Bellarmine News

The Cosmopolitan Classroom: An Intercultural Approach to Teaching with Professor Tom Plate

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A portrait of Tom Plate, from the cover of his book Yo-Yo Diplomacy, from his Tom Plate on Asia series

Tom Plate, Clinical Professor and Distinguished Scholar of Asian and Pacific Studies, travelled to the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford where he delivered a talk on US-China relations and his new book, “Yo-Yo Diplomacy.” The third in his Tom Plate on Asia book series, “Yo-Yo” anthologizes the past two years of his op-ed column in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, adding personal commentary, backstories, and political retrospectives.

These insights and musings were well received by the Stanford audience and are also readily available to LMU students in courses Plate teaches such as “The Future of the UN” and “Asian Media and Politics.” As an American journalist writing for one of the most respected non-communist newspapers in Asia, he has access to top political sources and is able to share cutting-edge news with his students. “They know the professor is up to date. I’m not talking about 19th century China – I’m talking about China today. Journalism is changing so rapidly that if you’re not in it you’re out of it, and as long as I’m doing this, it forces me to stay fresh,” explains Plate.

Finding ways for students to connect with the global community is a top priority for Plate. Just last year, he arranged for students and faculty to meet with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and he is currently working with Stanford to organize a debate on China that students will attend.

In addition to overseeing Asia Media International, a student-driven publication that examines Asian countries through the lens of Asian media systems, Plate is also partnering with Yonsei University in South Korea for the third consecutive year to offer the “Foreign Perceptions of US Foreign Policy” practicum. In this 2-unit seminar, LMU undergraduates team up with students in Seoul, communicating via email, social media, and Facetime. Together, they research and report on their unique cultural perspectives of international issues, meeting weekly for a joint class session via Skype.

“The students love it. This is the water they swim in. They’re aware that it’s a globalized world and they want to become more cosmopolitan. Even though our academic studies are solid and grounded, they reflect the culture in which they grew up. There are about 200 other major cultures in the world, and having more than one national perspective is inherently advantageous.”

Plate believes that this intercultural learning experience is invaluable, and that LMU is becoming a model for the way international relations programs can embrace modern technology to enhance learning and instruction. In April 2018, he and Hans Schattle of Yonsei University will be presenting their paper on the practicum at the International Studies Association’s Annual Convention in San Francisco.