Eric Aoki is an Intercultural and Interpersonal Communication professor with a passion for learning about people, cultural practices, cultural spaces, and communication. He began his career as an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University (CSU) in fall 1997, and he is currently a Professor approaching his 20th year with CSU. Through his work at CSU, he has had the wonderful opportunity to travel to the sub-continent of India on a team Fulbright Scholarship with CSU campus faculty and local high school teachers of Fort Collins, Colorado. Additionally, his department and the College of Liberal Arts provided funding for him to travel to Kigali, Rwanda to present research at a symposium on Conflict, Memory, and Reconciliation: Bridging past, present, and future.
Eric’s interest in people, diversity, and cultural communication stems from his early years of working in a family-owned, country grocery store in Fresno, CA and through reflections from a visit to the planetarium as a young kid exploring San Francisco, CA with his older brother, uncle, and aunt. In the grocery store, all four Aoki siblings interacted daily with individuals of different cultural backgrounds. These cultural interactions became a foundation for Eric’s curiosity of cultural behaviors, cultural values, and effective and ineffective skills of human engagement. Looking back, Eric attributes his parents’ communication skills with local farmers and migrant workers as his first substantive lessons in learning to build cultural bridges to negotiate and celebrate cultural difference. It was on his first summer visit to the planetarium in San Francisco that he had his first memorable moment of feeling humbled by the magnitude of the galaxy displayed in the dome. He distinctly remembers feeling humbled (though, importantly, not insignificant) in his response to the vastness of this projected experience, and to this day, Eric has come to realize that having the opportunity and privilege to engage cultural experiences through travel feels much like those humbling and engaging moments too.
Eric’s professional passion is in teaching. He enjoys the engaged learning of the university classroom and watching student “lightbulbs” turn on when they get excited about understanding the connection between a communication theory and its everyday application. In addition to long-term relations with wonderful alums of his classes and the university, Eric is a recognized teacher. His recognitions include the Ann Gill (College Dean’s) Excellence in Teaching Award for the College of Liberal Arts (2013-14), the Alumni Association Best Teacher Award (2012), the College of Liberal Arts Excellence in Teaching Award for Tenure Track Faculty (2011-12), the Multi-Ethnic Faculty Distinguished Service Award (2009), and the Waterpik: Excellence in Education Award (2005). Eric is excited about the opportunity to teach for his first time aboard the spring 2017 Semester at Sea voyage!
Eric is also passionate about learning through his research activities. In addition to his long-term research with ethnic minority and majority individuals in U.S. rural/agricultural California, he is currently working on a team of transdisciplinary scholars on a smart village micro-grid project (SVMP). Although in its foundational stages, Eric is excited about the growth of this project toward enhancing electrification needs and sustainability in rural villages within Rwanda. His role on the SVMP team is to assist with surveying and assessing the impact of electrification on family households in village life. Additionally, Eric has enjoyed a vast and rich history of building relations and advocacy with cultural centers on the CSU campus.