Philadelphia: The Land of Communication Love

By Britney Witherspoon

Walking through Tehama Hall’s doors for the first time fall 2013, I never thought I’d be on a 747 to Philadelphia, to speak on a panel at the 2016 National Communication Association convention.

Yet, there I was – traveling alone and reviewing a vignette I had written on my leadership trials and errors –I felt no fear for my trip, only excitement for what was unfolding.

Dually, though, I felt the deepest amount of alarm and instability. See, I was flying to the other side of the country after voting and receiving the results of the most precarious election of my adult lifetime.

Whoa, how’d I get here? With a little encouragement from Janell Bauer and a little help from the Department of Journalism & Communications.

The National Communication Association’s mission is to advance the wide-ranging discipline of communication. This year’s theme was “Communication’s Civic Calling.” Bauer first attended the annual conference after finishing her master’s degree in organizational communication. She has attended nearly every year since.

During my first semester with Tehama Group Communications, Bauer recognized my passion for feminism and female leadership. One day she asked if I’d be interested in joining her on a faculty-student panel. Of course, I seized the opportunity. After some strategic planning and paperwork, we had the green light to go across the country. The Department of Journalism and Public Relations worked its magic to fund my travel through an award made possible by alumni donations.

Day 1: No time for pause, only action

After getting in late Wednesday, I woke up Thursday morning for a strategizing brunch with Bauer before our “Living Feminist Education” panel later that afternoon. I studied and wrote out our key points, all the while feeling the pulsing knowledge all around me in the crowded Marriott that was hosting the conference.

Later, I made my way up the escalators to the Grad School Fair. It was hosted in a room maybe twice the size of the Mac Lab and was packed wall-to-wall with tables of colleges campaigning for their respective master’s or Ph.D. programs. I spoke with a prominent professor from Texas A&M University, as well as a current master's student pursuing communication studies. I also ventured to the Mizzou table, which represented its well-known Missouri School of Journalism.

Finally, it was time to speak on our panel. Each panel member shared individual experiences, including designing a course collaboratively between students and educators, being silenced in the classroom because of educator conduct, and of inclusive mentorship by and for female leaders in educational institutions. Our audience was interactive and all commentary was expressed in support and encouragement.

Later that evening I was invited to attend an informal mixer for James Madison University, where Bauer formerly taught. They were a welcoming folk with nice sweaters and challenging questions – I left there beaming about the possibilities before me.

Day 2: Life is for Learning

A soy latte in hand, I took an Uber to the Marriott Friday morning to see Bauer present on a panel regarding the importance of recognizing and navigating student intersectionality. The hot topic of conversation during the presentation was fostering a learning environment that communicates safety while also understanding what it means to be an ally.

After venturing out for lunch at Molly Malloy’s in the Reading Marketplace (and meeting the owner’s wife by complete happenstance) I returned to the Marriott and caught a final panel.

I had the honor that evening of being cramped into two more rooms of intelligent humans.

First, Bauer introduced me to nearly the entire room of University of Colorado, Boulder faculty – people she worked with during her Ph.D. program at the university. Larry Frey gave me his insight on social justice work and offered me access to his graduate school workshop of tricks and tips.

Second, I went with a group of University of Colorado, Boulder graduate students to a Wake Forest mixer. Wake Forest is a private college that has a highly regarded graduate program. I received valuable information and some top-notch hors d’oeuvres.

Day 3: When in Philly

Before I caught my flight back to the West Coast, I made sure to have a tourist morning. My roommate, a kick-ass master’s student from University of Nevada, Reno, and I ventured out to get bagels.

We parted ways after getting turned around in downtown, and I headed to the Liberty Bell. It only took a 15-minute wait and a great chat with some visiting Canadians to get inside the doors of the mini-museum.

As I cracked into some JOUR 211, “Women, Men and the Media,” grading on my flight home I could only think about how fortunate and incredible it was that I had the chance to go on an adventure like this.

Britney Witherspoon is a PR option journalism major who plans to graduate from Chico State in spring 2017. During fall 2016 she has worked as student assistant for Bauer in the large-lecture JOUR 211 class, as well as being an account executive and public relations director for Tehama Group Communications.