The Department of Communication Studies has proposed to the Provost’s Council the Center for Human Relations, an interdisciplinary college center that will offer three post-baccalaureate certificate programs through the Roland Tseng College of Extended Learning.
The certificate programs are in the preliminary planning stages, said Joyce Feucht-Haviar, dean of the College of Extended Learning.
“Classes will start in Spring (2006) if all goes well,” she said.
The center, which will include participation from several CSUN colleges, “is committed to teaching, research and community involvement in all aspects of human relations on the global, national and community levels,” according to Peter Nwosu, Communication Studies Department chair and coordinator of the proposed center.
“Our goal has been to reposition ourselves as a major center of communication excellence in the region and one of the major public faces of the university,” he said.
The center will address communication, an appreciation of diversity, global citizenship, the just distribution of resources, conflict management, violence reduction, reconciliation and human dignity, according to the center’s fact sheet.
The center will comprise five components that will be implemented incrementally, allowing the center to become financially self-sufficient, Nwosu said.
“We understood that we would not have the (financial) resources when we started,” he said. “It was important to align ourselves with the College of Extended Learning.”
“Most centers do not receive any general monies other than for (things like) space and computers,” said Mack Johnson, associate vice president of Graduate Studies, Research and International Programs. “Centers are supposed to operate on grant funds and donated funds.”
Feucht-Haviar said the College of Extended Learning, which itself is financially self-supported, will provide funding for the development of the center’s certificate programs.
Nwosu said the certificate programs will generate revenue that will help the center become self-sufficient, allowing it to implement its other four components.
Certificate programs will be offered in intercultural communication and social justice, communication and conflict management, and communication and international negotiation, Nwosu said.
The programs will be targeted mainly at mid-career professionals in both the private and public sectors, but will also become a training ground for faculty, interns, students and volunteers from the university and the community.
Students who successfully complete a certificate program through the center may opt to pursue a master’s degree in any one of these areas if Graduate Studies, Research and International Programs approves the master’s program aspect of the center.
“We need to really tap into the challenges of the community we live in, especially considering the diversity of (this) city and state,” Nwosu said. “Managing race and ethnic relations is one of the major areas of tension in our schools.
“Grant High School, for example, (faces) difficulty between Armenians and other groups,” he said.
The Department of Communication Studies is participating in Communicating Common Ground, a program that addresses racial tension at the high school “by facilitating dialogue and understanding across ethnic and racial groups,” according to the department’s website.
Another challenge is conflict management, Nwosu said. People carry what he calls “cultural backpacks,” meaning they bring with them their cultural biases. He said they see that people are different, but they don’t understand how that affects the way those people behave. This lack of understanding has the potential to breed conflict, he said.
A third challenge faced by the community is that of doing business abroad, Nwosu said.
“California is well-positioned in terms of international trade,” Nwosu said. “The center will provide Californians who do business abroad a competitive advantage over their counterparts, because if you understand people you’re a step ahead.”
“If you understand how different people conduct negotiations, you might have more patience, for example,” he said.
Nwosu said no other center like this exists in the region. People have to go out of state to places such as the Intercultural Communication Institute in Portland, Ore. to gain access to these types of dialogues and activities.
“We want to be successful and unique in the region and the state,” he said.
The other components of the proposed center consist of sponsoring and conducting research related to improving human relations and social justice, semi-annual colloquia and public lecture series, publication and dissemination of various materials on improving human relations and social justice, and community empowerment projects, according to the proposal.
Communication for Youth, one of the community empowerment projects, involves working with primary and secondary school students to improve their public speaking skills, Nwosu said.
In addition to the certificate programs, short workshops in areas such as conflict resolution and cultural diversity will be offered throughout the year, Nwosu said.