Date of this Version
Western Journal of Communication 65:4 (Fall 2001), pp. 442–445.
As I have listened to, and recently reread the addresses of our WSCA Presidents, I have been moved and challenged by their words and their wisdom. And their speeches are challenging. They have exhorted us to embrace quality discourse, to welcome change, to maintain the centrality of communication in the university of the 21st century, and to avoid becoming out-of-touch whiners. I wondered, what can I add to their words in my own address?
Over this past year, I have thought about my life as a communication professor. How are my times similar and different from those who have come before me? I was born the year Disneyland opened. During my formative years, I watched movies and TV showing the life of the professor. This was a person, usually a man, who enjoyed great respect, worked in a large book-lined office with comfortable leather furniture, and lectured to enraptured students coming to class after the pep rally. Students lined up after class to gain just one more pearl of wisdom. These professors appeared to have ample time to think and write while smoking a pipe, and they left campus by 5:30 PM in a sporty English touring car, arriving to a spacious, comfortable home.
When I compare this 1950s vision of the professorate to my life, and I suspect, to your lives as well, at first glance, reality seems much different. And, in fact, when I gather together with academics, we seen to regale each other, not with stories of how wonderful our careers are, rather, with those things we wish were different or better. The theme seems to be that we are tired of trying to do more with less—to teach more, to adapt to changing economic and political environments, to publish more, and to cope with all the challenges my Presidential predecessors mentioned. In so many ways, it does feel like we are always expected to do more and do it with less.
And yet, when I sit quietly and talk one-on-one with communication professors, I have yet to meet a single person who has told me they hate their job. They’ll complain all right, and I’ll join in with them. Yet, when we think about it, I suspect that most of us could not imagine a life that we would love as well as being a professor. For you students who are joining the professorate, it feels like your day cannot come soon enough.
Why do we love what we do so much? Searching for an answer, I picked up the trusty WSCA convention program and thumbed through it. And, there I found my answer, not in the Presidential addresses, nor from the compelling, if esoteric, titles of convention papers, but rather from another event on the WSCA program. In fact, this event will take place just a few minutes from now, here at the WSCA luncheon—the Distinguished Service Award ceremony. I know that for many of us, besides the Sock Hop, this is our favorite part of the WSCA convention. Why? Perhaps because we enjoy the opportunity to look back on the careers of some extraordinary people. We get a vision of the academic we wish to be. When we look at the winners of the Distinguished Service Award each year, I believe that what we see are people who are not focusing on doing more with less. Rather, what these precious colleagues have in common is that they are people who are doing more with more!