David V Lapakko

Associate Professor

Foss Center 178
CB 88

Being in the communication field, sometimes people ask me, “Communication: what’s to know about that? I communicate all the time!”  Well, if simply talking is “communicating,” then I suppose that’s true.  But of course, such a mindset doesn’t address the issue of whether we communicate well–and the reality is that most of us don’t. (I’m afraid that includes me, more often than I like to admit!)

Half of all marriages end in divorce. Millions of employees are miserable because of the communication climate within their workplace. Huge cultural rifts exist in our world that help explain the violence we currently confront on an international scale. And I think we’ve all heard people give public presentations (sermons, lectures, sales talks, etc.) that cried out for more skillful execution. In short, effective communication is an important part of everyday life, and it’s my job to enable students to interact with the world in a more enlightened, capable, and credible manner.

The communication major at Augsburg is designed to develop both awareness and skill in all contexts of communication: in interpersonal and small group settings, in organizational life, across cultures, in public speaking situations, and with the use of electronic media. I am a generalist in the field and regularly teach the following courses: Introduction to Communication Studies, Argumentation, Persuasion, Intercultural Communication, and Organizational Communication. I also teach a course on the Ethics of Communication in Augsburg’s Master of Arts in Leadership Program.  Occasionally, I also teach Public Speaking and Interpersonal Communication.  I’m also the only one in our department who, in a distant past life, taught high school for a few years–so secondary education licensure issues often wind up on my lap.  Finally, I am Augsburg’s Director of Forensics–if you like the idea of going to college speech tournaments, have I got a program for you!  (See our separate page about the Speech Team.)

I’m a Minnesota boy. With the exception of a year and a half in Los Angeles, I’ve lived my entire life in the Twin Cities. Debate and journalism are a significant part of my background. I’ve traveled to Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, and much of Europe. And if you’re looking for an opening conversation topic, I’m into distance running—although you wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I have finished six marathons and more than thirty half–marathons. (I like to eat as much as I like to run!)

Since 2013, I’ve been involved in an event called the “Great American Think-Off.”  It’s an annual philosophy competition sponsored by the New York Mills, MN Cultural Center.  In 2013, I was one of four finalists on the question of whether it’s better to “stick to your principles or being willing to compromise.”  And in 2015, I was honored with the title of “America’s Greatest Thinker,” winning the gold medal on the question, “Does technology free us or trap us?”  Of course, I am really not America’s Greatest Thinker (that’s their title, not mine), but it makes for a good conversation starter.  Indeed, if I am America’s Greatest Thinker, America is in deep trouble!  : )


  • B.A. Macalester College
  • M.A. University of Minnesota
  • Ph.D. University of Minnesota


I’ve published a textbook in argumentation and critical thinking.  Now in its 4th edition, it’s titled Argumentation: Critical Thinking in Action, published by Kendall Hunt.  (The first three editions were published by iUniverse.)  Although my main focus at Augsburg has been on teaching and learning, I also have published articles, theses, and/or convention papers with the following titles:

•  “A Plain-Spoken Response to the Communibiological Challenge”

•  “Communication is 93 Percent Nonverbal: An Urban Legend Proliferates”

•  “Three Cheers for Language: A Closer Examination of a Widely Cited Study of Nonverbal Communication”

•  “The Demise of Persuasive Speaking as a Contest Event”

•  “Sanctioned ‘Cheating’ on Exams”

•  “Teaching at a Small Liberal Arts College: What Does a Ph.D. Have to Do With That?”

•  “Culture-Related Ethical Dilemmas in Teaching Communication Skills Courses”

•  “Sticks and Stones, Fists, Words, and Glances: We Dream of a Community Where Survivors of Abuse Can Speak Without Fear”

*  “Evaluating Speeches: What Standards Do We Use?”

•  “Debate Judging: From Mind to Ballot”

•  “The Concept of Choice: Its Implications for Theory and Research in Interpersonal Communication”

•  “Beliefs About ‘Good’ Public Speaking: A Study of Special Theories of Communication and the Degree to Which They Are Shared”

Well, that’s about as much as any sane person would want to read about me. But I encourage you to check out our department—and feel free to call or write any time! (Time to hit the old “back” button! Thanks for visiting.)