Communication Connection

Friends of Com Newsletter

Faculty Profiles

Double Time

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

By William Smith

Susan Lanier

Instructors by day, a magazine editor, an American Sign Language interpreter, and a stand-up comedian by night, Shannon Gentry, Susan Lanier, and Brooklin Green all lead interesting lives as the unsung heroes of the Department of Communication Studies.

Despite how different their jobs sound, being an instructor is not the only thing they have in common. Lanier has been working hard to help UNCW for almost 20 years. “When I started here in 1997 it was kind of like ‘Hey do you want to try this do you want to teach a class?’ And I was like,” she gasps, “YEAH! That’d be fun.’ And it kind of went from there.”

The theme continued as Gentry said she was just applying to as much as she could, “putting herself out there” was a phrase she and Green both used, though Green’s approach was a little more forward with a call directly to the chair. They also share an incredible work ethic and love for students and teaching, as well as being valuable resources, mentors and friends to students.          

Susan Lanier was the only instructor I hadn’t met before, but once I got into her work I was baffled at my ignorance. She teaches two classes concerning communication with the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as an online course and works with the school as an interpreter. Her classes go in depth about hearing disorders, instruments to help, and testing to determine hearing loss, as well as an open space for students to ask questions and pick the subject matter. She also works with Disability Services by interpreting for students, faculty and really anyone connected to the campus. Most impressive are her efforts to collaborate with the Foreign Language Department to create a new certificate or minor program for deaf and hearing loss studies. It is clear she cares about her students and their experience here at UNCW, and is always willing to help.          

I sat down with Ms. Gentry one evening before her Writing as Strategic Communication class and began to discuss her career as a writer and instructor. She took as many opportunities as she could on her journey from being a research assistant to Peace Corps volunteer to finally landing as the editor of Focus on the Coast magazine and now UNCW instructor. She enjoys being a part-time instructor because she has time to do what she loves, as well as “being a part of other people’s learning process.” Most apparent is how much Gentry cares about our education and making it as applicable as possible. “I enjoy sharing my experience in ways that will help you all get jobs.” She continued.          

Finally, I sat down with Ms. Green. Her love for teaching and spreading education, as well as the interactive, safe and open environment she keeps in her classroom, leaves an impression on all of her students. Every conversation with her leaves you feeling better than before. Her resume goes on for pages; with performances and workshops all over the country, she has even appeared on Nick at Night’s Worlds Funniest Mom in America 3. She has founded schools and created programs for comedy, been in comedy troupes across the country and has been teaching for years. Her style of teaching is unlike any other, with games, discussion and student teaching. As I asked her advice on my own journey to becoming an instructor she replied, “Never forget what it was like to be in their shoes, never forget what it was like to be a student, and remember what that felt like.”

Their work and impact on the department does not go unnoticed. “We are very fortunate to have some great faculty who just happen to work part time for us. They often have a great combination of professional experience and a passion for teaching and connecting with our students” stated Dr. Olsen, chair of the department. He noted that they are often the “Welcome Committee” of the department since they often teach COM 101 and other introductory courses.           

In the Department of Communication Studies, we have many amazing part time instructors that also have astounding careers in fields students might pursue one day. It is hard for the part-time instructors to get exposure to the students so I encourage you to reach out to them. They have tons of knowledge, they are easy to talk to, and they look forward to meeting you.