On Wednesday, April 26, the Colorado State University Alumni Association honored Dr. Abby Veliquette, special faculty in the department of Communication Studies, with a 2017 Best Teacher Award. The awards were announced in early April. Veliquette is one of six recipients from across the university.
In a recent interview, Veliquette commented on her good fortune to do work she loves. “Being honored for that is a wonderful surprise,” she said. She has taught a variety of communication courses, from public speaking and professional communication, to virtual workplace communication and conflict management, for 12 years.
Veliquette received her master’s in communication studies from Colorado State University in 2007. Two years later she returned to CSU to earn a doctorate in organizational learning, performance, and change from the School of Education. She graduated in 2013. Throughout both degrees Veliquette worked in organizational leadership for a nonprofit – 10 years in all. Her goal: become an organizational consultant.
In short order she would do just that: help organizations improve their leadership, communication, and conflict management. But she also had the opportunity to teach public speaking for the communication studies department while she was earning her doctorate and needed the work. Teaching wasn’t her primary passion, and truth be told, she was somewhat uncomfortable in the classroom. But she kept at it.
After she earned her doctorate and had the chance to teach communication studies courses related to her organizational expertise, Veliquette started to feel at ease as a teacher. “Once I brought my full self to the classroom, I noticed a dramatic shift in my comfort level and thus in the quality of my teaching,” she said.
For years Veliquette’s teaching style was driven by misconceived notions of professional and authoritarian boundaries that she had to keep. To some degree the relatedness she felt to the course content influenced her comfort level in the classroom. When she began teaching courses in which she had real life experiences, she noticed a shift. What began mattering to her as a teacher was being real and relatable.
“I’ve found that when I bring my stories and experiences, the connection with students is even greater and our conversations are even better,” Veliquette said. “The theories and research I study as a teacher help me be a better organizational consultant. And likewise, bringing organizational examples to the classroom helps bring to life the theories and research that I’m teaching.”
To that point, department chair Dr. Greg Dickinson says that “Abby exhibits the best of the teaching in Communication Studies. She infuses the classroom with her deep knowledge of communication and her wide professional and personal experiences.”
Looking back on her own former standout teachers, Veliquette said, “I remember them caring about me, getting to know me personally, recognizing my potential, and encouraging that. What stood out to me is that they connected to me on a personal level, not just as a teacher. I think when I was able to break through that personal boundary that’s when I felt better about my teaching.”
Veliquette’s students have taken notice. “She’s so kind and compassionate towards her students,” said Tommy Clarkin, junior, about Veliquette when he learned she has won a best teacher award. “She cracks jokes here and there, isn’t afraid to pull real life examples from her life about the material, and actually cares about what she’s teaching and if her students are learning.” Clarkin, a communication studies major, has taken three courses from Veliquette.
“Dr. Veliquette wants us to be successful in her class, in our degree, and our life,” echoed former student and department alumna Kayla Wong (’16). “She challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone. Which is something I take with me to graduate school and beyond.”
Veliquette commends her communication studies colleagues and the department as a whole for the value placed on excellence in teaching, not just research and publishing. “I feel grateful to be a part of a department that expects and supports quality teaching in the classroom,” she said.
Veliquette is the third faculty of the Department of Communication studies to receive the CSU Alumni Association Best Teacher Award. She joins Dr. Eric Aoki (2012 recipient) and Dr. Greg Dickinson (2011 recipient).