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Continuing Tributes Commemorating Janet Bennett

15 Mar 2022 5:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

We are very pleased to lead off the March issue with these additional tributes to add to the collection of memories of Janet. She clearly meant a great deal to many, many people around the globe. I like to think that somehow Janet is reading these and enjoying them as much as our readers. 

We invite those who would still like to contribute their memories to honor Janet by sending them to me (sandymfowler@outlook.com) and they will be published in future issues. Perhaps we can keep Janet with us throughout the rest of the year in an on-going tribute. Each remembrance will be added to the special issue on the SIETAR USA website so that they are all part of that tribute.

A Career Nourished by Jane Bennett

From Barbara F. Schaetti 3 February 2022. Contribution to The Interculturalist: A Periodical of SIETAR USA dedicated to Janet Bennett.

I am honored today to recognize the life of a dearly beloved teacher and mentor who became a colleague and friend. Janet Marie Bennett. 

Two stories...

Six years into what became a 35-year relationship, I read Janet's now-classic and much referenced article on cultural marginality (“Cultural Marginality: Identity Issues in Intercultural Training.” Education for the Intercultural Experience. E. Michael Paige, Ed., Intercultural Press. Yarmouth, Maine. 1993.). 

Until then, ‘marginality’ assumed challenge if not actual psychological damage. Janet considered that the term could be neutral in itself while experienced along a continuum: at one end, 'encapsulated marginality', feeling trapped by one's difference and at home nowhere, and at the other end 'constructive marginality', feeling at least somewhat at home everywhere and empowered by one's capacity to relate deeply and authentically across differences of all kinds. She was suggesting ways teachers and trainers could help foster students' development from an encapsulated to a constructive experience. 

Her work became the inspiration for the first article I ever published, "Phoenix Rising: A Question of Cultural Identity" (Strangers at Home: Essays on the Effects of Living Overseas and Coming Home, Carolyn Smith, Ed., Aletheia Publishing. Putnam Valley, New York. 1996.). In that, I illustrated her ideas by examining my own process integrating the benefits and challenges of a globally-mobile childhood. This work in turn formed the basis of much of my consulting with international schools and international families, and ultimately of my doctoral research and dissertation. As I have talked with students and friends and colleagues since Janet’s death, this work has been referenced by more than one person as significantly important to them both personally and professionally.

At a more recent moment in what by then had become our friendship, Janet joined me in Seattle for a Broadway touring production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. We didn't realize we were seeing not only the last performance in Seattle, but also the last performance of the whole tour. It was an amazing and joyful production. After the standing ovation, the leads stepped forward to give tribute to the tour, to the way they'd been warmly welcomed even by small-town conservative America. They invited onto the stage people who'd flown in from the New York production team for this final show, honoring each in turn. At one point one of the principals left the stage, and then returned wearing his street clothes. He took his turn inviting someone from the NY team to come up. After acknowledging how the tour had changed him professionally, he noted that it had also changed him personally: he had fallen in love. He then went down on one knee and proposed marriage to the man he'd invited onto the stage. You can imagine how the audience erupted, including Janet and me. We loved sharing that memory!

It seems that in a 35-year relationship, two stories alone don’t cover quite enough territory. Here’s another, that stretched across more than two decades…

In 1992, Janet invited Gordon Watanabe and me to join Jack Condon in working with the Intern (later Fellows) Program at SIIC. Sheila Ramsey took over from Jack three years later and for another three years she and Gordon and I worked together to develop a curriculum that we formally launched in 1998. We gave it the name of Personal Leadership (PL; see www.plseminars.com). 

By its second year as core to our Intern/Fellows design, Janet began to recognize that the practice of PL was making possible a quality of intercultural practice within the Program that hadn't been there before. She became a champion of PL in the world. She incorporated it into the core MAIR (Master of Arts in Intercultural Relations) curriculum, wrote the foreword to the PL book, and recommended us to client organizations. She partnered her beloved ICI with PLSeminars, and hosted our Training of Facilitator seminars for a number of years. She invited us to teach PL in general SIIC workshop sessions (as well as ongoing in the Intern/Fellows Program) and she made sure the PL practice earned an entry in the Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence (SAGE Publications, Thousand Oaks, California. 1995.). Her understanding of what we were doing and why it worked so well affirmed we were standing on something solid.

Janet and I didn’t always understand one another. She never would turn to look at power and privilege and how the racialized systems designed to reify power impact human lives and interactions. We had many a talk about that, as about so much else over the years - including something that I could never understand: her fascination with plagues and viruses, which she would read about for relaxation. 

Janet was a central figure for much of my life. Many of my deepest adult friendships emerged out of opportunities she gave me to meet remarkable people. I would not be who I am today were it not for Janet, and the intercultural field too would be so much the poorer. I was privileged to know and love her, and to be known and loved by her.

