December 8, 2019

Rao Presents on Speech Anxious Students at National Communication Association Conference

Professor of Communication Anand Rao

Anand Rao, Professor of Communication, presented last Friday at the National Communication Association conference held in Baltimore, MD. The title of his presentation was “Helping Speech Anxious Students Survive and Thrive” and was part of a panel about speech apprehension and the basic course. In the presentation, he discussed what UMW has done to help address communication apprehension for first-year students at UMW through the FSEM, as well as the special sections of COMM 205: Public Speaking that he has offered for highly apprehensive students. Anand reports that the panel had a great turnout–approximately 35 in attendance–and a wonderful discussion after the panel.

Anand Rao: Courageous Conversations

Anand Rao, professor of communications and director of the Speaking Intensive program and Speaking Center

Anand Rao, professor of communications and director of the Speaking Intensive program and Speaking Center

No topics are off-limits at Anand Rao’s dinner table. The communications professor and director of UMW’s Speaking Center said he encourages his four children – whom all have been members of debate teams – to share their opinions. He has one rule: they must be willing to defend their ideas and open to listening to others.

Rao brings this philosophy to all the courses he teaches at Mary Washington, which include public speaking, rhetoric, argumentation and social media, as well as the First-Year Seminar classes. “I hope my students bring a variety of different political, philosophical and social opinions to our class discussions because I want us to learn from each other,” he said. “That’s not possible if we all have the same perspectives.”

It’s also why he chose to participate in UMW’s Courageous Conversations series, a collection of videos featuring faculty exploring ideas of diversity and inclusion. Rao tackles the topic of free speech in the 21st century and discusses the role colleges and universities play in preparing students to engage in civil discourse in a polarized world.

“A university campus is a place where students are engaging in courageous conversations daily,” said Rao, who holds a B.A. in philosophy and an M.S. and Ph.D. in rhetoric and communications from the University of Pittsburgh. “This project demonstrates not just that we need to engage, but that we must learn how to do so in a respectful and professional way that helps us seek out the best answers. It reflects how we can collaboratively develop and test new and different ideas.”

 

 

Q: What brought you to Mary Washington?
A: I became acquainted with UMW when I visited the campus as an undergraduate when I was on Pittsburgh’s debate team. Though they were fierce competitors, I had great interactions with UMW students, who were bright, hard-working, energetic and motivated. Tim O’Donnell, who is a communications professor and now Associate Provost for Academic Engagement and Student Success, told me about the position in 2002. Because I held UMW in such high regard, I knew it was an opportunity that I wanted to explore.

Q: How do institutions of higher education find the balance between free speech and allowing inflammatory discourse on campus?
A: There are ideas that could be offensive to others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t consider them. We should critically engage those ideas, discuss what may make them offensive, and we should always be willing to engage in civil discourse. A college campus that doesn’t allow free speech isn’t really participating in the intellectual enterprise that we take pride in at Mary Washington. But in the same way you can’t shout “Fire!” in a public theater, you can’t encourage violence or harm toward others. Public safety is always a consideration. Our words have consequences and we should show concern for how our words impact others.

Q: What is the best part of your job?
A: I love helping students develop their own voice, particularly those who are apprehensive about public speaking. Through my role as director of the Speaking Center, I haven’t experienced anyone who we aren’t able to help speak confidently in front of an audience. We hear all the time from employers and graduate schools how prepared UMW students are to succeed.

Q: What role has social media played in creating conflicts and can it be instrumental in finding a way out of them?
A: There are reasons to be pessimistic, because the echo chamber reinforces the worst of your own ideas. But social media also provides great opportunities for reaching out of those silos in ways we were never able to do in previous generations.

Q: What is the one thing in your office that means the most to you?
A: I have a picture of my son, who is a sophomore at UMW, giving a speech outside of Harvard’s Widener Library, and a picture of my daughter debating the British National Debate team. I also have photos and art work by my younger son and daughter.

Q: What is one of your favorite Mary Washington memories?
A: When Congressman John Lewis spoke at commencement, right after the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. I took him to see the bust of James Farmer, and he shared stories about him and the work they did together.

Q: What are you currently reading or have read recently that inspired you?
A: I just started “When: the Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” by Daniel Pink, and I’m reviewing a variety of open educational resources for public speaking.

Rao Receives National Communication Service Award

Anand Rao, professor of communication, was awarded the 2018 Hobgood Service Award at the annual conference of the National Communication Association in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was recognized for “dedication to excellence, commitment to the profession, concern for others, appreciation of diversity, and vision of what could be.”  As past chair of the Communication Centers Division for NCA, he helped run the annual business meeting. In addition, he also served on a discussion panel titled “Communication at Play: Creating Strategic Partnerships between the Basic Course and First Year Experiences.” There he talked about UMW’s QEP/FSEM, how it serves as a basic communication course for new students, and how the Speaking Center helps to support the FSEM.

