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Faculty Feature: Kristen Chamberlain

chamberlainWhat’s it like to transition from a large college in a small city to a small college in a large city?

According to Kristen Chamberlain, the newest addition to the Speech Communication Department, it’s great.

“I really love it here,” she says. “I love that it’s small. Every single person I’ve met says, ‘Welcome to Augsburg.’ It’s nice to come to a place where not only are you given the things you need to succeed, but you are also appreciated for what you are doing.”

After graduating from a high school class of 45 in Velva, North Dakota, Chamberlain headed to North Dakota State University in Fargo, where she enrolled in a “Direct to Doctorate” program that allowed her to begin her PhD program two days after getting her bachelor’s degree. Her focus was mass communication and speech theory and journalism.

After 17 semesters straight, including summers, she is now the youngest faculty member in the department’s history.

Asked how she decided to become a professor, Chamberlain says, “I started in the communication major, but I decided about halfway through that what I wanted to do was be a professor. Taking my media classes, I realized that I was very critical of it. Rather than being a part of it, I wanted to be outside looking in at it. I want to look at what is going on and make some observations that would make a difference rather than contribute to the status quo.”

One unique feature of her courses is that each has a service-learning component. In Public Speaking, two speeches address social issues that a student explores through ten hours of service. In Introduction to Communication Studies, students are also required to complete ten hours of service and then apply an organizational culture theory to their experience and write a case study.

When asked what students can expect from Speech Communication at Augsburg, Chamberlain answered, “Small faculty. You’ll get to know us. We all really care about being approachable to our students.” The department employs five full-time faculty members, including one full-time film professor. Chamberlain has capped her public speaking class at 20 students “I have time to work with my students one-on-one on their speeches.”

“I believe that if you came into Communication Studies here, you could do pretty much anything,” Chamberlain says. “We have a really strong core set of classes and a really excellent set of tracks you can specialize in. They’re tracks that aren’t just theory, but things that you can actually go out and use.”

The eight tracks are: professional communication, organizational communication, supervisory management, human relations, marketing communication, public relations and advertising, mass communication and journalism, and graduate study. All majors are encouraged to compete in Augsburg’s intercollegiate forensics program, which Chamberlain now coaches.

“Augsburg is a really good place to come,” she says. “Minneapolis is an excellent place for making contacts. There aren’t only opportunities in the city, but there are opportunities to branch out. We even have a graduate who is currently writing speeches at the White House.”

“Augsburg is also a great choice because it is a diverse community, and especially because of our location,” Chamberlain continues. “Communication is not something that happens just between people who are like you. If you’re really going to be effective, not only in your personal life but also in your work life, it’s really important to have those kinds of experiences [with diverse people] and to learn how to navigate these kinds of situations.”

“We communicate every day, and we are bombarded by messages every day. It’s the nature of the world that we live in,” she says. “To talk about communication isn’t just to talk about speaking in front of a group or talking to another person–it’s media, and it’s all the messages around us. It’s every time you see an advertisement. Being a critical thinker and a critical consumer of messages is a skill.”

Chamberlain is developing an environmental communication course for the summer, which will explore issues such as messages surrounding ethanol. She also hopes to develop a gender communication course in conjunction with Augsburg’s Women’s Resource Center. “Our department is always thinking of new things for our students that are unique and exciting.”

To plan a visit to meet with a communication faculty member or sit in on a class, contact Admissions at 612-330-1001 or 1-800-788-5678.

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