What classes do you teach and how long have you been teaching at Concordia?

I have been teaching at Concordia for more than 30 years now. I teach Health Communication, Nonverbal Communication, Communication Theory, Integrated Oral Communication (IOC) and Interpersonal Communication.

Which one is your favorite?

It’s a toss-up between Nonverbal and Health Communication.

What do you love about your job?

I love the people that I’m around. Students keep me young, energized and motivated.

I also appreciate that my job is different every day. Despite planning, I’m never sure what to expect because you never quite know where the conversation might twist or turn depending on what might be happening in the community or news that day. Such events might spark the necessity to bring it up in the classroom and see where the conversation goes depending on the students and the topic area we might be discussing.

Finally, I really love being an advisor. It’s a wonderful opportunity to really get to know your students, some of whom you’re blessed with having all four years. To be able to watch and see that transformation in that time period is truly amazing.

Where are you from and what did you study in college?

I grew up in a farming community near Morris, Minn. I’m a 1980 graduate of Concordia College, in what was then the SCT department: speech, communication, and theatre arts. My degree is a combination of half theatre classes with speech and communication classes. I still have the very first textbook of my first communication course that changed my life to become a com. major. I’ve kept that textbook for that reminder and that very reason. That particular class took place my first semester sophomore year and was the equivalent of our COM 111 and it lit my fire; from that moment on I knew that I wanted to study communication and the future of where it would go.

My research areas of interest are narratives, the stories people tell. I love words. I believe we have a true understanding of one another through the stories that we exchange and tell one another. I’m interested in what we both choose to share and what we choose not to, in terms of when people interact and communicate. I’ve also recently done work in mentoring and the idea and importance of the mentoring role.

What is your favorite part about teaching communication at Concordia and why are nonverbal and health communication your favorite courses to teach?

It’s a very active classroom and very applicable. The material is not only theory based but it easily goes to the applied. I’m a firm believer that once you learn something you then have the responsibility to learn how to ethically apply it. Now more than ever, civility, conversation, and dialogue are vastly important. Especially in the nonverbal communication course, many people think it’s just about body language; however, it goes so much further than that in terms of the environment in which we speak and how that environment was designed. Additionally, the important elements of touch and touch communication, to the face and the eyes, to proxemics and the invisible bubble that exists around each of us, I also find fascinating.

The health com piece is a political issue; if it was an easy issue then we’d all have the same health insurance and have access it to it fairly and all would be well. But it isn’t like that. How we talk about health-related issues and health communication from a doctor-patient relationship to the understanding of being able to skillfully critique health messaging that comes to us daily through the media. Additionally, the importance of advocating for his or her own health.

Both of these courses contain service-learning opportunities. In nonverbal communication, we work with Alzheimer's patients at Eventide. In health com, we work with Partnership for Health and their campaigns, which entails getting health communicated to the public or to a particular audience. Students are able to get great experience such as making Moorhead more bike friendly, working with food pantries, or advocating for Tobacco 21 at the Minnesota State Capitol. I hope my students are able to walk out of that class with a portfolio of information.

How does Concordia allow you to be passionate about your work?

Central to Concordia’s mission is the belief in “becoming responsibly engaged in the world.” As that becomes our mission as instructors, professors, and educators in concert with the students, it’s a dialogue where you feel empowered to carry forth what the college has set forth and how important they deem that in terms of the education of students. It’s typical to ask a student, “How do you BREW? How will you use material from this course to become responsibly engaged in the world?” That is oftentimes a question that I will pose to students to help them make the connections, but it also keeps me honest. Because if they can’t answer that question as a result of being in my class, then I perhaps have to rethink what I’m doing in some capacities.

Concordia allows me to teach the courses I love. Obviously, I’m comfortable here and I’m not alone. You can look across this campus and see many individuals who have been here for many years. And that’s a testament to this place, too, I think. It doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps along the road, but you have to look at the whole picture.

What do you love about the Fargo-Moorhead community and what areas are you active in outside of Concordia?

I serve on two boards. Currently, I serve on the board of directors for the Fargo Theatre, which is fun because is a passion of mine. I’m also new to the board of directors at Eventide. That’s a result of working with them for many years with the nonverbal project. That has been an amazing experience in terms of what I have learned about the aging population and what we can continue to do in assisting the needs that are going to face all of us as we age in this community and society.

I love the arts. This is a community that embraces the arts no matter if it’s going to see a play, the symphony, or to see beautiful artwork. I love sports! I’m a fan of anything Minnesota. I’m going to watch the Twins training camp this spring; I find a lot of joy in that. And I love my Cobber sports; I try to get over there as well. It’s a fun combination of those things. And my church, Bethesda, has been a big part of my life.

Why do you feel that being a communication major is a valuable discipline to study?

In so many ways, being a communication major will help you understand why people do the things they do in interaction with one another. Many people will ask, “What do you mean you teach communication? Don’t people just talk? Doesn’t communication just happen?” In speaking with students, I tell them to attend a communication lecture discussion. During the class and afterward, I often point out all the elements that are involved when two people come together and interact, let alone adding other factors such as social media, the variables of culture, age, socioeconomic status, and the important role of listening. The idea that communication is vital and to have an understanding of how to do it appropriately and ethically with a firm foundation of what it involves truly does transcend all aspects of one’s life. Then, I show them of different courses that one has the opportunity to take. I sometimes talk about putting tools in the toolbox. Whether that’s internships and directed study or independent study, traveling or studying abroad, those kinds and types of things are so important. One class is never the same twice because of who’s in there. And that’s what is so fun about communication, is that each individual brings his or her own set of knowledge, experiences, and perception to the rest of the class and together we learn.

What else would you like to share?

I’m immensely proud of this place. I think why I’m so proud, too, is that we recognize places where we need to learn and grow and we’re working on it. We know where we may be lacking and we’re not afraid to study it and go after it now.

I’m excited the vibrant, innovative, young faculty that we have hired. I go to meetings all the time and I just sit back and smile because this place is in great shape. We hire exceptionally well and I’ve seen it over and over again as I look at our young faculty that I’m so impressed with. I’ve met many dynamic people while being here.

This job and place is a joy; I feel very blessed. I’m better because I am here. I’m better in who I am because of all the students who have crossed through my classroom doors. I love what I teach; that’s a big part of it. I can never get enough and it keeps changing. Teaching entails constant learning. The students will make me think about something in a new fashion. That love and those questions will come up in class and we tackle it together and then deconstruct it in a manner that makes sense for all of us. Yes, I have felt truly honored to be here.

Learn more about communication studies

Published March 2019