From Adam Komisarof, President IAIR

Commemorating Janet Bennett

Janet Bennett was my teacher and the co-founder of my master's program at Antioch University, as well as one of my formative mentors.  She was truly a bright light in our field, making lasting contributions in terms of impactful scholarship and innovative training methods.  She also co-created a venue—the Intercultural Communication Institute and its Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication--where so many people in the field of intercultural communication and related disciplines could find a community of like-minded individuals and grow as practitioners, researchers, and human beings.

I will never forget Janet's indelible positive energy, warmth, and raw intelligence.  She was one of a kind, and she will truly be missed as a person and an important figure in the history and development of our field.  I hope we can remember the magic that Janet created and pass that spirit on to the next generation of intercultural communication practitioners and scholars.

Adam Kamisarof, IAIR President

SIETAR Japan Member
Professor, Keio University

From Dorothy and Hap Sermol

Janet Marie Bennett, PhD. (1945 – 2022): Remembered

Janet Marie Bennett, PhD., was born on the 17th of September 1945 in Chicago, IL, and died January 27, 2022, in Portland, Oregon.

Janet dedicated her life and work to the conviction that intercultural competence is vital to our personal and professional lives and that through intercultural communication “we can honor the worldviews of others, enhance our creativity, and maximize our productivity and learning.”  Janet’s friends, students, and colleagues across the world recognized that she was very successful in her convictions. They honor her life’s accomplishments and her unquenchable ability to share her knowledge with others throughout the world.

Her own personal education was based on her quest for intercultural knowledge:  

  • B.A., at California State University in San Francisco, with a double major in Psychology and Journalism in 1972;
  • M.A., at University of Minnesota with emphasis on Intercultural Communication in 1976.
  • Ph.D., University of Minnesota: Speech Communication with emphasis on Intercultural and Organizational Communication and Anthropology in 1985.

Janet initiated her career goal of “honoring the worldview of others” by serving in the Peace Corps in Truk, Micronesia. Janet introduced significant educational change to many intercultural situations.  For example, while living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she hosted the Annual Intercultural Training Institute (ICI) at Stanford University. When she moved to Portland, Oregon, she brought the ICI to Pacific University, Forest Grove, Oregon. Her creative leadership relocated this Institute, now called the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication (SIIC), to Reed College in Portland.  Subsequently, SIIC has greatly advanced the interests and careers of Interculturalists throughout the world.  

As an educator, Janet was the Chairperson of the Liberal Arts Department at Marylhurst College, in Oregon, where she developed innovative programs for adult learners, trainers, and consultants in many intercultural areas.  She also taught courses in training and development at Portland State University.  She designed and conducted intercultural diversity training programs for current issues, including Intercultural Competence, Immigration, Humanitarianism, and Gender Studies. Her teachings, workshops and seminars influenced many cultures, countries and organizations throughout the United States, Asia and Europe.

Janet also contributed to the intercultural field with numerous articles, publications, and especially by her editing the two volumes Sage Encyclopedia of Intercultural Competence in 2015; she was very proud of this accomplishment.

As previously stated, Janet maintained that “we can honor the worldview of others, enhance our creativity and maximize our productivity and learning.” Janet’s friends, colleagues and students across the world honor her life’s accomplishments and the knowledge she has shared with us.

She will be sorrowfully missed.

From Richard Harris

She Will Always Have a Place in My Heart

I am sure that others in this issue will justifiably praise Janet's unique and enduring academic contributions to the field of intercultural communication, but she was nothing if not multi-faceted, and I should like to celebrate here her sense of fun — an aspect of her personality that was not always evident in large settings. In informal gatherings with friends, however, she displayed a wonderful sense of humour, with a razor-sharp wit that was backed up by a wealth of cultural knowledge. She could deflate any ill-advised or pretentious comment with a gentle, wry precision that could reduce her listeners to helpless, rueful laughter, at the same time advancing their self-awareness, and I remember often being the beneficiary of such interaction!

She was also a great lover of music, and a devoted admirer of the voice of Barbra Streisand. One of the highlights of SIIC for me every year was the opportunity to share a microphone with Janet at Thursday Karaoke as we attempted (unsuccessfully, in my case) to do some kind of justice to 'The Way We Were' or 'Don't Rain On My Parade.' After the applause (?) had died down, we would retire to a table with a glass of wine and just talk about whatever was on our minds at that time. Whenever we met at international conferences, or on her visits to Japan, we would always try to find the time for quiet conversations like this.

Given her pre-eminence in the field, and her international reputation as a scholar and speaker, Janet was admirably unassuming and natural in her demeanour, and while I, and so many others, shall miss her as a colleague and a mentor, I shall perhaps miss her most of all as a friend. She will always have a place in my heart.

Richard Harris, Professor of Intercultural Management

Chukyo University, Japan



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