Communication Connection

Friends of COM Newsletter

Faculty Profiles

Practicing What They Teach

Friday, June 13, 2014

By: Rita Poole

Do professors actually use what they teach in the classroom in every day life? How will we use what we learn in our personal lives, not just in our careers? These are questions that seem to present themselves during our time in college. To answer that, a few professors let us peek into their lives and see how their passions transfer from the classroom into their personal lives.

The world outside the classroom can be an amazing and essential tool to figuring out our future careers. Dr. Olsen and Dr. Weber both had experiences outside the classroom that brought them to where they are today. For Dr. Olsen, a summertime crush while taking summer theater during his undergraduate degree at UNCW was just the beginning. Mark Knapp’s Relational Development Model was a theory that Dr. Olsen had learned about in Interpersonal Communication, and during this summer theater program, “I saw myself going through each stage of the model.  The break up still hurt a bit but I also laughed at how the experience and the model lined up.” This is where the idea that communication was relevant outside the classroom came into focus for Dr. Olsen, and today he is our Department Chair. 

Dr. Weber took a different approach to advancing his career in communication. He had been working with organizations for nearly twenty years, decided he wanted to acquire a doctorate, and before he made a decision on what he would pursue he thought of the types of skills he already had. He had been working with the organizations on “…developing better communication skills to be more effective in their work with one another,” and when he described how he had gone about this to friends, Dr. Weber realized he could do better and more work in organizations with a doctorate in Communication Studies. This is a prime example of how the study of communication can allow you to further career goals, and you may have never realized your goals were related to communication at all!

Each day, these professors do something outside of teaching that allows them to use skills they have learned to illustrate a topic or theory in the classroom. Dr. Weber described himself as, “…always being on duty.” Wherever he goes, he is observing the interactions of people around him or with him directly. He uses these observations as examples to help students understand a concept in a real-world setting. Similarly, Mr. Bollinger uses his rhetorical analysis skills to analyze shows that come on The History Channel. He is a self-proclaimed “news junkie,” and says he analyzes these shows, as well as other sources of information, to “…decide whether these shows are worth my time.” This allows him to be choosy about which bits of information he believes or leaves behind.

Communication is around us all the time, and is incredibly practical to study. Through the study of this topic, we are able to relate to others in ways we may not have previously been aware of, and, in turn, we are able to build lasting professional and personal relationships.