Faculty and Staff

Phyllis Ngai

Phyllis Ngai

Director, International Development Studies and Adjunct Associate Professor, Communication Studies

Home Department: Communication Studies
Office: Eck Hall/LA 415
Email: phyllis.ngai@umontana.edu
Office Hours:

Virtual Office Hours via Zoom

Tuesdays, 3:30 - 5:00 PM. 

And by appointment.

Curriculum Vitae

Current Position

Director, International Development Studies

Adjunct Associate Professor, Communication Studies 

Adjunct Associate Professor, Social Work

Instructor and Board Member, Franke Global Leadership Initiative



COMX 415 Intercultural Communication (online and on-campus)

IDS 491/591 Communication for Social and Behavior Change (blended)

COMX 204X International and Development Communication (online)

COMX 491 Hong Kong, Macau, & China: Communication, Culture, & Development  (Spring Break & Summer Study-Abroad Program)

COMX 412 Communication and Conflict (blended)

COMX 202 Nonverbal Communication (blended)

COMX 391/PSCI 330 Transnational Competence for Global Leadership (on-campus)

GBLD 194 Global Leadership Initiative Freshman Seminar: The Media and the Internet in the Age of Globalization (on-campus)

GBLD 194 Global Leadership Initiative First-Year Seminar: Sustainable Goals 2030: Global Vision and Local Actions (on-campus)

SW 464 Cultural Humility in Social Work Practice: Valuing Diversity





Personal Summary

Dr. Phyllis Ngai’s research and teaching interests lie at the crossroads of culture, language, communication, social change, and education. Dr. Ngai is the author of Crossing Mountains: Native American Language Education in Public Schools in the Contemporary Native Communities Series published by AltaMira Press and author or co-author of 37 journal articles, book chapters, and monographs. Currently, Phyllis teaches courses in intercultural communication, international development communication, communication for social and behavior change, and cultural humility. She has taught both in Asia and in the United States, and conducted research and delivered guest lectures/workshops at universities in countries on four continents, including China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, Finland, Norway, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. To contribute to the local community, Phyllis volunteers to support implementation of Indian Education For All in Missoula public schools. In 2014-2015, she co-directed a professional-development institute for high-school teachers from around the country. The institute, funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes Grant, engaged Indigenous Literary Perspectives in Global Conversation. While actively involved in grant projects, scholarship, teaching, and community service, Phyllis finds time to enjoy the beautiful Montana outdoors with her family. Her favorite pastimes include kayaking, cross-country skiing, mountain biking, and reading by lakeshores with the view of the mountains.


Ed.D., The University of Montana-Missoula, 2004
M.A., The University of Montana-Missoula, 1996
B.A., The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1994

Research Interests

Dr. Phyllis Ngai’s recent research explores (1) civil society organization approaches to Indigenous, ethnic minority, and women issues in Southeast Asia; (2) NGO participatory approach to rural development; (3) global/local discourses of sustainable development, Indigenous peoples' rights, and women empowerment; (4) transcultural pragmatics/intercultural communication training with teachers and learners of English as a second language; (5) intercultural communication training in China; (6) socio-culturally sensitive health communicaiton in rural America. 


Institutional Grants:

  • 2014-15: National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes Grant ($190,119).  A Summer Institute in Indigenous Studies for High School Teachers Indigenous Literary Perspectives in Global Conversation. Grant co-author/co-director.
  • 2013-14: Indian Education For All Grant, Montana Office of Public Instruction ($14,700).  Mapping Integration of IEFA into K-12 and Professional Development for high-school teachers on Linking Indigenous Studies to Global Education. Grant author/project co-director.
  • 2010-11: Indian Education for All Progressive Grant, Montana Office of Public Instruction ($22,500).  Professional Development for Middle-School Teachers through Indian Family/Teacher Partnerships.  Grant author/project co-director. 
  • 2006/07: Ready-to-Go Continuation Grant, Montana Office of Public Instruction ($25,000).  Place-based Multicultural Education: Indian-education Integration in a Urban Elementary School. Grant author/project co-director.
  • 2005-06: Ready-to-Go Grant, Montana Office of Public Instruction ($25,000).  Place-based Multicultural Education: Professional Development for K-5 Teachers via Partnerships with Tribal Educators. Grant author/project co-director.
  • 2005-06: American Association of University Women Community Action Grant ($7,000). Indian/Non-Indian Women Partnership Project for Enhancing Place-based Learning among Girls & Boys in Montana Public Schools. Grant author/project co-director.
  • 2005-06: Montana Committee for the Humanities Grant ($3,000). Partnership Building Among Indian Women Educators and Female School Teachers. Grant author/project co-director.

