Joined USJ: 2012
With exuberant curiosity, Jonathan Gourlay seeks to learn about other cultures. His interest sparked while he was a college junior on a six-month trip to Guilin, China. He had studied Chinese for two years and “loved everything” about his immersion into another culture. Years later, after seeing a magazine advertisement about Micronesia, a region in the Pacific Ocean, Gourlay visited the area for one year. Soon after, the Chicago-native moved to Pohnpei Island, where he lived for 11 years, serving as chair of the English department at the College of Micronesia. Gourlay chronicled his experience in a book entitled, Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years in Micronesia. “I would not have had full immersion experiences just by staying in America,” said Gourlay. “I figured you can’t grow by staying only in your group or comfort zone.” Gourlay instills that sense of adventure and appreciation for other cultures in the students he works at USJ, including international exchange students.
Gourlay came to USJ to develop and teach the English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum. In 2015, he was named director of International Programs and Students. As such, he oversees support for all international students, along with the language and cultural curriculum for the student exchange program with Otsuma Women’s University in Tokyo, Japan. It includes campus activities, trips, and other opportunities for USJ and Japanese students to interact and share their experiences. “That experience of doing things with another culture, there’s no way to replicate that. Dr. Hattori from Otsuma called the program ‘homemade,’ which is what makes us a bit different from other places,” said Gourlay. “The students don't just slot into an existing structure; rather, we personalize their experience and make something that fits their English level and interests.”
Gourlay’s focus is to expand USJ’s international relationships and student exchange program to other countries. “We do a lot of things over SKYPE or the Internet, but you can’t have that deep cross-cultural experience like when a group comes to our campus and lives in the dorms, and our students find out first-hand about that group and how they are in the world,” Gourlay said. “The kinds of connections that our students make with international students are ones they will remember, and be enriched by in a way that they might not be from just studying about them.” In addition, Gourlay is part of the USJ team developing a TESOL master’s degree program (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). It will offer state licensure for teaching ESL to working teachers in Connecticut. Gourlay would like to expand the degree to offer students opportunities to teach English language learners in the U.S. and abroad.
M.A., University of Illinois
M.F.A., University of Iowa
B.A. Lewis and Clark College
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