Professor’s Gift Overcomes Communication Barriers

Arriving in Australia in 1998 from Iran, Monash Professor Farzad Sharifian knows firsthand the trials and tribulations of international students, and the life-changing impact that a PhD scholarship can make.

A member of the Monash family for 6 years, Professor Sharifian is the Director of The Language and Society Centre, Faculty of Arts at Monash. He established the ‘English as an International Language’ Program, a program which teaches intercultural and international communication, and is the first of its kind in the world. Professor Sharifian has published numerous articles, and in his recent book,Cultural Conceptualisations and Language: Theoretical Framework and Applications (2011, John Benjamins) outlined a theoretical model to underpin the relationship between language, culture, and conceptualisation. This model has already been adopted by many projects around the world.

“In a sense I have been researching my own life experiences as a migrant to Australia.” Professor Sharifian’s interest in intercultural communication arose from experiencing first-hand how enriching this experience is, as well as how differences in cultural norms and expectations can lead to miscommunication. “Intercultural communication is increasingly the experience of many people around the globe, as more and more people from various cultural and national backgrounds come together to live and work as ’international citizens’.”

The study of intercultural communication – exploring the relationship between language and culture – has far-reaching benefits. Differing expectations when it comes to communication are not as obvious as the differences in outward appearance between groups from different backgrounds. This means they are more subject to misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Professor Sharifian believes studies in intercultural communication can also contribute significantly in the international political arena. “There are so many misunderstandings in international political discourse, often due to misinterpretations arising from speeches which have been poorly translated into English. Here research findings in intercultural communication could significantly contribute not just at the level of improving human life and daily interactions, but for international peace-building efforts and global understandings. I feel strongly that much more work needs to be done in this area.”

“I am continually struck by how the microcosm that is Monash University reflects the multicultural nature of the Australian community at large. This is why I believe Monash University is uniquely placed to be at the forefront of intercultural communication research.”

His burning desire to see the study of intercultural communication grow ever stronger at Monash has been the impetus for Farzad to set up the Farzad Sharifian Scholarship in the Field of Intercultural Communication, specifically for international PhD students studying at Monash. Across the board, there are scarce scholarships for international students. Quite a few of these students come from countries whose governments cannot afford to support them in their studies.

While spearheading his mentor’s Michael Clyne’s Scholarship Fund, Professor Farzad happened to chat to a staff member from Monash’s Advancement Unit about being inspired by Michael’s generosity of spirit towards students and future research.

“There may be other people, including staff members, out there who would like to donate something to future generations, but don’t know where to start. It’s easy to associate philanthropy with ‘being rich’ – which of course cuts academics out – but actually all of us can make the University a beneficiary of our Will.”

“From the final contract signing one sentence was so precious to me and has stuck with me – “This is our promise to you, that we will fulfil your wish.” I was convinced then that I had made the best decision. I look at my contribution as continuance of my life’s work that will see Monash’s international reputation for groundbreaking research continue for years to come.”

Dean of Arts, Professor Rae Frances, is thrilled with Professor Sharifian’s gift. “Staff have such an innate appreciation of what a gift like this can do in a university; towards education and excellence. We are indeed lucky to have such inspiring, generous people here at Monash.”

To learn more about making a personal gift and to discuss your opportunity to make a difference to the lives of Monash students in this way, contact Preema Wong from the Donor Relations team on 03 9903 4609 or email There are a number of ways to make a donation to the University and Preema would be pleased to discuss these with you.

Over Monash University’s history, bequests from staff, alumni, friends, students and their families have supported teaching and learning, research, library resources, and student scholarships, bursaries and prizes. People making a bequest have often been inspired by Monash’s influence on their lives or on the lives of others.