Field of Study

Intercultural Communication

International Communication

International Development Studies

Global Indigenous Studies (Asia)

Communication for Social and Behavior Change 

English-language Teaching (TESL)

Indian Education for All

Multicultural Education


Book and Monographs
  • Crossing Mountains: Native American Language Education in Public Schools, Contemporary Native American Communities Series.  Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press, 2012, 298 pages. 
  • A Process Guide for Realizing Indian Education for All: Lessons Learned from Lewis & Clark Elementary School, 75 pp.  2000 copies printed and distributed by Office of Public Instruction, Helena, Montana, 2007.  Lead author.
  • Organizational Communication in Refugee Camp Situations.  New Issues in Refugee Research. Working Paper No. 71, December 2002. Monograph published by UNHCR, The United Nations Refugee Agency, Evaluation and Policy Analysis Unit.  Lead author.
Journal Articles and Book Chapters
  • Discourse Analysis for Intercultural Competence Development. International Journal of Bias, Identity and Diversities in Education, 2021, v6, #1, 17-30. ‚Äč
  • Local Interpretation of the Global Discourse of Sustainability and Sustainable Development in Rural Cambodia. Environmental Communication, 2020, v14, #8, 1079-1096.
  • Organizational Communication in Ethnic Tourism Development: Participatory Approaches un Southwest China. Tourism, Culture, and Communication, 2021, v21, #2, 123-142. Co-author. 
  • Adapting the Participatory Approach for Poverty Reduction in Rural Cambodia: The Need for Creative Hybridization. Asian Development Perspectives, 2019, v10, #2, 100-113.
  • Intercultural Competence Development via Online Social Networking: Japanese Students’ Experience of Internationalization in U.S. Higher Education. Intercultural Education, 2020. Lead author.
  • Adapting the Participatory Approach for Poverty Reduction in Rural Cambodia: The Need for Creative Hybridization. Asian Development Perspectives, 2019, v10, #2, 100-113.
  • Online Social Networking and Transnational Competence Development among International Students. Journal of International Students, 2019, v9, #2, 432-459.
  • Professional Development for TESL Teachers: A Course in Transcultural Pragmatics. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 2018, v22, #3, online. Lead author. 
  • NGO interpretation of participatory communication for rural Cambodia: what is lost in ‘translation’? The Journal of International Communication, 2017, v23, #2, pp.231-251. 
  • Teacher/Family Partnerships for Student Learning: Lessons from Indian Education for All in Montana. Journal of American Indian Education, 2016, v55, #1, pp. 23-28. Lead author.
  • Intercultural Communication Training for English Language Teachers: A Case Study of an Immersion Program for South Korean Teachers. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 2015, v44,  #4, pp. 1 – 24.  Lead author.
  • The Impact of Teachers’ Communication Approach on Children’s Co-Cultural Adaptation. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 2015, v37.
  • Indigenous Education in the Norwegian and U.S. Contexts. In Mapping Indigenous Presence: Sami and Native American Studies Perspectives, co-edited by Kathryn Shanley and Bjorg Evjen.  Tucson: University of Arizona Press.  Lead author. 2015, pp. 78-119.
  • Meeting Diversity the Midst of Adversity: An Intercultural-communication Training Framework for Refugee Assistance Crisis Management. In Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management (2nd ed.), edited by Ali Farazmand. NY: Francis & Taylor, pp. 13-30. Lead author. 2014.
  • Managing Refugee-assistance Crises in the Twenty-first Century: The Intercultural-communication Factor. In Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management (2nd ed.), edited by Ali Farazmand.  New York: Taylor & Francis, pp.285-311.  Co-author.  2014.
  • Multicultural Teaching Competence for Glocal Education: A Professional Development Model. International Journal of Education for Diversities, 2013, v2, pp. 76-90.
  • Partnership for Knowledge-based Development in Asia. Box in The SAGE Handbook of International Higher Education edited by Darla K. Deardorff, Hans de Wit, John Heyl, and Tony Adams.  Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2012.
  • Indigenous Education for Critical Democracy: Teacher Approaches and Learning Outcomes in a K-5 Indian-Education-For-All Program.  Equity & Excellence in Education, 2011, v44, #2, pp. 249-269.  Lead author. 
