Happy Friday! Here we are at the end of the week, the end of the semester’s classes, the end of the school year’s classes. Wee hoo!

Hey, I asked for anything you all wanted to share so let me start with some of those notes.

First from Amanda:

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Rocky Mountain Communication Association’s conference, which was held a few weeks ago at Regis University in Denver.  The theme this year was “Make Communication Great Again,” which was interpreted in a variety of ways through the panels and presentations, some of which focused on political demonstrations, southern/confederate counter-memorials, pop cultural representations of marginalized groups, and creative strategies for teaching Public Speaking. Many CSU Comm. Studies alumni participated in the conference, and the keynote address was presented by alumna Tracey Owens Patton, who is currently a professor teaching courses about race, ethnicity, gender, and rhetoric at the University of Wyoming. Her message about the responsibility and necessity of using our communication knowledge and skills to help “make communication great again” during the current socio-political climate was very powerful, and I wish more people could’ve heard it!  I highly encourage members of our department to attend RMCA in the future.

And then there is this from Allison:

The department is happy to sponsor a week-long summer writing retreat for all faculty and graduate students July 23-27, 2018. The retreat will take place Monday through Friday (8:30 am – 4:30 pm) in the Lory Student Center. Coffee and breakfast will be provided each day, as well as snacks throughout the morning and afternoon. Lunch will be on your own Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and sponsored by the department Wednesday and Friday.

In addition to concentrated writing sessions each morning and afternoon, we will host several writing workshops designed (1) to help attendees set goals for their week (Monday morning); (2) discuss strategies for working on large-scale projects such as master’s theses, dissertations, or books (Wednesday lunch); and (3) plan out a realistic writing schedule for the fall semester (Friday lunch). We will celebrate our individual and collective successes with a department-sponsored happy hour on Friday afternoon from 4:30-6:30 pm.

We have a few remaining spots, so please email Allison Prasch (Allison.Prasch@colostate.edu) if you’d like to sign up. In order for everyone to benefit fully from the retreat, we ask all participants to commit to attending the event in full.

And from Jordin and the recently formed Rhetoric Society of America Student Chapter:

The newly created CSU Rhetoric Society of America Student Chapter, or, as they call it “the rhetoric club, had their first official meeting last week where they spoke about possible projects to work on over the summer. Some ideas included frequent meetings to write, read, and talk about rhetoric and develop a plan of action to turn a member’s research into praxis within the community. Gosh isn’t that exciting?!

Speaking of RSA, I have attached here a list of RSA participants generated by Carly as well as an invitation to the Graduate Open house we are sponsoring with our friends in Utah.

What a cool community we have!

A couple of other things.

Did you see the wonderful article Carol wrote about communication and work and the scholarship of Elizabeth, Kit, and Ziyu? Well, if you haven’t check it out here.

Some of you were at the first gen reception on Wednesday evening. Planned and executed by Elizabeth and the undergraduate committee, we had 10 students at the reception connecting with faculty, telling bits of their story, finding a bit more of a home in the big department that we are. As I mentioned last night at the end of year party, this reception is one small bit of our larger plans to eliminate achievement gaps in retention, persistence, and graduation. Already a university leader in these marks, we will become the gold standard at CSU and among all institutions like us in retention, persistence, and graduation rate.

These rates—these numbers—are somewhat bloodless ways of expressing something more human: that we are and going to become welcoming and inclusive to all of our students; we will be a home base for student and life success.

There are other numbers and facts from the year to report:

  • There were 10 awards and 33 publications listed in the Friday emails from Aug. 2017 to now.
  • We are on track to teach over 18,000 student credit hours AY 18. Doing some very rough math, suggests that we taught something on the order of 6,000 students. What????
  • We host 645 Majors, with graduate students 673 full-time students and with minors 702 folks that we are helping secure degrees this spring.
  • We have hired a new faculty member, Liz Parks.
  • Once again, the CPD has been central to making Fort Collins and Colorado a better place to live.
  • The ACT Human Rights Film Festival engage nearly 1,675 people from the university and the community in great filmmaking, great conversations, and birthday cake.
  • Over the course of this year, we reached hundreds of people through our Facebook, Instagram, and webpage presence.
  • With the help of these touches, we raised just over $109,000 from 185 people and organizations.
  • The ACT Human Rights Film Festival just received a $10,000 grant from the city’s FortFund.
  • CMST students have, on average, the highest starting salary when they leave the university of all CLA students.

So let’s pause here for a moment and contemplate what we have and who we are.

We are remarkable teachers, scholars, and community members. We weave our commitments to undergraduate and graduate students, with our passion for scholarship and creativity, and our engagement with our many communities local and flung across the globe.

We are truly remarkable. I believe we are among the most consistently successful departments in the nation.

Just to add one more point: I stayed at Vino for a couple of hours after our party to get some work done. Ryan, one of the long-term employees there who knows I often drink Breckenridge bourbon and I take it neat, asked me how the party went. I told him I am deeply privileged to host a part for our community because all of you are so amazing.

He told me that the staff all love our department party the best. We are, he said, the most fun. The fun really matters!

But our successes are not enough. They never really are, are they?

I mentioned above, that we have committed ourselves in a serious way to close all achievement gaps among our undergraduate students. This initiative will take enormous work. It will require many of us to reach out to undergraduates in new and different ways, it may lead to changes in how we teach our classes and structure our curriculum.

But this commitment is just about right, don’t you think? If a student is admitted to CSU, someone has judged that person capable of succeeding here. Our job is to help the student succeed.

I think if any department can do this, if any department can make sure all students admitted regardless of their economic status, their experience with higher education, or their racial, ethnic, or national background can succeed, wouldn’t it be ours? Our commitment to good communication, our attention to diversity and difference, our engagement with the community around us all position us to be the leader on campus in this regard.

You will hear more about this over the next months and years.

Why is this so important?

Because what we teach and research is so important. I have gone on and on about the liberal arts before, haven’t I?

Former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin wrote in a recent NYT column that what prepared him for civic life was not the study of finance nor a deep learning in business models. Instead, it was learning, in a freshman class at Harvard, that there are no absolutely right answers. “Professor Demos,” Rubin writes “would use Plato and other great philosophers to demonstrate that proving any proposition to be true in the final and ultimate sense was impossible. I concluded that you can’t prove anything in absolute terms, from which I extrapolated that all significant decisions are about probabilities.”

And what is the ancient way of knowing that addresses most directly probabilities? Well that is rhetoric. Our discipline—whether figured as rhetorical studies, media studies, or communication studies—is at the heart of the effort to make good decisions when we don’t know for sure: which is always.

We are tasked, it seems to me, with the all-too-human task of moving forward when the future is unknown, of making relationships when we can’t be sure they will work out well, of building a world together whose (im)possibilities are deeply contingent not only on our own selves but on how we interact with each other and the material world around us.

So the work we do matters.

And if we can help more students more carefully engage this all-to-human task of making meaning in a nearly meaningless world, well we will accomplish something great.

No, we already are doing this: we are doing something deeply important.

Folks, good luck over the course of finals week. Good luck getting yourselves and your students through this semester. Some of you will join me at CLA commencement (9:00 AM Sunday morning), others will go to graduate commencement. We will celebrate the ending of one year. And the commencing of all the things that come next.

Have a wonderful weekend!