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Cross-Cultural Communication Conference Strengthens Emerson-Blanquerna (Barcelona) Partnership

Global intercultural communication took center stage last month during the Cross-Cultural Communication Conference at Emerson’s partner school, Blanquerna University-Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain, with Emerson students and faculty having yet another opportunity to shine.

The international conference was organized by five universities, including Emerson College, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), Bournemouth University (UK), Zayed University (UAE), and Blanquerna School of Communication and International Relations — Ramon Llull University (Catalonia-Spain). Also in attendance were representatives from Australia, China, Denmark, Germany and South Africa.

The conference helps fuel global communication opportunities for Emerson students, said Emerson Communication Studies Department Chair, Professor Gregory Payne, co-director of Emerson-Blanquerna Center for Global Communication, alongside Blanquerna’s Enric Ordeix-Rigo.

“Students really look at global experiences as laboratories for practicing what we teach – whether it’s sports as soft power, public relations or a special event. I do think Emerson is at ground zero for global, and we love that,” Payne said.

Collectively, the universities are providing a platform for a wide spectrum of research in cross-cultural communication adaptation and intercultural communication challenges. The globally engaging conference, held Jan 24 and 25, reflected a growing interest in intercultural aspects of communication. Presented research topics covered mass communication, media, public relations, advertising, corporate communication and marketing communications.

Emerson Communication Studies faculty Mary Anne Taylor spoke about sustainable strategic diplomacy through cultural competency, while Political Communication faculty Spencer Kimball discussed polling practices and polling efficacy in data collection at Emerson during the 2016 Presidential Election and beyond. Emerson’s Jeremy Heflin presented on English Language Learning (ELL), cultural context and understanding students’ needs with international perspectives, while Professor Phillip Glenn discussed communication through negotiation, mediation and dialogue.

Emerson freshmen Arasha Lalani and Matt Miller presented their work at Emerson with PERIOD, a leading and fast-growing U.S. youth-run nongovernmental organization focused on menstrual health.

Emerson-Blanquerna tie the knot

The occasion also marked the official launch of Emerson-Blanquerna Center for Global Communication, which was founded to create new opportunities for research and teaching collaborations between the two institutions. It was the 1992 Olympics that initially joined both schools and since then the academic partnership has strengthened. While Emerson students and faculty are abroad in Barcelona, Barcelona students and faculty are at Emerson.

When asked why the study abroad program in Barcelona is impactful for students, Emerson Communication Studies senior, Pola Dobrzynski replied, “Because it’s so unique. I really got the opportunity to feel like Barcelona was my home, that I was living with other local people. I was really in the city, speaking Spanish, meeting people from all over the world. Also, it’s just such a once in a lifetime opportunity that I’m so lucky to have had.”

Scott Ratzan, Emerson alumnus and Communication Studies faculty, as well as President of the AB InBev Foundation, was a keynote panelist for strategic diplomacy. Ratzan was one of the participants in Emerson’s original 1992 student trip to Spain.

“[The Emerson-Blanquerna] partnership began with sports, which ties nicely with why we look at sports as a bridge and a piece of soft power,” Payne said.

“The future is in these important global relationships,” said Emerson College President, Lee Pelton, who signed a memorandum of understanding with Blanquerna University School of Communication in spring 2013.

“Emerson has an aspiration to be a global hub for our communication. It’s a lofty aspiration, but it’s one we’re determined to achieve and we’re well on our way to achieving it. We have many friends around the world, but this partnership is very special,” Pelton said. “Where others are building walls, we are building bridges.”

“[The Emerson-Blanquerna Global Communication Center] is the most intensive and extensive global program we have for Emerson College. Blanquerna University is sort of a European gateway for Emerson,” Payne said.

Barcelona Dean Josep Maria Carbonell said the institutes share four main values: strong civic engagements; similar understandings of education and spirit; industry influence; and international insight.

“Although we have 32 agreements with other universities, we have one single academic partner and this academic partner is Emerson,” Carbonell said.

In the fall of 2016, Emerson hosted politicians, political strategists, Nepali journalists, and academics from Emerson and around the world for a Global Summit on Politics, Sports, and Civic Engagement, which was held in conjunction with Blanquerna. After, Blanquerna hosted the 2017 conference in Barcelona, Emerson is hosting another Global Summit between the two institutions in Boston in October 2018.

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