Lauren Mark (Ph.D., Communication, Arizona State University, Hugh Downs School) is delighted to join New Paltz as an Assistant Professor of Communication and Culture. She originally hails from Wisconsin, and has previously called Taiwan, Israel, Arizona, and North Carolina home. She has taught and developed coursework at Wake Forest University and Arizona State University, after working in Taiwan and Israel as a cross-cultural community builder, translator, educator, and artist. She explored Asian theories and philosophy to develop a new methodology for her PhD scholarship. She studies, writes, and performs about intercultural communication, acculturation, affect, relationality, and racial representations in the media and lived experiences.
In 2022 Mark published findings from an experiential activity on cultural intelligence entitled, Mind–body Connections During Intercultural Conversations. The goal was to examine how common ground is generated and extended when someone navigates unfamiliar conversational terrain. With this learning guide, Mark hopes to inspire future learning activities on developing intercultural competence through embodied attunement. Mark’s time at New Paltz is just a continuation of impactive work she has done in this field. Before coming to New Paltz this academic year, Mark taught and conducted research around the world, including in Israel and Taiwan.
Dr. Mark’s academic work is rooted in first-hand cultural experiences. Throughout her time in Taiwan she coordinated multiple organizations that practiced using communication tools for the betterment of society. These organizations hosted intercultural understanding workshops which taught intercultural competency skills that promote understanding and acceptance of individual cultural differences and improved people’s ability to interact and work together more effectively for the benefit of the entire community. She also spent a lot of time exploring Taiwan’s art and society through translation work and navigating life in a different country. Because of this, she got to practice many traditional Taiwanese activities, like meditation. Living here gave Dr. Mark experience in traditional cultural communication by making the phenomenon a part of her daily life. After this expedition, Dr. Mark moved to Israel and continued interpretation work, where she worked in a psychology lab that focused on cross-cultural differences in sensemaking.
Storytelling is the most immediate way people can remember something new in the world.
While she was getting her PhD in Arizona, she found she was able to connect to people across an array of different perspectives, regardless of opposing personal beliefs. She brought the practice of communal storytelling to vulnerable populations, such as homeless shelters, foster homes, and retirement homes. She also created events called “Story Circles” where individuals would gather to tell stories and listen to others. Many times these stories would circle around inclusion and exclusion and what “home” means to different people. Events like this are still running today by being continuously held online. These are the kinds of experiences Dr. Mark is planning to build into her courses here at SUNY New Paltz, as she believes there should always be days where we learn solely from each other.
Dr. Mark’s origins in performance come specifically from dance. She has a masters degree in dance and has choreographed in the United States as well as Taiwan. She states that performance is a different, more engaging way of putting ideas in conversation with other people. She particularly appreciates the interactivity of performance and how you can present your experience in an intimate way.
Performance is a way of bringing sensibility into the environment, making sense of your identity & cultural background, and understanding our place & power in the world.
While she is still baking ideas for her courses, her plan is to make the classroom an interactive space where students can talk, listen to each other, and most importantly, learn from each other. She plans on drawing lessons from the way that modern real life events have been circling in the news. Focusing on media coverage of modern events will show how different marginalized cultures and populations are treated differently in recent years. Instead of solely focusing on oral narrative, the courses will investigate oral as well as through an array of different media, including more recent online platforms.
Dr. Mark is an animal lover with two Boston terriers, whom she has actually brought to the classroom before for animal wellness days. People should know before taking her courses that her classrooms are always interactive and they will get to know their fellow classmates.