Faculty 360: Dr. Paul Neufeld Weaver
What type of cross-cultural learning did you do as a student and how did it impact your life?
When I was 19, my sophomore year of college, I spent a semester in Honduras, Central America. This experience had a major impact on my life as it was my first time being immersed in another culture and language. It also was my first time encountering deep poverty and starting to understand that hard reality of many people’s lives. Ever since then, my life has been focused on Latin America and the people of that region, on language learning, especially Spanish, and on teaching and building intercultural connections to further world peace.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
In Honduras, I was trying to figure out my major and a wise Honduran friend and mentor told me, “Human beings have advanced so much in the hard sciences, but our understanding of social science, particularly how to get along with each other, has not kept pace.” This helped me set my path in college, declaring a self-designed major at Bluffton in international studies.
What memorable moment in your life shaped who you are today?
When I was 22, I again spent time in Latin America, this time for 11 months. After studying and traveling for 10 months, I ended up volunteering in a refugee camp in Honduras. There I came into contact with families who had been displaced from their homes by the war in El Salvador and were living in tents, not knowing if or when they would be able to return to their homes.
It was sobering to realize that my tax dollars were helping fund the bombs and bullets the U.S. government was sending to the government of El Salvador which were being used against their own citizens. From this experience, I decided to dedicate myself to work to end the massive amounts of military aid that the U.S. and other countries sent to warring countries around the world, pouring gasoline on the fire of human suffering. The fact that my tax dollars were funding the suffering made me feel a profound sense of personal responsibility.
What new interest(s) are you pursuing?
I view all my teaching and advocacy work as acts of peacebuilding. I am currently studying Swahili, in preparation for travel to Tanzania, and Arabic, out of respect for the aspirations of the millions of people who speak Arabic.
Dr. Paul Neufeld Weaver is the director of global education and professor of education and Spanish.