My Reading Life: Elizabeth Tuleja

Author: Angela Sienko


“Worldly” is one word you could use to describe Dr. Elizabeth “Liddy” Tuleja. With expertise in intercultural communication and global leadership, Tuleja, an associate teaching professor of management in the Fanning Center for Business Communication at Mendoza, teaches courses on these topics in the MBA program and the EMBA program. She also leads the cross-cultural immersion programs in China every year.

A popular keynote speaker with organizations including Cyberport Venture Capital Forum, the Hong Kong Federation of Business Students, China Development Bank and the Asia-Pacific Institute of Business, Tuleja’s committed to teaching students and professionals how to manage the complexity that comes with communicating in a global work environment. She believes that learning should be engaging, which means she strives for creativity in all of her courses and programs.

When outside of the classroom, Tuleja studies Mandarin and conducts research in both Hong Kong and the mainland. So when does she find time to get in some personal reading? Not as often as she’d like. Here she tells us about her reading life:

The Rally: With your busy schedule, when do you find time to do some personal reading?

Liddy Tuleja: Since reading is my profession, it’s hard to find time to read for pleasure! Two ways I do is to include reading for a few minutes before bedtime or on a long flight. Before bed, it’s a great way to relax with enjoyable topics that I want to read versus have to read; on a plane, I’m a captive audience and I find that I can complete a book quickly rather than slowly plow through all of the journal articles or projects I bring to read and which make my carry-on so heavy!

The Rally: What are you reading now? 

Liddy Tuleja: While teaching in Shanghai this summer, I’ve been reading Chinese Business Etiquette by Scott Seligman. While written from an outsider’s viewpoint, the author deeply knows China, the language, and its societal norms, and actually uses his outside status to his advantage. He is able to deftly demonstrate how we can become more understanding of other values and practices by opening our eyes and our hearts to what is going on around us. 

The Rally: What have you read recently that has left a lasting impact?

Liddy Tuleja: One book that has had a lasting impression on me is The Shack by Paul Young. Theological debates aside, this book was written as a simple allegory originally intended for his children to demonstrate his lifelong heartache and struggle in accepting God's unconditional love and grace. The book is profound in its imaginative portrayal of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. It made me ‘think outside the box’.

The Rally: What are your favorite types of things to read, for example: magazines, online newspapers and blogs, Twitter, hard-copy books, electronic books?

Liddy Tuleja: I love historical novels — I get to learn something about the world while being transported into a make believe person’s life — or into the author’s imagination of what that historical person’s life might have been like. One of the best historical novels I have read is called Becoming Madam Mao by Anchee Min. I also like reading travel stories — real-life accounts of people’s adventures and struggles to find themselves in this world.

The book Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman, gave me the courage years ago to leave everything stable and familiar for a new life in Hong Kong. I have to say that this was the most wonderful time in my life as well as my most amazing life adventure. I’m currently reading Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing by Don George. Someday I want to write a book about my experiences in Hong Kong — it will be about the unusual (and often hilarious) adventures I had with the many kindhearted people who befriended me and shared their colorful and diverse lives, with such patience, as I learned to adapt (through many mishaps and mistakes) to a different way of being and doing.

The Rally: What is your favorite book of all time and why?

Liddy Tuleja: I don’t think I can say that I have a favorite book of all time, but as mentioned, I’ve been fascinated with Young’s imaginative depiction of the Holy Trinity in his allegory, The Shack, because it has made me think deeply, through its use of imagination and symbolism, about both the utter simplicity and absolute enormity of God’s love. I’ve been thinking a lot about symbolism lately because my current research deals with cultural metaphor. Over the past few years I’ve been collecting images of Chinese culture before students embark on their immersion program in China, and then analyzing them as markers of individual perceptions of ‘other’ (Lakoff; Kövecses; Gannon). Since metaphors make a comparison between unrelated things they are concrete, symbolic representations of abstract notions; allegory is a narrative using characters and events that bring something abstract to life. This allegorical portrayal of God’s love, as experienced by the author’s painful life journey, is profoundly touching as it reminds me to “become like little children” (Matthew 18) and reach out my hand to be grasped by my Loving Father’s strong grip (a metaphor in itself!).

The Rally: What book do you think every Mendoza student should read in some point in his/her life?

Liddy Tuleja: Factory Girls by Leslie T. Chang. It shows the human side of China as experienced by three young women who share their stories of moving from the rural areas to the city in search of a better life. With the Chinese government's plan to move 250 million-plus people from the countryside to cities by 2025, it puts a real face on what it means to do business in China (also see the 2013 NYT series, “China’s Great Uprooting.”)