For 20 years, Joe Lurie was executive director of International House at UC Berkeley, a cultural center for the campus and residence for over 1,500 U.S. and international students and scholars annually from over 80 countries.
In honor of his service, the International House Board of Directors and UC Berkeley alumni established The Joe Lurie Returned Peace Corps Gateway Fellowship, an endowed doctoral fellowship. Each year one RPCV is awarded full UC Berkeley tuition, fees and a stipend to complete the first year of doctoral studies. With full room and board at International House, awardees continue their cross-cultural experiences while sharing Peace Corps discoveries with American and international residents.
In July 2015, Lurie’s book, Perception and Deception: A Mind-Opening Journey Across Cultures was published. Like the RPCV Fellowship, it was largely inspired by his years in the Peace Corps. In the book, he describes cultural misunderstanding in the Peace Corps and at International House. There are also eyebrow-raising stories from his work as an intercultural trainer and researcher; as well as a speaker and consultant for non-profits and multi-national companies.
“I wrote Perception and Deception to show misperceptions in a wide variety of cultural contexts,” says Lurie. “Our age of globalization often produces polarization, so the theme is particularly relevant. Instantaneous communication increasingly is thrusting cultures together. Without preparation and context, many cross-cultural misunderstandings have confusing consequences. For example, when a Moroccan computer programmer asks her American co-worker about her husband, the American woman is afraid to say she has a wife.”
It Began in Kenya
During his service in Kenya, Joe was a secondary school teacher and participated in vaccination, school construction and Swahili translation projects. In Perception and Deception, Lurie describes his misunderstandings such as seeing men holding hands, a teen calling an American professor “grandma,” strangers sharing food on a bus; and why his Kenyan friends never invited him to their homes. “I finally understood the Swahili expression: ‘the door is always open,’” he notes. “Because of my own cultural prisms I misunderstood many things. Discoveries I made about cultural differences, inspired this book and a career focused on international educational exchanges. Today the need is more urgent than ever.”
After returning from Kenya, Lurie received an MA in English at McGill University in Montreal and an advanced degree in African Languages and Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For The Experiment in International Living and the School for International Training, Lurie directed programs that brought American university students to Kenya, Ghana and France. He later became Dean of Student Affairs of Schiller College/Europe University in France, then Adelphi University’s Director of International Education. In 1982, American Field Service appointed him Vice President of Intercultural Programs.
As executive director of International House at UC Berkeley, he inspired and helped shape a documentary about International House which aired nationally on PBS and throughout China. Lurie also led fundraising efforts which raised over $20 million for scholarships and renovation projects. When he retired from International House, he was awarded Executive Director Emeritus status for his significant accomplishments.
Now as an author, UC Berkeley lecturer, intercultural trainer, consultant, and speaker, Lurie continues to promote greater understanding across cultures. His extensive career and the RPCV Fellowship in his name, embody the Peace Corps’ Third Goal: bringing the world home to promote understanding across cultures and a more peaceful world.