How Communication Scholars Think and Act

A Lifespan Perspective

by Julien C. Mirivel (Author)
Textbook X, 154 Pages
Series: Lifespan Communication, Volume 11


Every great scholar begins as a student. But what does it take to get there? And what is the journey like? This book explores the lifespan development of some of the best-known communication scholars in the United States. Grounded in 30 in-depth interviews, personal stories, and communication theory, the book reveals the nature of human development, the curvature of disciplinary thinking, and the values that drive communication professionals. With powerful examples from great thinkers and teachers such as Robert Craig, Valerie Manusov, and Gerry Philipsen, the book shows that communicating well is a slow, gradual awakening toward others. How Communication Scholars Think and Act is designed to inspire students and faculty alike to persevere in the face of setbacks, to learn about communication more deeply, and to improve human relationships across contexts. This is an ideal text for courses in communication theory, interpersonal communication, and introductory courses to the field. It is a must-read for anyone who wants to become a communication professional.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1. The Communication Professorate
  • Chapter 2. What Is the Nature of the Communication Professorate?
  • Chapter 3. How Do Communication Professors Grow?
  • Chapter 4. How Do Communication Professors View Teaching?
  • Chapter 5. How Do Communication Professors Think?
  • Chapter 6. What Do Communication Professors See and Hear?
  • Chapter 7. How Do Communication Professors Communicate Across their Career?
  • Chapter 8. What Behaviors Do Communication Professors Value?
  • Chapter 9. What Can We Learn From Communication Professors?
  • Appendix A: Semi-Structured Interview Schedule
  • Appendix B: Participants
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →


This book was made possible by the care, work, and dedication of many people. I’m grateful for Mary Savigar at Peter Lang who saw potential in an idea and encouraged me to transform it into a book project. I also am thankful to two of my graduate students at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Kristina Godfrey and Amanda Pasierb, who supported this project by conducting interviews, transcribing data, and more importantly for reflecting on these ideas with me.

I wrote this book while serving as Interim Chair in a department outside of my discipline. During that time, I was blessed to have Rocio Roles, a doctoral student in Criminal Justice, working with me as my research assistant. Rocio’s positive energy, work ethic, attention to details, and support for this project was simply amazing: thank you Rocio.

I also have a great amount of gratitude for all of the communication professors who participated in the study. Spending time in conversation with all of them was a gift in itself. I hope to have done justice to the similarities that exist among them and our common desire to improve the way people communicate with one another. A special thanks goes to Carol Thompson, Michael Kleine, and Allan Ward; three colleagues I admire who got the interviews started. ← ix | x →

I want to give a special thank you to my mother, Annick Vauthier, for providing her beautiful artwork for the cover of my first book and this one. Thank you, Maman, for giving life to the writing.

Writing a book is nice, but it is even better when you are surrounded by a loving family. My favorite conversations are always at home with my 2-year-old John Luke (or as I say it “Jean-Luc”), my 9-year-old Hugo, and my wonderful wife Meg, who believes in me always. Thank you for the laughs and the love, and for being in my life.

← x | 1 →

· 1 ·


On a dry fall day, I receive an e-mail from Lacie, a student at the university where I work. After greeting me, she writes: “I have to choose a minor to go with my psych degree and wanted to talk about some of the avenues with criminal justice that would coincide.” She adds, “possibly profiling or would that be through the police department? I have no idea about that.” In her last line before a nice “thanks,” she writes: “Just whenever you have time! Everyone keeps trying to push me towards social work, but I know that’s not for me.” Then, she signs off with “Have a wonderful day.” I love that, and I call Lacie immediately to set up a time to meet.

When we get together, she comes into my office, which is located on the 5th floor of a founding building on campus. We sit next to each other and I listen to see what she is after. In our conversation, she says she has not found her niche yet. She enjoys psychology, but she doesn’t seem convinced by it. She explains that she is introspective and introverted. She says, “I pay attention to the people around me and I wish the world could be better” and “I think a lot about how to do the right thing and I want to help people. I am sensitive to what people feel and do, and observant; and I want to be ethical.” As I am listening to Lacie, I can see bits and pieces of me and my colleagues in the Department of Speech Communication. ← 1 | 2 →

Lacie’s introversion reminds me of Carol and Gerald, who are gentle, attentive, powerfully sensitive, and who also need to regain energy on their own. She enjoys writing, meeting with people, and as she cued in the last line of her e-mail, wants to inspire people to be positive and kind. Lacie, I am beginning to see, needs to be a Communication Major—she would be happy there and surrounded by people who experience the world in similar ways, as the project in this book taught me. And that is exactly what I told her.

