Published: 05 March 2020

Meet the academic: Doris Dippold

Senior Lecturer in Intercultural Business Communication and Marketing, Doris Dippold shares how she became a teacher and her recent work involving artificial intelligence.

senior lecturer in intercultural business communication and marketing
Please could you introduce yourself – perhaps you could tell us something that isn’t on your staff profile page?

I don’t have a bachelors degree – which, in the early 2000s when online job application forms were still in their infancy, was a challenge. When I started my degree in Germany in 1997, bachelor degrees didn’t exist, so I enrolled for a degree to become a secondary school teacher and then transferred to a ‘magister’ degree which is equivalent to a masters. After three years of study, I then enrolled onto a masters degree in the USA, and they simply accepted my prior credits to enrol me – so I ended up with a masters and a PhD, but not a bachelors degree. 

I became a teacher because I didn’t want to become a teacher. I started my degree in Germany in the hope of becoming a teacher for German and History at secondary level. However, after my first internship at a school and a futile attempt to calm a class of 11-year olds, I realised this wasn’t for me. I subsequently transferred to a ‘magister’ in the same subjects. The chance to be a student tutor for students in their first semester rekindled my love for teaching as I realised that teaching adults suited me.

How and why did you become an academic?

I started teaching in higher education while I was still a student. When I started my studies in Germany, there was a system in place that enabled students in higher semesters to teach those just starting. Not only was it the best paid student job, I also realised that I loved teaching after all, having just given up on my secondary school teaching degree. Since then, I have never stopped teaching.

What excites you most about your current role?

The variety and the ability of initiating my own projects. I have not had two years the same since I joined Surrey. I have initiated some really exciting new projects such as my Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) on Communicating with Diverse Audiences on FutureLearn, which is one of the first MOOCs that Surrey has ever launched.

What is your particular area of academic expertise, and why are you passionate about it?

My expertise is intercultural and professional communication, applying principles and theories from applied linguistics to problems and issues in many fields, including education, business and professional life. For example, one area of my research investigates how the use of language shapes how teachers and students interact and learn in higher education, particularly when classrooms become more international. 
More recently, I had the chance to work with artificial intelligence. Working with a company in the research park, I looked at how their commercial chatbot interacted with customers and suggested ways of making these conversations more pleasant, which will hopefully create more sales. I am passionate about my subject because I believe that language is at the heart of everything we do.

Why should people study at postgraduate level in your academic area?

They should study at postgraduate level because they will learn to become reflective about language and communication. They will learn not to make judgements about how others communicate by gut feeling alone, but by working in an evidence-led manner. Having a knowledge of linguistic and communication theory will also help them make better decisions about the way they communicate, in speaking as well as writing – for example in meetings, in interactions with colleagues, in the classroom, or in advertising and marketing material. Our new MA Intercultural Business Communication and Marketing course teaches just that.

What are you looking for in a postgraduate student?
  • Curiosity to learn new things
  •  Ability to look beyond their horizon
  • Tenacity when things get tricky.
Is there a particular memory of your time at Surrey (so far) which stands out for you?

There is no one particular memory, rather snippets of moment in seminars when discussion flows, connections are made and new ideas are generated!

Discover our courses in languages, communication, translation and interpreting, including our MA Intercultural Business Communication and Marketing course.

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