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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.

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Mary Wiemann is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Communication at Santa Barbara City College. She is the author of Real Communication, 3e.

 

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

MW: The intro course because it excites students about the field and corrects their thinking that communication is just common sense.

 

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

MW: Be ready to have FUN with it—connect the course concepts to your own life and challenge the students to do the same.  Don’t be afraid to talk about the communication challenges we all face—becoming more competent communicators helps us deal with them and increases our satisfaction with interactions.

 

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

MW: Now that I have retired from teaching (I was also department chair for 8 years), I have trained to be a docent at a California mission; I have enjoyed learning about the early history of the Chumash, the establishments of 21 missions in California by the Spanish, and the darker period after Mexico won the war with Spain when many of the missions were trashed.  I love meeting people from all over the world (literally) who take my tours; I remember to engage them, welcome them and involve them in the tour (remember your public speaking advice!).  I also volunteer with a women’s organization that raises money to help people in the community—I’ve done speech training for them and written some press releases.  AND, I spend time with my two delightful grandsons!

 

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

MW: I thought about going to law school for a long time because I was always fascinated about the strength of language and the way witnesses' perceptions of an event differ. Lawyers also have to be good at observing nonverbal behaviors—in their questioning of potential jurors and in coaching their clients for court appearances.

 

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

MW: I have a farm in the Panhandle of Texas where we grow wheat and corn.  I say “we” but mean the great farmers who actually know what they are doing grow the crops; my “growing” skills are limited to my vegetable gardens in my back yard and the orchids I propagate inside.

I recently read Gloria Steinem’s fantastic memoir, My Life on the Road, published in late 2015. Gloria recounts her decades filled with extensive traveling--there are many years in which she’s not home for more than eight days at a time.

 

Throughout the book, Gloria shares her belief in the power of communication that is in-person, non-hierarchical, and honest. From the first chapter, she notes her travels as showing her this necessity, in order to find out what’s really going on in the country:

 

“I discovered something I might never otherwise have learned: people in the same room understand and empathize with each other in a way that isn’t possible on the page or screen.”

 

Gloria learned about the power of listening and specifically talking circles from a trip to India in her twenties:

 

“It was the first time I witnessed the ancient and modern magic of groups in which anyone may speak in turn, everyone must listen, and consensus is more important than time. I had no idea that such talking circles had been a common form of governance for most of human history, from the Kwei and San in southern Africa, the ancestors of us all, to the First Nations on my own continent, where layers of such circles turned into the Iroquois Confederacy, the oldest continuous democracy in the world. Talking circles once existed in Europe, too, before floods, famines, and patriarchal rule replaced them with hierarchy, priests, and kings. I didn’t even know, as we sat in Ramnad, that a wave of talking circles and “testifying” was going on in black churches of my own country and igniting the civil rights movement. I certainly didn’t guess that, a decade later, I would see consciousness-raising groups, women’s talking circles, giving birth to the feminist movement.”

 

When beginning to speak in front of audiences, Gloria suffered debilitating stage fright. She partnered with another speaker and friend in order to overcome this, and learned other ways to combat her anxiety:

 

“Since we had been successful one on one, Dorothy suggested we speak to audiences as a team. Then we could each talk about our different but parallel experiences, and she could take over if I froze or flagged. Right away we discovered that a white woman and a black woman speaking together attracted far more diverse audiences than either one of us would have done on our own. I also found that if I confessed my fear of public speaking, audiences were not only tolerant but sympathetic. Public opinion polls showed that many people fear public speaking even more than death. I had company.”

 

Eventually, Gloria became comfortable in front of audiences. She continued to speak (and still does) at college campuses, which only affirmed her view of the importance of speaking to an audience face-to-face:

 

“If there is one thing that these campus visits have affirmed for me, it’s that the miraculous but impersonal Internet is not enough. As in the abolitionist and suffragist era, when there were only six hundred or so colleges with a hundred students each—and itinerant organizers like the Grimké sisters, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth traveled to speak in town halls, granges, churches, and campgrounds—nothing can replace being in the same space.”

 

Clearly, Gloria’s years on the road taught her many lessons about the most powerful and effective forms of communication. I’ll end with a quote that sums up all of this communication wisdom:

 

“If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. If you hope people will change how they live, you have to know how they live. If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye-to-eye.”