Seven days after our meeting, I receive another note from Lacie. “Well,” she wrote, “I am now a speech communication major.” “It became increasingly clear,” she adds, “where I belong.” By claiming her major, Lacie made the first step on living the life of a communication professional. In the next several years, she will take courses in interpersonal communication, organizational communication, ethics, and, of course, public speaking. She will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication and may continue on to earn a master’s or even a doctorate degree. She may even become an assistant professor, earn tenure, make contributions to ways of thinking that we have yet to imagine, and impact the lives of countless students. She alone will choose that path, but wouldn’t it be helpful if she could see what her professional life might be like? What challenges and blessings are part of it? And what makes it valuable, meaningful, and worth the effort? This book seeks to answer these questions and may help students such as Lacie to envision their future.

This is a book about the experiences of 30 accomplished scholars in the communication discipline. All of them are faculty members who have earned a PhD in the field of communication and have been teachers, scholars, and often administrators for at least 25 years after earning their doctorate. Together, the 30 faculty members who were interviewed have produced a tremendous amount of teaching, research, and service. All of them have taught many communication courses at all levels that cut across areas of study. Many have won distinguished awards in teaching, research, and service. Together, they have produced hundreds of books, thousands of journal articles and conferences presentations, and countless workshops. They have served as graduate coordinators, chairs of departments, deans of colleges, and presidents of professional associations. Eight have been presidents of the National Communication Association and two have been presidents of the International Communication Association. In short, these communication professors have been, and continue to be, incredibly productive. But this book is not about how to be productive, how to publish, or even how to teach better. It is about the natural development that unfolds for a person who is studying communication. ← 2 | 3 →

This book explores the journey of the “communication professorate,” a term I use to describe individuals who have been active in the academic side of the communication discipline throughout their lifespan. They have engaged their mind and body in reflecting about, and enacting, communication. Not only have they studied the domain as a student, but they have also dedicated themselves to the academic side of the communication discipline. Their daily work has been to teach others about communication, to write about its complexities and its beauty, and to serve in ways that embody its principles. The communication professorate is faithful to both the discipline and its ideals. The term “communication professorate,” then, encompasses the many roles of a professor: the scholar, the teacher, the servant, the thinker, the writer, the learner, as well as the advocate and the practitioner. Not all of these roles may be expressed as strongly, but they are nevertheless present. In the same way that a tennis player’s forehand may be stronger than their backhand, a communication professor might be a stronger scholar than a teacher. But, the communication professor still engages in both. The professors in this study excelled in many areas: many of them are outstanding teachers, accomplished researchers, and serve at all levels: their department, their college, their university, and their professional organizations. Most importantly, they have been engaged in the communication discipline for over 25 years.

The project of this book is to describe the nature of the communication professorate. How does the communication professorate think? How does their thinking change and develop over the lifespan? How have they changed as a teacher in the course of their career? What ideas or theoretical constructs have made an impact on the way they understand their field of study? What has happened to them as people? I also ask: How do communication professors communicate? What do they pay attention to and what do they value? In seeking answers to these questions, the book reveals the common core that connects all students of human communication and invites each of us to reach out and make contact.

To date, society knows very little about the lives of those responsible for educating its members about communication. Until this volume, the communication professorate itself also knew very little about itself other than perhaps ad hoc anecdotes shared at conferences. This volume offers a description of the communication professorate for all those whose lives have been, and are, touched and shaped to varying degrees by the communication professorate. This includes students of communication, especially those who aspire to join ← 3 | 4 → the professorate, all those who read the work of the communication professorate, as well as the professorate itself.


X, 154
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (February)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. X, 154 pp.

Biographical notes

Julien C. Mirivel (Author)

Julien C. Mirivel (Ph.D., University of Colorado at Boulder) is Associate Professor of Speech Communication and Interim Associate Dean at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Title: How Communication Scholars Think and Act
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165 pages