Written By: Nancy Wiser
During the first few nights of my graduate work at the University of Kentucky, I observed the other students. They seemed to know each other well and sounded more knowledgeable about the subject matter than I was.
I felt a little out of place. That’s unusual for me because I was blessed with parents who taught me to be comfortable with most everyone in most every place. But here, I was insecure.
I assumed most of these students were spending their days in the library and other classes. My days were different. I was working as a community relations director for a state psychiatric hospital, a position I earned through experience rather than education.
As an undergraduate, I majored in “undecided” for as long as I could before finally choosing a degree in Recreation and Park Administration, with a minor in English. I knew I loved to write. I knew I loved organizing people and experiences, but I didn’t know what to do with that. I began my professional life as a recreation therapist in mental health facilities.
That was, until I discovered communication is a profession. I immediately switched from another master’s program and earned a master’s degree in Mass Communication by taking one or two courses per semester. Along the way, I learned theories, concepts and approaches to communication that I would never have been exposed to otherwise.
One of the more fascinating theories is the Spiral of Silence. It’s such an interesting phenomenon: the more people are quiet about a topic, the more taboo it becomes to broach the subject. The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements show what can happen when you break the silence.
Another concept, which I wrote extensively on, is Cognitive Dissonance. It refers to the inner conflict we experience when we hold contradictory attitudes, beliefs or behaviors regarding a person or thing. It’s what many people feel when they learn their elected official’s misdeeds. They may believe he or she is a good person and well-intentioned, but they are conflicted because the official’s behavior tells them otherwise.
When we understand how people think and feel in various situations, and how that impacts their behavior, we are better positioned to communicate well.
It’s especially important to me as a strategic thinker. I can’t leave much to chance. Rather, I devise best routes (I love Waze!), plan vacation agendas, and can spend hours thinking about out how to position a company for the best opportunities. Understanding human behavior makes me a much better strategist.
For that, I thank the University of Kentucky. My coursework was challenging, partly due to its relevance to my work. I remember reading assigned articles and books and pausing to reflect on how this applied to something I was trying to accomplish for my employer. You can’t have a better education than that.
Recently, the College of Communication and Information selected me as the Outstanding Alumnus of the Year. I’m a little surprised at how gratifying it has been. Not so much for the honor itself, which is great, but for the opportunity to reengage with the College and realize the deep connection I have with the program.
Within a couple of weeks, I’ve met other alumni and faculty, and I’m looking forward to meeting more and supporting the College that helped me be a successful professional communicator.
In conclusion, I’ll share the morals of this story:
Thanks to my colleague and UK alumnus Lindsey Brady, who wrote a convincing nomination. And thanks to Dean Jennifer Greer and the entire University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information for the honor and such a joyful celebration.
Pictured: CI Dean Jennifer Greer & Nancy Wiser
Pictured: Nancy & DeAngelo Wiser
Pictured: Students at the Awards Ceremony celebrating the Wiser Way… with bubbles!