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APUS Alumni Stories: Teaching Cultural Comprehension

APUS Alumni Stories: Teaching Cultural Comprehension

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By Melanie Conner, APUS Student and Affairs Liaison, and James Welch, AMU Graduate

James Welch works as a sworn, on-call interpreter and translator for the Belgian Federal Police. He also serves as an on-call as required linguistic and cultural advisor and Essential Functions Officer to the U.S. Department of Defense. In 2018, he was a German linguistics expert for NATO during various multinational wargaming exercises in southern Germany.

Start a degree program at American Public University.

In addition, James is a polymath: a person whose knowledge spans a significant number of subjects and fields. He received his bachelor’s degree (magna cum laude) in political science and criminal justice from UMUC in 2012.

James Welch
James Welch

In addition, James has two master’s degrees. James completed a master of arts (magna cum laude) in international relations and affairs from the University of Oklahoma in 2013 and a master of arts in intelligence studies (summa cum laude) from American Military University in 2013. James also earned a Ph.D. in international law from Leiden University in 2019.

A Long Career in Military, Police and Intelligence Work

James has a long-running career that has followed an eclectic and convoluted path, but a common thread prevails. He has been involved with military, police and intelligence work for most of 48 years.

James joined the United States Marines Corps at the age of 16, and he served honorably and retired after 20 years. He says, “There was an early period of wanderlust, balanced with study, before finally settling in Belgium. I worked for a period of two years teaching immersion English in Belgian primary schools. I deployed to Iraq in 2010 with U.S. Army Installation Management Command (IMCOM) in an educational role where I assisted soldiers seeking to develop their college careers. At the same time, I provided courses to the military police.”

Later, James was deployed in an active combat zone, FOB Salerno Afghanistan, and he served as a U.S. Army Education Counselor.

As of May 2019, James is a senior lecturer in crisis and disaster management at the Rabdan Academy, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. He instructs police, intelligence and military subjects. James currently teaches forensic fingerprinting, crisis and disaster management, response and recovery; strategic human resources; organizational communications; and project management.

Values Taught in the Military Inspired James throughout His Career

James notes that the values first instilled in him during his military service have endured and helped him prepare for his current career. He says, “Public service and teaching seem to be ideal companions to a harmonious career path.” His military service and later field service certainly contributed to who he is today.

James emphasizes that previous travel and an open mind to cultural diversity assisted him in eliminating any potential barriers to international employment. James also says, “A sound educational background, such as the one I secured at AMU, helped provide me with the necessary skills, knowledge and abilities to succeed in my career.”

As a current professor, James says that his education at AMU has helped him in his current career. He notes, “Everything from the way that I compose my class lectures and do my writing and research, these all reflect the valuable lessons I acquired while a student with AMU.”

James also credits many of his AMU instructors, saying, “There were many fine instructors who contributed to my development.” He gives special credit to Dr. Joseph DiRenzo: “Without him, I would not be where I am today.”

Current Career Challenges Involve Language and Cultural Barriers

In his current job, James says that the biggest challenges he faces are language and cultural barriers. He works with an outstanding interpreter, and class participants are very knowledgeable and eager to learn fresh and alternative perspectives.

However, a barrier persists in trying to convert some concepts from English to Arabic. He says, “Some concepts do not transfer well laterally because of cultural perceptions and understanding.”

James notes, “I work with an extremely gifted and talented translator/interpreter. This helps us to overcome many of the cultural obstacles and challenges that we encounter. Beyond this point, only continued training and enhancement of knowledge, skills and abilities will eventually bridge the gaps.

“The students we instruct are of a very high caliber, and many of them have degrees from abroad. They represent cohorts ranging in rank from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel in the police and the Ministry of the Interior. Their own experience and knowledge also assist us in adapting the courses and materials to better meet their needs. This is, however, a long-term process.”

Teaching Involves Having Confidence in Yourself and Not Being Afraid to Ask for Help

For people seeking a career as an instructor, James says to have confidence in yourself and do not be afraid to ask for help. He says, “Others have been here, done this and succeeded; why not me?”

Reflecting back on his career, James says that initially he wondered if he could meet the stringent requirements and match the aptitude of his younger peers when applying for teaching positions. He encourages others to quash doubts, set goals and do not let up on them, just as he did. James says, “Conquer each one (goal) and move on to the next. Say to yourself: I can, and I will!”

James is proud of his accomplishments. He says that his greatest accomplishment to date is being able to complete so many degrees and in such a relatively short span of time. He observes, “I surpassed my own expectations. It was an evolutionary process; the more I learned, the more benefits I reaped. Quite honestly, if I had paid heed to the haunting reservations I held at the outset of this fantastic journey, I would never be where I am today.”

James notes, “With the birth of my new son on the horizon, I had a revelation—a renaissance moment—where I realized that life is about more than just work. In order for life to be healthy, well-balanced and fulfilled, free time matters as well. So, do not be afraid to say no to inordinate expectations and unreasonable deadlines. Take the time to enjoy and savor life; after all, you only have one.”

In addition to his other accomplishments, James is a part-time actor. He has been featured in a number of films and television documentaries, including “A Royal Night Out,” “Kursk,” “Holy Lands,” “Purple River,” and “Les Misérables.”

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