When James Hart was introduced to his first foreign language in seventh grade – Spanish – he fell in love with it. His resolve to pursue international studies solidified in high school during a class trip to the United Nations.
“The United Nations left a profound impression on me,” recalls Hart, chair of the Languages and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESL) programs and assistant professor of ESL, Spanish and Intercultural Communication at County College of Morris. “It fascinated me. I wanted to know more about it and the international politics that surrounded it.”
He attended the School of International Service at American University in Washington, D.C., specializing in Spanish and Latin American studies. After graduation, he began his career, which took him to Princeton, Manhattan and London. Eventually, he earned a master’s degree in applied linguistics at Montclair State University and decided to enter the teaching profession.
Teaching the Next Generation of Global Citizens
“Ever since I graduated from my college, I knew that higher education was where I wanted to be,” Hart says. “Whenever a student comes to me after class and says, ‘This class has really taught me to think about the world differently,’ that’s rewarding – that’s what intercultural communications is all about. Students take those communication skills into the workplace and into their relationships and, hopefully, all of those become better as a result.”
He adds, “The most challenging aspect of international studies is its breadth. Language and culture are about people and that can be almost infinite. One day I might be reading a book about Spanish culture and the next I’ll find myself listening to a show on National Public Radio about the Middle East.”
He believes that society’s emphasis on career preparation is necessary, but limited. “I think what we forget as a society is that we’re not just training people to be workers, but trying to educate citizens of our country and our world. That means a solid grounding in the humanities including language and culture.”
He adds that the field of international studies offers a unique perspective on life. “Studying languages and culture, you learn how to remove yourself from your own culture and see into others'. People are so diverse that there’s something new to learn every day.”