Connecting through conversation
MIT senior Joshua Charles Woodard seeks to learn from others’ perspectives and challenge his own
Last year, during a reception on campus, MIT senior Joshua Charles Woodard was introduced to Claire Conceison, the Quanta Professor of Chinese Culture and professor of theater arts. The two proceeded to have a conversation in Mandarin, Woodard’s minor, which ended with an on-the-spot invitation for Woodard to visit Shanghai and study Beijing opera for two weeks with a small group of her students.
Woodard savored the experience and, as he now considers a career in diplomacy and East Asian affairs, still marvels at how one discussion had such a significant impact on his world view and his plans for the future.
The story may not be surprising to those who know Woodard, however, because striking up conversations to share different perspectives is one of his many pastimes. Whether making friends in foreign countries, discussing Institute policies as a member of the eight-student advisory cabinet convened by MIT President L. Rafael Reif, or serving as co-chair of the student community and living group Chocolate City, Woodard is always up for a discussion that leads to learning.
He dreams of a “willingness to connect the dots,” for people to acknowledge commonalities between different cultures despite nationalistic identities in an increasingly globalized world. “If I don’t reach across the aisle,” he says, “No one is going to.”