Guest speakers address humanitarian efforts

David Hawbaker/Daily Evergreen

The Department of Foreign Languages hosts lecture for the Common Reading Program.

By Kaitlin Gillespie

As a part of WSU’s year-long Common Reading series, the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures hosted a lecture on “Assembling a Toolkit for Global Exchange” Tuesday.

This year’s Common Reading book, “Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan” by Greg Mortenson, tells his story as he works to build schools in rural Middle Eastern villages.

The lecture featured panelists Barbara Rasco, a professor in the School of Food Science, Guy Palmer, director of the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health, Tim Tibbals, senior automation systems engineer at Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory, Inc., and Craig Whiteside, lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and professor of military science. Lecturers gave advice about how to “build a global toolkit” to help travel and work across the globe.

Rasco described her experiences as a female engineer in the Middle East.

“I was drawn to this area first when I was 10 years old,” she said. “I’ve studied it ever since.” She said there are few women’s programs in the Middle East and few women with technical skills.

“Female literacy in Afghanistan is less than 10 percent, maternal mortality is 14 percent … and life expectancy is still less than 50 (percent),” she said.

Palmer said his success abroad is linked to language, particularly in Latin America, but his work in the Middle East often requires an interpreter. In those situations, he said, it is critical to understand not only what to say, but also how to say it.

He also said it is important for people to expose themselves to other cultures. He said he works with students representing 11 different countries on any given day.

“The most diverse global place that I ever go to is Pullman,” he said.

Tibbals said he does not speak a foreign language, and has learned to interact with different cultures in other ways. He said it has been challenging, but he discovered that the most important aspect to being successful requires travelers to know themselves.

He was born and raised in Spokane, and his upbringing gave him certain prejudices that he has learned to recognize and avoid, he said. He tries to be as open minded as possible in his travels.

“I honestly can tell that very rarely do people identify me as an American,” he said. “And that’s a sad state … because I try to be as open and as honest … and as helpful as I can when I travel because I’m a representative of my company, but I’m also a representative of my country.”

Whiteside said he spent 15 months in Iraq, and wished he had read Mortenson’s book before his tour.

Whiteside cited Mortenson’s first book, “Three Cups of Tea,” saying one of the most important qualities a person can have when traveling in the Middle East is patience.

“They have a saying, ‘Insha’Allah,’ which means if God wills it, and they really mean if God wills it,” he said.

He also said his time in Iraq taught him the importance of humility, empathy and respect.

Mortenson will speak Jan. 26 at 7:30 p.m. in Beasley Coliseum. Admission is free for WSU students with a Cougar Card, $10 for non-students through TicketsWest or the Beasley ticket office, and $13 at the door.

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