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Candidate Statement for ICA 2017 Presidential Election: Akira Miyahara

Posted By Akira Miyahara, Seinan Gakuin U, Friday, September 1, 2017
Akira Miyahara

The International Communication Association, steadily growing in its international and interdisciplinary diversity, is committed to its mission: “to advance the scholarly study of human communication by encouraging and facilitating excellence in academic research worldwide.” In light of the increasingly precarious international dynamics and concerns over an unpredictable future, it gives me a great honor and a sense of responsibility to run for president of ICA as it embraces multiple duties and communicative opportunities to help understand these issues and work towards improving the quality of life for all. 

I began attending ICA’s annual conferences in 1979 when I was a graduate student at Penn State. In 2015 I was elected member-at-large for East Asia and at that time I became involved in ICA board activities, helping to bring a non-Western perspective into deliberations. My engagement and interest in ICA’s administrative processes grew in 2016 when I served as an organizer for the ICA conference in Fukuoka, my hometown, making local arrangements and preparing documents for participants who needed visas to travel to Japan. I appreciated assisting them, as I had been in their situation before. In fact I was happy to be a “guarantor” to over 200 ICA members!

If elected I will work in close alliance and in humility with the knowledgeable predecessors and motivated ICA staff to make this organization a truly international platform and liaison for communication scholars. To maximize the contribution to the world community, ICA’s organizational efforts need to be visible and to effectively engage an even larger part of our membership than it does now, taking advantage of the rich diversity and expertise of our members. The president’s role is to 1) motivate and facilitate our members’ academic work; 2) provide networks for the members’ collaboration; and 3) function as a gatekeeper to manage the flow of information and resources with outside academic, governmental, and civic communities.

I will aim at the following targets in organizing the 2019 annual conference in Washington, D.C. as president-elect, and in continuing as President in 2020:

Encouraging and facilitating dialogues among the members  
ICA has grown diverse in the areas of academic interest pursued by its 23 divisions and 9 interest groups. While this is a healthy sign that ICA has been responding sensitively and sensibly to social needs of our fluid contemporary world, excessive diversification risks fragmentation. ICA has reached the status as the most reputable academic organization to study communication, but it has yet to fully embrace international perspectives. I will encourage and support transnational elements in the studies our researchers undertake so the outcomes of discussion have a broad range of global applications.

Differences among the areas of inquiry in terms of research philosophy, methodology, and application are what energize ICA. Scholars with Euro-American research philosophies and their non-Western counterparts have much to learn from each other. Researchers in all areas of interest should work to claim that there are “other” and equally meaningful ways to communicate, conduct research, and apply the outcomes.   

Empowering members from underrepresented areas 
While ICA has over 4,300 members from 85 countries, the US and Europe dominate; membership comprises 59% from North America, 22% from Europe, 10% from Asia, and a mere 3% from Africa and Oceania. The ICA membership needs to become more balanced to be called “international.”

The presence of participants from many countries at the annual conference may project an international ambiance, but it does not guarantee ICA’s status as a genuinely internationalized research community, addressing the world’s urgent human needs. I will seek input from and provide networks for regional members-at-large, division chairs, and leaders of national communication associations to promote more collaborative and transnational research. 

To realize such collaborative endeavors, ICA members must find it equally feasible to attend our annual conferences. My visa document writing experience was a wake-up call for further support for the ICA members who are unable to participate in the conference in person, due to political and/or financial obstacles. 

Even when they do come, some participants may feel like “visitors” because their interests in inquiries unique to their cultures are not adequately recognized. The atmosphere must be more open to allow exchange of differing views so every member goes home feeling that their voices were heard. Webinar and Skype help, but nothing serves us better than face-to-face discussions.

We can follow up regional conferences through building networks by, for example, inviting authors of top student papers to the following ICA annual meeting, and matching regional scholars to internationally famed researchers for mentoring. Sponsorship in the form of travel grants from the national and local governments and businesses helps. My experience in obtaining the donation from Fukuoka City for ICA 2016 is a testament to the local governments’ willingness to support an international conference like ICA’s.

Furthermore, scholars who are not native speakers of English but have potential to contribute to the advancement of our field often find it difficult to attend the annual conference or submit their papers to journals. As a nonnative English speaker I can empathize with international participants for their anxiety and frustration. Collaboration between non-English speaking scholars and native speakers is the most effective, if not the only way to help international researchers feel comfortable with conducting and presenting their research. Mentoring by and collaboration with English-speaking scholars facilitated by ICA will provide excellent encouragement. English-speaking researchers can also benefit from associating with their international colleagues.

Gatekeeping between academia and the practitioners
No academic discipline is of value without useful, practical applications of its inquiries’ results. We are studying communication, the most pragmatic aspect of human life, and it will be an irony if we underestimate our connectivity to the “real world.” I will encourage more dialogues between scholars and practitioners on international issues like immigration, terrorism, territorial conflicts, tourism, etc. Our 2019 conference in the U.S. capital will be an excellent opportunity to which we can invite professionals from such sectors as U.S. government, foreign embassies, health care, hospitality, IT, media, and tourism.

We can further publicize the necessity and value of our discipline to the consumers of the research outcomes, at the same time inviting the practitioners to voice their needs for inquiries. Only through such mutually beneficial exchange of ideas can the members of any academic organization reaffirm their raison d’être and continue contributing to the society.

My personal and administrative experiences
I believe my bicultural orientation will help me serve in the leadership role of ICA, identifying complex cross-cultural issues, and developing solutions from multiple perspectives. I have learned through my experiences how to be interdependent and humble in certain situations, while independent and straightforward when the situation calls for an assertive leader. A little sense of humor—e.g., being able to laugh at my own little mistakes—helps adjust to situations.

I was born and educated in Japan till I first traveled to the US as an exchange student. I spent 10 subsequent years there as a graduate student, full-time college instructor, and researcher. After going back to Japan, where I am now professor at Seinan Gakuin University, I have returned to the U.S. for a total of three years as a Fulbright researcher, and visiting scholar at West Chester University of Pennsylvania where I had taught, and University of Hawaii. I have also enhanced my international experience by being an exchange professor at Aix-Marseille Université in France. I will continue to pursue global collaborations as an exchange professor at Soochow University in Taipei, Taiwan in 2019.

My administrative experiences include presidency of the Japan Communication Association (JCA) for 5 years, during which we sponsored a joint forum with ICA, commemorating the 40th anniversary of JCA. I emphasized the value of the components to the system by attending all seven regional conferences, and by encouraging the members to exchange their views and outcomes of their work beyond the regional borders. As a result of this leadership direction, JCA has become a more strongly knit group of communication researchers in Japan. I have also been president of Japan-U.S. Communication Association (JUCA, an NCA affiliate) since 2010. Connecting JUCA and JCA has been one of my central goals, and I am pleased that members of both organizations have now begun to collaborate. 

While I was the director of International Education at Seinan, I developed exchange programs with schools throughout world. I have been appointed by Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to chair committees to assess college communication programs. I have authored a dozen articles and book chapters in English, and seven books in Japanese. The textbook I wrote in 2006, Introduction to Communication Theory, has been widely used at universities in Japan. My research revolves around cross-cultural issues in medical communication.

In conclusion, I believe my experiences as an academic and administrator will serve me well as ICA president.  I will be honored to serve as your President and am very excited about the prospect of leading our world-class association.

Tags:  September 2017 

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