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2016

Peach.jpeg

 

Summer's here, and this peach caught my eye. Set on the blue ledge of my office, it became the perfect example of complementary colors.

 

When we're preparing a movie, we think about complementary colors, and all kinds of color combinations. I ask my students to do the same for their video projects.

 

Colors convey meaning, emotion, and genre. They are part of telling a visual story. For example, thrillers generally have deep, dark blacks and highly contrasting colors. Documentaries -- or movies that try to feel documentary-like -- use a color palette that is narrower. When I was producing Titus, the first film Julie Taymor directed, she didn't want the color green in the movie. Green conveys hope, and Julie didn't think Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus should feel hopeful.

 

We can ask our students: Do you want the colors to pop? Do you want your video to feel more monochromatic? Simply paying attention to colors, and using color as part of your design, can make a video feel much more professional.

 

Blue and orange are "complementary colors," and when you put them next to each other, as in this photo, they seem to vibrate. I found it striking to see such a powerful example of color-in-action right in front of me. You probably remember the color wheel. It has six colors arrayed around a white central circle. Red is opposite green; yellow is opposite purple; blue is opposite orange.

 

The color wheel isn't random. Those opposing colors are called "complementary" due to the physical nature of the human eye. If you stare at a blue wall for a long time and then look at a white wall, you will see an orange after-image. Why? Because the color receptors in your eye become tired looking at the blue wall, so they relax when you look at the white wall, and your brain "sees" that as orange for a few moments. That's why complementary colors are so powerful when you put them right next to each other.

 

But enough of the science. Colors are just one more way we can convey narrative and emotion. When we use them in our classroom work, suddenly, subconsciously, things feel richer and more purposeful. I got so swept away after I took this photo that, taking a cue from T. S. Eliot, I decided to eat the peach.

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Dan O'Hair is dean of the University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information. He is the author of Real Communication, 3e, A Speaker's Guidebook, 6e, and A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking, 5e.

 

Q: What advice do you give your students who have public speaking anxiety or general communication apprehension?

 

DO: I have students take slow, deep breaths just before speaking.  I also encourage them to become completely familiar with their introduction so that they can start off very well prepared.

 

Q: What has been your favorite course to teach and why?

 

DO: I love teaching public speaking because it gives me a chance to watch the dramatic improvement in student’s speaking skills over the course of the semester.  I also enjoy teaching interpersonal communication—the content is interesting and relevant to just about everything we do in life.

 

Q: What advice do you have for other instructors who teach this course?

 

DO: Most instructors I have talked with think it is a really good idea to respect students for where they are in the first few days of class.  Some will be more confident and accomplished than others.  Being flexible with varying degrees of skills goes a long toward building trust with students.

 

Q: What are some of your research interests?

 

DO: I have studied how communication can be improved in hurricane warnings.  I have conducted a great deal of research on how physicians and patients can communication with one another more effectively.

 

Q: If you could create (and teach) a brand new course for your department, what would it be?

 

DO: I am very interested in communication technology and social media, so I plan to develop and teach courses in those areas.

 

Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges students face now when they enter college?

 

DO: First, financial costs are the biggest challenges I hear from students. Second, sometimes students have not developed the same expectations as their instructors.  This is an issue that can be worked out with better communication.

 

Q: What motivates you to continue teaching?

 

DO: I love my students; I love trying to make them laugh, and I love to challenge them to think differently.

 

On a personal note...

Q: How do you spend your time when you're not teaching?

 

DO: I love playing golf, although I wish I was much better at it.  And, I love being with my family and especially my 2-year old granddaughter who never fails to challenge me.

 

Q: What are some of your hobbies?

 

DO: Reading, golf.

 

Q: If you hadn't pursued a career in higher education, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

 

DO: Attorney.

 

Q: What was the last book you read?

 

DO: A historical biography about Hitler as a youth.

 

Q: What book has influenced you most?

 

DO: The books written by Carlos Castaneda about Native American mysticism.

 

Q: Where is one place you want to travel to, but have never been?

 

DO: Spain and Italy.

 

Q: When you sit down to listen to music, which artists or genres do you go to most?

 

DO: Classic rock; jazz.  My favorite group is Rush.

 

Q: What is something you want to learn in the next year (Communication-related or otherwise)?

 

DO: How can I become wiser.

 

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you (i.e. What's your "fun fact")?

 

DO: I was an Eagle Scout at age 13.  Scouting was about the only thing I lived and breathed back then.

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Douglas M. Fraleigh is a professor and chair of the Department of Communication at California State University, Fresno. He is the co-author of Speak Up: An Illustrated Guide to Public Speaking, 3e.

 

Q: What courses are you teaching this semester?

DF: I just finished two sections of public speaking for our Honors College this spring and I am teaching Persuasion to our majors this summer.


Q: What advice do you give your students who have public speaking anxiety or general communication apprehension?

DF: Believe in yourself; I can't wait for you to share your ideas with our class.


Q: What has been your favorite course to teach and why?

DF: Freedom of Speech, because it is essential for society (and it was my favorite course as an undergraduate).

Q: What advice do you have for other instructors who teach this course?

DF: Help and encourage students to apply the principles they are learning to the many free speech issues confronting society today.

Q: What are some of your research interests?

DF: Freedom of Speech, Argumentation, Public Advocacy.


Q: If you could create (and teach) a brand new course for your department, what would it be?

DF: Evolutionary Psychology and Communication or Sports Communication.

 

Q: What do you think is one of the biggest challenges students face now when they enter college?

DF: Balancing the greater academic workload that college entails with other life obligations (especially work).


Q: What motivates you to continue teaching? 

DF: I really enjoy going to class and working with our students and sharing my passion for the subjects that I teach.

    

On a personal note...

Q: How do you spend your time when you're not teaching?

DF: Running (5k, 10k, half-marathons); spending time with my family (especially sporting events, plays, and our family fantasy football league); walking and hanging out with our dogs, Dawson and McCarthy; reading.


Q: If you hadn't pursued a career in higher education, what career path do you think you would have chosen?

DF: Civil rights/civil liberties attorney.

 

Q: What was the last book you read?

DF: I'm reading Hamilton right now.  Can't wait to see the musical when it comes to Cali.


Q: Where is one place you want to travel to, but have never been?

DF: The Andes.

Q: When you sit down to listen to music, which artists or genres do you go to most?

DF: Alt Nation XM36.  Love the Hamilton Soundtrack too.

 

Q: What is something you want to learn in the next year (communication-related or otherwise)?

DF: I'm very interested in Evolutionary Psychology and I'm trying to incorporate it into my teaching more.

 

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you (i.e., What's your "fun fact")?

DF: I dance when students' phones go off in class.

Assistant Editor Will Stonefield  just wrote a blog post for Macmillan News on the future of public speaking. Check it out at the link below:

Online Presentations and the Future of Public Speaking