Janice Hamlet, an associate professor of rhetoric and public communication for NIU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, knows how tough it can be for students to talk about topics like race.
The films in her intercultural communication classes are one tool she’s used to spur discussion.
At first, she says, students are quiet. Then, the films provide a common starting point, and students begin opening up, discussing the cultural differences in verbal and non-verbal communication within the films.
“While they may be reluctant to talk freely about these topics, discussing the interactions among characters that occur in a movie motivates them to start talking, first about what happened in the movie, and then how it relates to real life,” Hamlet said.
Hamlet recently edited a new book focusing on films as rhetorical texts for facilitating discussions on race, racism and race relations in America. In it, she explains why racism and race relations are so difficult to talk about among diverse audiences, and the value to using films to facilitate these discussions.
“Discussions about race, racism and race relations is not a topic to be avoided if we are sincere about our efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and equitable society,” she said. “The classroom is a perfect place to begin.”
As former director of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Hamlet facilitated these discussions outside the classroom through workshops. Now, in her current role as senior faculty mentor in the Office of the Provost, Hamlet will help new faculty become acclimated to the university and contribute to fostering a faculty climate that values diversity.
“I think sometimes we operate too much in isolation, silos,” she said. “It is important and productive to come together, bringing our diverse perspectives, ideas and issues.”