My Communications masters gave me all the groundwork to teach freshman and sophomore classes at the college level. My undergraduate degree was in teaching English and Communication on the secondary level. And as a junior high school English teacher, I created a school newspaper and established a competitive forensic team. Still, I'm the kind of person who loves going to school. So when my own children were in secondary school, I returned to classes hungry for intellectual stimulation. And from the very first graduate class, I just lit up! I thought, "Teaching Communications is exactly what I want to be doing. This is it for me!"
Today I can say that the graduate coursework in group process, nonverbal communications, listening, and other subjects continues to be incredibly relevant to my teaching. I still have Shirley Woodworth's course - my word-by-word typewritten notes - in my office and I go back to them often. In Shirley's class, I learned how to tell a story to make a point. Jim Gilchrist's survey class, George Robeck's nonverbal course - these classroom experiences opened the world for me. And the high standards faculty set for writing affected me as well. When I was a graduate student, Steve Rhodes suggested that a paper I'd written be submitted to the International Listening Association conference. When it was accepted, I found myself presenting before many of the people I'd actually cited in my paper. The confidence I got from that experience was huge. I felt enormously validated as a writer.
I see it all the time - especially after interpersonal communication or intercultural communication (a class I developed building on grad studies intercultural coursework). Oftentimes, the students are just taking requirements and deciding what to pursue. But after even one class, they'll come in and say, "What do I need to do to study communications?" or "My parents are saying, 'What kind of job can you get with this?'" And they do go on in their studies. I just received a card from a former student inviting me to his WMU graduation. But even when students tell me, "Learning about communication helped me in my relationships" or "It helped me talk to my boss," that's just as significant.
I can't think of anything more essential. It's like the time I was working with my KVCC colleagues on a cross-curricular project that included many departments. As mathematics and science identified what they would contribute, someone turned to me and said, "Where does Communication fit in the puzzle?" And I responded, "We're not a piece of the puzzle. We're the cardboard you build the puzzle on!" Communication is the foundation, the basis of every collaborative undertaking.