at San Antonio, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to Finland and meet with Dr. Denise Salin, of the Hanken School of Economics, to plan collaborative work on investigating conceptions of workplace bullying across nations. How bullying and bullying behaviors are understood is likely influenced by the values and beliefs of the larger culture or nation in which the activity has taken place. What constitutes bullying in one culture likely differs from other cultures because of differing value systems. Salin is an international expert on workplace bullying from an organizational perspective who has theorized several important antecedents to bullying in organizations and organizational responses to bullying from the Finnish organizational perspective. Cowan will begin an intercultural conversation with her in an effort to better understand workplace bullying from the European perspective as well as discuss possible collaborations with her on a large multi-national workplace bullying research project. The research question is: based on the assumption that the violation of national, gendered, or other cultural norms will be perceived as bullying behavior, to what extent will national differences in cultural values and communication norms be associated with differences in behaviors perceived to constitute workplace bullying? 

Louisa Edgerly – micro grant

Louisa EdgerlyDr. Louisa Edgerly, an independent scholar with a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, where she will study the work of the International Conservation and Education Fund (INCEF), a non-profit organization that produces and distributes films on the topics of conservation and health in central Africa. INCEF’s main focus is on reaching rural audiences in remote areas, with largely illiterate populations. They bring their films to remote villages, screen them for the entire local population, and then use dialogue and discussion to enhance the learning experience initiated by viewing the films. The Republic of Congo is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country, and INCEF uses local speakers and local languages in their films, with the aim of connecting with local audiences. This local approach to communication aligns very closely with the approach of the ethnography of communication, and with the aims and interests of the University of Washington’s Center for Local Strategies Research, which is collaborating on the project.

The main goals of this first trip to Congo are to gain familiarity with the region, make closer contacts with INCEF’s staff, and make some initial field observations of INCEF’s dialogues and film screenings. As a pilot project for a longer-term project, this first field trip will allow Dr. Edgerly to build key local contacts, refine her overall research questions, and assess the feasibility of future field projects. In addition, this first trip will reveal what may prove to be some key terms and norms among the community of health and conservation communicators working in Congo. This information will be valuable in the longer term project of studying the communicative norms in the global health and development community.

Sarah Bishop – micro grant

Sarah BishopSarah Bishop, a doctoral student in the Department of Communication at the University of Pittsburgh, received one of the National Communication Association’s micro grants in Fall 2012 to travel to San Jose, Costa Rica. In San Jose, Bishop will work with Dr. Ana Sittenfeld, Director of the Office of International Affairs at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), to gather and analyze the reflections of graduate students who have studied abroad from Costa Rica to the United States for academic credit. Costa Rica boasts an impressive history of successful study abroad programs and strong connections to U.S. universities in particular. As the country’s oldest and largest university, UCR has spearheaded a movement to send graduate students abroad to gain international teaching experience with the belief that this opportunity makes the students better prepared and attractive candidates for teaching careers within Costa Rican universities. Bishop is interested in the ways an academic travel experience affects an individual’s sense of personal and national identity, as well as the intersection between study abroad, intercultural competence, and career preparation. This project will utilize an oral history methodology that entails conducting and recording qualitative, in-depth interviews using open-ended questions, and will work to extend Bishop’s continued efforts to navigate the ways in which international academic travel functions as a mediated, value-laden experience.

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