In fall of 2018 Dr. Michael Finch joined the faculty of LCC International University as the new Communication Department Chair. He brings with him a broad network of academic connections in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including his new appointment as the president of the Communication Association of Eurasian Researchers.
Could you please share how you heard about LCC and joined the faculty?
I first heard about LCC from a colleague at the National Communication Association. He told me, “Michael, this job sounds like it was made for you,” as he was very aware of my dissertation research work in Ukraine, and my frequent international escapades to Eastern Europe and elsewhere – often with 10-40 students in tow. I do not think there is a “normal” way to come to LCC. I have heard of people who came to LCC by way of familial connections, others who discovered LCC on job boards, others who were referred, others who came through the “Global Scholars”, and still other stories. The one thing that unites the disparate journeys to LCC seems to be a sense of calling to LCC – from the pull of excitement about the adventure of international teaching, to the pull of a sense of calling to work for our amazingly diverse students. My story shares both of these threads.
What job did you hold before you came to LCC?
I was an assistant professor at Lee University, Tennessee, USA, and a student media advisor. I led their award-winning student newspaper and student yearbook, and developed a web show called iGnite, which earned national recognition. I also re-designed the curriculum for the journalism program at Lee University.
In October 2018, you were appointed president of the Communication Association of Eurasian Researchers (CAER). Tell us about this organization and its mission.
The National Communication Association is the largest communication association in the world. It is primarily focused on America, but they have international and intercultural divisions as well as several affiliate organizations. The CAER is one such affiliate organization, organized around common scholarly interests in the Eurasian countries, including their Soviet past. After a few years of service to the association, I became the executive director, and now the president of CAER, which currently has about 40 members. Through CAER I get wonderful opportunities to meet people from different countries and build relationships based on our common interests.
What are some of your responsibilities as president of the CAER?
One of the responsibilities is casting a vision for future plans. For example, we are organizing a conference in 2020 here at LCC, inviting scholars from all over the world. One of my dreams for this organization is that it would help its participants focus on academics to the exclusion of political difference. As academics we can be cultural bridge-builders if we put our minds to it, regardless of what politicians are doing. I wrote my dissertation and taught English in Ukraine in 1999. I was back in Ukraine during 2008 doing research, and then I came back again in 2013 to lead a student trip. Thanks to these academic pursuits I have friends in Ukraine, Russia, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. My goal is for them to attend our LCC conference and present work on the same panels in pursuit of learning together. When scholars connect there is mutual agreement that learning is valuable and society may be improved through education. I intend to help achieve this through my work with the CAER.
What was your impression of the Communication Department when you came to LCC?
The Communication Department is a relatively young department, founded several years ago, and it has a bright future. LCC is investing in the department’s growth, and that makes my job exciting. As part of my administrative duties, I am seeking to identify potential areas of growth for the communication program and what it can offer to students.
Settling down in a new country and new environment might be a bit stressful. What was your experience in moving to Klaipeda and starting work at LCC?
Thankfully, I had God and the LCC community. The LCC community has been an ever-present resource. The human resources staff – Kristina, Julija and Natalija – have been excellent facilitators for my transition. Every veteran faculty member was open to helping in any way they could – from assistance with the initially confounding copier, to introductions to a church, to help picking up a rug at Depo (Lithuania’s version of Home Depot) and more. My mantra during this period was, “I am relaxed!” For example, I chose to be relaxed about the bus driver who saw me and drove off anyway, or the spaghetti sauce I purchased that tasted like ketchup. Little successes like getting a haircut or finding the right shampoo felt unusually important. I felt like it took me longer to do…EVERYTHING, especially those first few months. I now have a place to get my hair cut, I have found grocery stores, doctors’ offices, made trips to nearby cities and more, and I am still getting settled in.