Communication Center staff attend national conference

Communication Center students and faculty present original scholarship at National Association of Communication Centers conference

NACC 2020 Virtual Presentation Daisy

Communication Center students, faculty, and collaborators presented original scholarship at the 19th annual National Association of Communication Centers (NACC) national conference March 27-28, 2020. While originally set to be hosted at the Clemson University Communication Center, the conference was able to proceed virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Five different research projects were accepted to NACC, representing the scholarly efforts of ten different undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty.

The theme for this year’s gathering, Communication Center Family: Working Together to Build Strong Voices, offered participants an opportunity to share their experiences with their communication center, their coworkers, and those that they are able to serve. At James Madison University, the communication center consultants who were able to participate in this year’s conference, were encouraged by the theme to respond to calls for engagement by pushing their understandings of what their experiences mean, while in our physical center, and in the midst of moving towards online appointments. The JMU Communication Center’s engagement aligns with the university’s  with the three facets; engaged learning, civic engagement and community engagement.

Our very own communication center consultants, Gabrielle Richardson, Helen Nguyen and Miranda Tonkins presented their project via zoom on March 27. The three worked together to demonstrate communication centers and public speaking realm as a heterotopia, analyzing identity, power shifts and speaking abilities under peer guidance. With the absence of faculty, the role of the communication space morphs into a representation of inverted power dynamics and relationships in classrooms, thus shifting identities for the students. In a communication center appointment, students simultaneously take on the role of the faculty by spearheading the conversation, while no longer worrying about the pressure of grades and judgement. Henceforth, the consultants take on the role of the faculty member, providing a unique space of engagement and vulnerability in experimentation, constructive critiquing and feedback mentorship. Additionally, the student seeking assistance experiences a boost in confidence due to the power shift, allowing them to feel more comfortable and perform better outside of the classroom gaze.

“I chose this topic, because I had been debating about heterotopia for JMU’s debate team. I had notice a lot of the areas cross-applied to the communication center,” said consultant Gabrielle Richardson.

With the hard work of our communication consultants, there was obvious disappointment regarding the moving of the conference online. “We were all definitely upset that it was no longer in person,” said consultant Gaby Hirsh. “It would have been a great networking event, having the experience on the panel, as well as a chance to bond with our coworkers outside of the center.”

During these unprecedent times, we are incredibly proud of those who were able to still present their hard work. For many, it was a very cool experience to be able to make connections with other members of communication centers and their members across the nation.

Graduate student, Miranda Tonkins, who has attended the NACC before, said she was nervous about not being able to have those “special bonding moments” with other members. However, Tonkins was greatly surprised to be able to take with other individuals before and after each session, as conversations continued about future endeavors, personal experiences and frustrations about life in quarantine.

“Overall, I think we were just glad that we were able to still present the panel that we put together,” said Hirsh. “While nothing about the virtual conference could have been changed, I am very pleased with how it all went.”

Research Presentations:

The Intersection between Communication Centers and Navigating University Mandated Requirements: the MREST – Miranda Tonkins, Brittany Loving, Tony Mascarenhas, Paul Mabrey, Gaby Hirsch, and Kathy Clarke 

Queering the Communication Center – Rachel Mangan

The Communication Center and Public Speaking Realm as a Heterotopia: A Discursive Study on the Role of Reversal in Establishing the Student-to-Student Relationship – Gabby Richardson and Helen Nguyen

HIP Tutoring: Exploring Communication Center tutoring as a high-impact practice – Paul Mabrey 

Coaching Students with Anxiety Disorders: Strategies and Resources for Promoting Engagement – Paul Mabrey and Daisy Breneman.

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Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2020

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