Tue, Dec 02, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Community Compass: INTERVIEW: ACC head Scott Robinson works to bridge cultures

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Innovation, a pioneer spirit, openness to new ideas, willingness to take risks, immigration and diversity are some of the things Scott Robinson quickly rattled off when asked to define American values and culture.

Robinson embodies many of the characteristics he mentioned. Hailing from Santa Monica, California, the blue-eyed former baseball player followed his passion for performing arts and became an actor after obtaining a master’s degree in theater from University of California, San Diego.

When he was not waiting tables or doing other odd jobs, Robinson got involved in small film projects and at times played roles at the Shakespearean Festival in Utah.

The unpredictable travel and work schedule finally started to wear him down and after eight years of nomadic living, Robinson pursued a different dream — law school.

Robinson took up the challenge by working for three years as a paralegal at a New York law firm, where he developed yet another dream — joining the US Foreign Service.

The fulfillment of that goal has taken him and his young family to India and Beijing.

Now, Robinson is embarking on another dream as a public diplomat for his country as head of the American Culture Center (ACC), a division under the Public Affairs Section at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT).

“The ACC is best defined as a source of information,” he said in an interview with the Taipei Times, pointing to the wall-to-wall shelves lined with books, audio-visual materials and popular US periodicals such as The New Yorker and Time.

The ACC houses an information resource center that contains Taiwan’s largest collection of reference materials on an array of subjects such as US history, government, tax codes and individual state laws, Robinson said.

Those who like to keep their finger on the latest happenings in the US or have a keen interest in certain topics can also sign up to receive articles on the subject electronically, he said.

The library, free of charge and open to the public by appointment only, is mostly frequented by students, academics and researchers who need the most up to date information on US society or government, Robinson said.

Students who aspire to study in the US can also take advantage of the ACC to access information about school applications and facts about US institutions, as well as other academic opportunities presented by the American International Education Foundation.

The multi-purpose room to the side of the library ACC holds “American Classroom” — a program in which the public can attend lectures and discussions led by US or Taiwan speakers, usually accompanied by a film, on various social and cultural issues.

Robinson is also in charge of outreach programs, where AIT officers visit schools to give presentations on US-related topics such as the new president-elect.

“As a general theme, the election right now is our top priority. It is a source of curiosity for people in Taiwan. We have enlisted all of AIT to help us explain the election to Taiwan,” he said in October, adding that a group of 25 AIT officers, including the chief of the political section and deputy director, traveled around the country to speak on the US electoral system and the tenets of the presidential race.

Various speakers, ranging from political science professors to political commentators and pundits all contributed to the program by speaking to Taiwanese in person or via Webcast.

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