  • Growth with Sustainable Development? Impressions of Addis Ababa at the Start of 2011. Afrikan Sarvi, Horn of Africa Journal, 2011, v.1, #1, online. Co-author.
  • Implementing Montana’s Indian-Education-For-All in a K-5 Public School: Implications for Classroom Teaching, Education Policy, and Native Communities.  Journal of American Indian Education, 2010, v49, #1 & 2, pp. 44-62.  Lead author.
  • Indigenous Studies and Intercultural Education: The Impact of a Place-based Primary-school Program. Intercultural Education, 2010, v.21, #6, pp. 597-606. Lead author.
  • An Emerging Indian-language Education Framework for Reservation Public Schools with Mixed Populations. Journal of American Indian Education, 2008, v.47, #2, pp. 22-50.
  • Bilingual Education in Rural Schools with Native and non-Native Students: Indigenous-Language Program Elements for an Inclusive Model.  Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 2007, v.10, #6, pp. 723-751.
  • Community-based Indigenous Education for Global Competence. The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities and Nations, 2007, v.7, #2.
  • Citizenship Education for an Age of Population Mobility and Glocally Interconnected Destinies. Finnish Journal of Ethnicity and Migration, 2006, v.1, #1, pp. 26-33. Co-author.
  • Indian Education For All in an Urban Public School.  Phi Delta Kappan, 2006 November, p. 211. Lead author.
  • Grassroots Suggestions for Linking Native-Language Learning, Native American Studies, and Mainstream Education in Reservation Schools with Mixed Indian and White Student Populations. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 2006, v. 19, #2, pp. 220-236.  
  • Organizational Communication and Globally Displaced Perimeter Populations: A Neglected Challenge for Intercultural-communication Training.  In International and Multicultural Organizational Communication, co-edited by George Cheney and George Barnett.  Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2005, pp. 225-267. Lead author.
  • A Reinforcing Curriculum- and Program-reform Proposal for 21st Century Teacher Education: Vital First Steps for Advancing K-12 Multicultural Education.  Equity and Excellence in Education, 2004, v. 37, #4, pp. 321-331.
  • Linking Distance and International Education: An Educational Strategy for Developing Multicultural Competence Among Distance Learners. Journal of Studies in International Education, 2003, v.7, #2, pp. 157-177.  
  • Bilingual Education for All: A Benefits Model for Small Towns. Bilingual Research Journal, 2002, v.26, #2, pp. 269-294. 
  • Nonverbal Communication Behavior in Intercultural Negotiations: Insights and Applications Based on Findings from Ethiopia, Tanzania, Hong Kong, and the China Mainland.  World Communication, 2001, v.29, #4, pp. 3-35.
  • Preparing for Diversity in the Midst of Adversity: An Intercultural-communication Training Program for Refugee Assistance Crisis Management. In Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management, edited by Ali Farazmand. NY: Marcel Dekker, 2001, pp. 23-38. Lead author.
  • Managing Refugee-assistance Crises in the Twenty-first Century: The Intercultural-communication Factor. In Handbook of Crisis and Emergency Management edited by Ali Farazmand.  New York: Marcel Dekker, 2001, pp. 737-765. Co-author. 
  • Cross-cultural Management: The Pitfalls of Unspoken Signals. World Executive's Digest–English edition, 1998 January, pp. 49-50. Lead author.
  • Nonverbal Hints for Successful Intercultural Negotiation. World Executive's Digest --Chinese edition, 1997 November, pp. 58-60. Lead author.
Other Publications
  • Beyond Reversion: Hong Kong in the Year of Transition. The Montanan, 1998, Spring, v.15, #3, pp. 22-23. Lead author.


Speak: English, Cantonese, and some Mandarin

Read and Write: English and Chinese

Teaching Experience

Dr. Ngai has taught courses in intercultural communication, communication for social change, multicultural education, integrating Indigenous perspectives, and English as a second/foreign langauge in U.S., Hong Kong, China, and Ethiopia. She has conducted training in intercultural communication and communication for social & behavior change in Cambodia, Myanamr, Vietnam, and the U.S.  

International Experience

Phyllis Ngai grew up in Hong Kong and has lived in Missoula for close to 25 years. Dr. Ngai has conducted research, lectured, and delivered workshops at universities in various countries on four continents, including Camboida, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, China, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Finland, and Norway. Several years ago, as volunteers, she and her family helped build houses for the needy in Guatemala.