Mary O. Wiemann
Communication Department. 1979-2009
It was the best of times . . . and the most exciting of times to be at SBCC in Communication. I joined the Speech Department as an adjunct in 1979. At that time, the department taught a lot of public speaking, some oral interpretation, occasionally argumentation and debate, and we were housed—appropriately—in the Drama and Music Building. But classes like interpersonal, small group and business and professional communication had crept their way into the traditional, old-line department, and we were thinking beyond performance courses. All around the country, especially on the East and West coasts, speech departments were evolving into communication departments, expanding their curriculums to encompass the research that was helping us understand and teach all forms of oral communication. By the time I became a full-time professor in 1986, the department at SBCC was poised to be a leader in communication education and to restructure Communication at SBCC as a social science.
We had a dean, Dr. Elaine Cohen, who understood what we wanted to do, recognized our vision, and helped us get the resources and hire the faculty to make it happen. There were two major developments during this time: 1) the creation of the Communication Laboratory (eventually in the new Business/Communication Building), and 2) the curriculum development that transitioned us into a Communication department and the Social Science Division.
The Communication Laboratory. The Communication Lab was my baby, born in an office next to the old television studio with one camcorder (first Beta, then VHS tapes) and volunteer staffing. SBCC supported my research into other labs across the state, and as we expanded operations, class assignments and student support, we were well-positioned to be included in the new Business/Communication Center, where dreams of support for all the oral communication classes were fulfilled in an expansive laboratory that evolved with the technology and research needs of our expanding curriculum. I chaired our department for eight years which included the times when we moved into that building and lab.
Curriculum Development. Our vision for the future of the department involved extensive curriculum additions. Like a few other SBCC faculty, I had a spouse at UCSB (also in Communication), so I was aware of visionary changes in that department, too. As UCSB developed their undergraduate communication major, we carefully planned our curriculum additions to allow our students who wanted to major in communication (and transfer to UCSB and other four-year schools) to complete their lower division requirements at SBCC. Introduction to Communication, Communication Theory, and Communication Research Methods thus joined our expanding courses, as well as revamped courses in Mass Media and Society and Intercultural Communication. We were not just about majors, of course; we developed specialized courses to serve students with diverse needs (e.g., ESL students, dental assisting students) and continued to refine our general education curriculum to serve ALL the students at SBCC.
In addition to teaching and department service, I served on the SBCC Academic Senate and led the Classroom Research Project. I was active in the National Communication Association, including leadership of the Human Communication and Technology Division; I had numerous presentations at both national and regional conventions; a number of them detailed the development and maintenance of the Communication Laboratory at SBCC. I authored books and student manuals; I continue to serve on an editorial board and author an introductory text for the field: Real Communication. I estimate that I taught over ten thousand students during my 30 years at SBCC—and I keep in touch with a number of them even today. I am grateful for a satisfying, productive career at SBCC.