By: Marissa Burkett, Staff Writer
Professor Denis Leclerc was born in Rouen, a small city in on the River Seine in North France. He first came to the Unites States after receiving his first Masters degree in migration to study the movements and habits of “Snowbirds,” groups of older folks who leave the north to spend winters in the warmer southern states. Arizona is a very popular landing spot for Snowbirds. “’I’ve always been interested in why people move around and how they create their sense of purpose. So, I studied the older people traveling to Mesa in the winter, why they travel, how they travel, how long they have been doing that, and how do they create their community. I’ve always wondered about the concept of tribes….how do we create the people that we want to associate with?”
Once settled in Arizona, he decided to get another masters degree and ended up focusing on international tourism at Arizona State University, and then after, a PhD.
“I was interested in tour guides and how they share destinations and experiences. I was always interested in how we go on tours and what we get out of the visit is based on what the tour guide has to tell us. And then I went on to get a PhD. This is when I discovered the field of communication. I was not interested in business – it was too restrictive. I have always been a broader sort of person. When I read the business and leadership stuff, what they were really talking about was communications. I loved every minute of my PhD.”
The rest of the article is best represented in interview format:
Do you think that young people are less engaged than people used to be?
No. When you teach, you have a very different idea of the room. You can see the topics that engage students and which topics bore them because they are checking their phones, laptops. If we had that conversation 20 years ago, I would have said ‘oh yeah, they are the worst,’ but I realize that I don’t know how to gauge that. However, I truly dislike the classrooms we are in. Education is the only system that hasn’t changed in 100 years.
Do you think that Millennials are not as engaged with each other because of technology? Are we more or less effective communicators or unchanged?
Millennials are native to the technology. Their relationship to other people is very different. I don’t understand how they can spend hours texting but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its benefits. I think that the Millennials’ capacity for engagement outside of technology is amazing. They are willing to do things based on the project and their passion. They are not interested in the money, they just want to know, “is this something I am willing to do and do I want to engage in that.’
If you know how to leverage the technology, it also allows you to make solutions. It’s allowing all of us to do things that we never thought were possible. When I compare how I teach now versus how I started teaching, it’s phenomenal. You cannot teach in a vacuum now. These days, if you tell students something that they don’t believe, they can just look it up, as you are in the classroom. They don’t take the information on face value.
What do you think is the biggest need for business and where are there skill gaps?
I think that anybody who wants to get involved in sustainability, regardless of what the definition is, being able to change the way people operate and peoples mindsets. Businesses need to make sure that they really are ready to change the way they do business. I think that companies that only give lip service are going to find a huge, huge, deficiency and that it will catch up to them 10 years from now. Consumers are becoming more educated in terms of the supply chain, energy consumption, and in that case the U.S. is far behind. Like, why is Arizona not the leader in solar energy? It makes no sense. Germany is the number one country even though they have very few sunny days per year. I think that Millennials have a different level of caring for these issues than those who have been in business for 10 to 20 years.
Do you miss France?
I miss the diversity of food. In the U.S., people eat pork, beef and chicken. When I go to France, you can find lamb, duck, the amount of meat you can choose from is large. That I miss, but in terms of missing France, I’ve been here too long. I am more American in many ways than I am French.
Is there anything that you haven’t quite acclimated to in the U.S.?
There are a couple of things about American society that I just don’t understand. I don’t understand about the health care system and why would you not be willing to pay and help other people in need. You don’t know when you’re going to get sick and need healthcare. I have no problem paying more taxes for someone who needs it and don’t believe that people want to suck the system dry and make money without working.
The healthcare [system] blows me away. That’s the kind of issues that makes me think: what am I doing here? People are unwilling to take care of other people, but at the same time, they don’t want to put money into a healthcare system that they may not have to use in 10 years, but the day you have to use it, it’s gone in three days. And you have other people who you have to be willing to pitch in for you. In terms of interaction, a lot of my friends are Americans but best friends are usually from the UK, or Greece. I am pretty sure that I am so adapted to it that I have no idea.
What are your five favorite words?
Love, creativity, movement, communication, change.