Rao Attends Meeting of Nationwide Faculty Governance Leaders

On Oct. 27, Anand Rao, professor of communication, vice chair of the Mary Washington’s University Faculty Council and president of the Faculty Senate of Virginia, attended a meeting of faculty governance leaders from across the country.

Rao participated in creating a National Council of Faculty Senates at the Austin, Texas event.

The National Council of Faculty Senates will help ensure various faculty senates nationwide play a coordinated, decisive role in university faculty members’ shared governance with their university administrations.

The Texas Council of Faculty Senates organized the daylong organizational meeting that attracted the faculty members to Austin, where they discussed plans to develop mission and vision statements, a constitution, and bylaws. Faculty senates advise university administrations and boards of trustees or regents on all matters of policy and decision-making that affect the faculty.

“Most associations in the United States have not only a statewide or a regional presence but also a national one,” said Trevor Hale, a professor of operations management at Texas A&M University and a convener of the meeting. “Therefore, we asked ourselves why not move beyond the state level to a national one.”

In welcoming the faculty members to Austin, Jim Woosley, president of the Texas Council of Faculty Senates and a professor of health and kinesiology at Texas A&M University, said that it was imperative that the voice of faculty members nationwide be well coordinated and presented in a meaningful and an effective way to university administrators and to broader audiences.

Attendees identified areas for immediate action. They included developing a database to support one another and to weigh in on evolving issues, creating a communication system with boards of regents or trustees, and identifying a medium for disseminating widely best practices in shared governance and in academic freedom.

Rao Represents University at Faculty Senate of Virginia, Presents at Conference

On Saturday, October 20, P. Anand Rao, Professor of Communication and Director of the Speaking Intensive Program and the Speaking Center, and Marcel Rotter, Associate Professor of German, represented the University of Mary Washington at the Faculty Senate of Virginia meeting held at Virginia Commonwealth University. Rao is currently serving as president of FSVA, and Rotter is serving as treasurer. They were joined by representatives from twelve other schools and discussed plans for Virginia Higher Education Advocacy Day, which will be held on January 10, 2019.

On Tuesday, October 23, Rao gave a presentation at the Assessment Institute Conference held in Indianapolis titled “Using Assessment Results to Re-Tool the First-Year Seminar.” Despite a 7 a.m. slot, there was a good turnout of 20+ persons and a very active discussion.

 

Rao Elected President of Faculty Senate of Virginia

P. Anand Rao, associate professor of communication and Director of the Speaking Intensive Program, represented the University of Mary Washington at the Faculty Senate of Virginia’s meeting at Longwood University on April 16. At that session, he was elected President of the FSVA for next year. This group includes representatives from the faculty senates and councils of schools across Virginia, including public, private, four- and two-year institutions.

Rao Publishes Piece in Communication Center Journal

P. Anand Rao, associate professor of communication and director of Speaking Intensive Program, recently co-authored with three colleagues at different institutions the piece “Strategies for Assessment in Communication Centers: Perspectives from Across the Field,” which was published in the new Communication Center Journalhttp://commcenters.org/content/05-journal/communication-center-journal-vol-1.pdf 

UMW to Host 2015 NACC Conference

The University of Mary Washington will host the 2015 National Association of Communication Centers Conference on April 17-18, giving professionals across the country the opportunity to share in research and discussion about communications centers.   Information and Technology Convergence Center The two-day session will take place at UMW’s  Information and Technology Convergence Center. The NACC conference, now in its 14th year, focuses on management and utilization of communication centers. The conference will feature more than 90 presenters from 25 different colleges and universities. More than 100 are expected to attend, including faculty, staff, and student consultants from communication centers. With the theme “Come Together at the Center,” keynote speaker Lauren Bell will discuss how communication centers can interact with other academic services and give tips on how to improve communication centers for students. Bell is a political science professor and dean of academic affairs at Randolph-Macon College. The conference will be a win-win for UMW and other colleges, according to Anand Rao, associate professor of communication, director of UMW’s Speaking Intensive Program and the Speaking Center, and planner for the 2015 conference. “Hosting the conference is a wonderful opportunity for the UMW Speaking Center consultants to engage and learn from colleagues from across the country,” said Rao. Registration information, directions and hotel reservations can be found on the conference website. For additional questions about the conference, contact Rao at arao@umw.edu.

Rao Presents at Assessment Institute

P. Anand Rao, associate professor of Communication and director of the Speaking Intensive Program and the Speaking Center, presented at the Assessment Institute conference in Indianapolis from Oct. 19-21 on using technology to assess oral communication skills. He discussed how UMW designed and conducted an assessment of oral communication skills over the last decade and provided guidance on best practices for assessment, including tips for using online tools for speech assessment.

Separation Anxiety (The Health Journals.Com) (Anand Rao)