Joanne Keyton

Joanne Keyton

School of Communication

Face to Face with...


Joanne Keyton

Joanne Keyton


Professor,
Communication Studies,
University of Kansas
 
B.A., Western Michigan University , 1983
 
Joann, after leaving WMU, you received your M.A. and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and went on to teach at respected institutions of higher learning in Alabama, Tennessee, and Kansas. What about your Communication studies experience at Western put you on that track?

Before I came to WMU, I'd taken classes at a couple of different junior colleges and universities. But when I got to Western, it was the first time I felt like I had found a university "home." It was the first time I was encouraged, where faculty paid attention to my potential; the first time anyone said, "There is more than a college education in your future." It changed my life.

You see, I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I came from a tradition of people who worked in retail and trades. I had no role models for becoming a professor. In fact, I had no idea what graduate school was. As a nontraditional student - working two jobs and going to school - I was used to taking the classes that fit into my schedule to get the credits I needed. To have faculty member like Jim Jaksa take me aside after one class and say, "You're way beyond this. What classes are you taking?" was a brand new experience. I always say that I went university shopping, stumbled onto WMU, and got lucky!

So how do you use that experience today?

I try to do the same with my students now - to recognize potential, to encourage, to challenge. You know, a college education today is the same as a high school education was in years past. It's the basic requirement; it's expected. And when something becomes an expectation, it becomes less special.

But as a product of public higher education, I take being educated in a public system very seriously. The public investment in education is made so that graduates can give back to society, to create social capital that will contribute to the greater good. So I insist students take higher level classes, the way Jim Jaksa and Steve Rhodes challenged me. And I take students with me into the community when I do training and development with nonprofit organizations. United Way, American Cancer Society, local charities - they have the same organizational needs as businesses but no money to invest. So when I give my time to these nonprofits, it's a way to give back to the community and give students a role model for their professional contributions later.

 

School of Communication
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo MI 49008 USA
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