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Pioneer in intercultural communication to retire

March 31, 2008

When the field of intercultural communication started in the early 1970s, Nemi Jain was one of its pioneers. Now, after spending a lifetime teaching students about communicating across cultures, Jain, a professor in ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, is retiring.

“I have taught at five universities for 45 years and I want to put some of that knowledge to work,” says Jain, whose research has focused on Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to non-violence through communicative silence.

“I am retiring for three reasons: to conduct cross cultural communication training, do some writing and to travel,” Jain says. He will continue to stay involved as a Professor Emeritus, teaching at seminars and hosting conferences on cross cultural communication.

“Nemi Jain as a teacher and scholar has been a major inspiration not only to the advancement of intercultural communication as a field of study, but also to a generation of students who have gone on to apply his teachings to their own very diverse academic and professional fields. He will be missed but always remembered,” says professor H.L. “Bud” Goodall Jr., director of the school in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jain joined the ASU faculty in 1976. He says it was at a time when the Arizona Board of Regents indicated that a university of ASU’s size should have a curriculum in intercultural communication, because of the state’s large Hispanic population, shared border with Mexico, more than 20 American Indian tribes and a complex, diverse enrollment.

Jain was recruited to establish a graduate program in cross cultural communication to address the state’s complexity.

In 1987 a doctorate in intercultural communication and cultural studies was established. It was ranked the top graduate program in the country in 1996 by the National Communication Association.

“I felt good that we had created a program, a graduate program, that was very much valued,” says Jain.

In addition to building the program, Jain conducted research on Gandhi’s approach to non-violence thru communicative silence. Jain believes that studying human rights and social justice can provide key lessons to our society’s relationships with diverse ethnic groups.

His research on the Gandhi-King connection provides some lessons as well. Jain evaluates the similar ideas between Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. in regards to human and civil rights. They both believed that actions speak louder than words.

Jain believes that it is everyone’s moral responsibility to fight prejudice and oppression. He commits to a saying that Gandhi and King shared: “a failure of justice to anyone is injustice to everyone.”

Jain has already passed the baton to his colleagues, training four faculty members to teach courses in cross intercultural communication at ASU.

“I’ve always been much more interested in using knowledge, putting knowledge to work and that is done through consulting and training,” says Jain.

Part of his consulting will include training hundreds of teachers who go to African countries to teach teachers. He says it’s important to recognize that people of different cultural backgrounds have different kinds of needs and problems. His goal is to extend the program to include other international destinations by seeking more funding.

Traveling around the world is another goal for retirement. Jain is working on a manuscript on the concept of silence, researching Gandhi, which will require large blocks of time in India.

“I have made my impact, I came with a mission, I accomplished it in 1996 when the school was recognized nationwide,” reflects Jain.

Prior to joining ASU, Jain was an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He also taught at Michigan State University, and in India at U.P.A. University and B.R. College.

Jain has a doctorate from Michigan State University, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Agra University, India.

He has received numerous recognitions, including the Patricia Gurin Scholar-Activist Award from ASU Intergroup Relations Center, the Outstanding Young Teacher Award from the Central States Speech Association, and a distinguished service certificate from the Greater Phoenix Chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA.

Author and co-author of several books, including “Understanding Intercultural Communication” in 1981, he has published many scholarly articles and papers.

One of Jain’s proudest achievements was serving as editor from 1977 to 1982 for the International and Intercultural Communication Annual.

He has been an advisor to several student clubs at ASU, including the National International Student Association; United Nations Club at ASU; and Vedic Oasis for Inspiration, Culture and Education (VOICE).

Jain served as president of the Greater Phoenix chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA. He has also served on the Arizona Attorney General Council for Asian Americans, Council for Senior Citizens and Council for Social Justice.

Jain is a member of the National Communication Association, Arizona Communication Association, World Council for Curriculum Instruction, International Academy for Intercultural Research and the United Nations Association of the USA.

He considers himself a world citizen and hopes he has achieved the same feeling that Thurgood Marshall expressed when he said: “I’m feeling that I’m leaving this world a little bit better than I found it.”

Notes Jain, “That’s my goal, that I would like to leave ASU a little bit better than I found it, and I think it is.”