Communication Connection

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The World and Ethics

Monday, December 21, 2015

UNCW Reaches Abroad to Change Things At Home

By Kasey Stewart

Dr. Jose V. Sartarelli was inducted as UNCW’s new chancellor in the spring of 2015. He hasn’t been in Wilmington for long, but already he has a vision for the school and a desire to make the university a better place for education.

In his speeches, interviews, and online posts for the school, Dr. Sartarelli has consistently placed an emphasis on a few ideas he would like to focus on first and foremost: ethics and cross-cultural relations. The chancellor would like the school to reach abroad, sending more students into the world to study and bringing more international students here. He also would like to emphasize ethics in UNCW’s practices.

While the two seem unrelated, they intertwine in a way that has the potential to change the dynamic of the school. In order to examine what each of these things mean and how they relate, I spoke with Dr. David Weber, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, who has been with UNCW for years and is known for his work experience abroad.

In order to speculate these changes and predict how they will affect this school, we must first look at what ethics is. Ethics, already taught to all incoming Communication Studies majors, is important to all students at UNCW. Dr. Weber defines ethics as how he teaches it in his COM 105 class. Being an ethical person, he says, is making certain communication choices that abide by four basic guidelines: conducting research before making arguments or claims, making their motivations transparent, clarifying what is fact and what is opinion, and being open to dissent. “My belief is that, if we want to talk about an ethical person, we can start by talking about what an ethical communicator is, and an ethical communicator does those four things,” says Dr. Weber.

Dr. Weber is well travelled, having lived in over 40 different countries. This has given him the opportunity to experience a variety of cultures and the ability to look at life through a broader, open mind. As Americans we tend look at things from a narrow and particular point of view. Dr. Weber claimed that living abroad allows a person to look at issues from other perspectives to gain a fuller sense of what the issue is.

“Sending students abroad and bringing international students here will create an internationalization of awareness and consciousness,” continues Dr. Weber. Students who come back to UNCW after having been abroad have their mind, perspective and way of thinking altered as a result of being immersed in another culture. Students from around the world coming to study here will intermingle with our students, influencing their behavior and choices both inside and outside the classroom. This internationalization will change the dynamic of the school in that the students themselves will be changed by diversity, making UNCW a more socially aware and open-minded university.

Internationalization and an emphasis on ethics are both big changes for UNCW, changes that could set us apart in the school system. Dr. Weber claims that change is inevitable and should be used as an opportunity to, “get better at what you do, have more fun at what you do, and find ways in being more effective at what you do.” UNCW is constantly adapting as we grow in quantity and quality. Change is natural in our future as a university.

While focusing efforts abroad is a plan Chancellor Sartarelli and the administration seem excited about, there is concern that these changes, however good they sound in practice, will never come to be. “This change will happen as a result of a great deal of time, attention to detail, funding, resourcing, meetings, decisions, and conversations,” Dr. Weber lists. Also, while an ethical emphasis in the classroom seems like a positive influence, everyone’s ethical standards are different. Dr. Weber even admits that his four aforementioned practices of an ethical communicator—so widely taught in the COM Department—might be up for debate by other standards. Whose ethical practices will be emphasized? What standards are we going by? Only time will tell.