Communication Department, 1977-2004
When I arrived at SBCC in 1977, departments of Speech around the country were morphing into departments of Communication. Scholarship in the field increasingly looked beyond rhetoric and public address, studying the way people interact in everyday life: at work, in close relationships, and among members of different cultures to name a few dimensions.
It was (usually) great fun to help the department move in this new direction. My early responsibilities included expanding offerings in interpersonal and small group communication, and developing a new course in business and professional communication. In the following years, we added courses in intercultural communication, mass communication, and communication theory and research methods. Thanks in great part to Janice Peterson, we didn’t ignore the traditional offerings in public speaking and argumentation/debate during that transitional time. Janice was also the driving force in creating and growing the student Speech Tournament — still an annual event that draws a full house.
Material changes reflected the department’s growth and evolution. In the late 70’s, we taught all our classes in a pair of cramped classrooms tucked in the bowels of the Drama-Music building. The entire faculty was crammed into two tiny offices. I recall us being thrilled to get our very own used IBM Selectric typewriter, and later sharing a single Apple LC computer. Mary Wiemann developed the prototype of the Communication Lab, housed in a decommissioned TV studio and stocked with hand-me-down recording equipment.
Today’s faculty, facilities, and course offerings offer clear evidence of the Communication department’s evolution. This wouldn’t have happened without the backing of President Peter MacDougall, who supported important staffing changes and Dean Elaine Cohen, who understood and helped us realize our aspirations. On a personal note, I remain grateful to John Romo for helping me strike a balance between the mutually reinforcing activities of textbook writing and teaching.