Trudy Hanson to retire as WT Communication Department head

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CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – “Old teachers don’t fade away. They just keep teaching.”

That’s how Dr. Trudy Hanson said she’s looking at her impending retirement as head of the Department of Communication at West Texas A&M University. Hanson’s career as department head and professor will end Jan. 15, after 31 years of service to the University.

The University said her colleagues agree: Neither Hanson nor her influence on the department will fade away.

“What’s life without Trudy? It’s hard to think of the department without her,” said Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. “But she has prepared the department well. I feel like she has given us the tools to continue.”

Hanson began her career at WT in 1989 – almost, she said, by accident.

“I didn’t even apply for the job,” Hanson recalled, chuckling. “I had applied for a full-time post at Amarillo College. I had been teaching there part-time, and I felt really good that I would be offered the job, and guess what? I wasn’t. But (then-AC department head) Paul Matney sent my resume down to WT, and they called me up and asked me to come down for an interview.

“It’s like that old saying: When God closes a door, he opens a window. I had really thought my dream job would be teaching full-time at AC, but my dream job, it turned out, was teaching full-time at WT.”

During Hanson’s time at WT, the Department of Communication became a standalone department in 2007; Hanson had been its head the entire time. In 2010, the department was accredited through the American Communication Association, which has been reaffirmed twice in the years since. Hanson founded the WT Storytelling Festival in 1991 and helped found, in 2013, the department’s Communication Hall of Fame, which has recognized 27 alumni who excel around the country.

“For our current students to have the chance to see the different routes to success and how these alumni have changed their corner of the world — that has been really satisfying,” Hanson said.

The University said the department’s graduate program has grown, as well, now including eight faculty members and two degrees — master’s in communication and master’s in communication with a specialization in media management.

“Trudy pushes her students to be their best selves and create the best products they can,” Mallard said. “She really sets high expectations, but she helps them meet those expectations.”

The University reported that the Department of Communication has established the Dr. Trudy L. Hanson – Write Your Own Scholarship fund in her honor.

“It is breathtaking the impact that a single person can have on so many people — faculty, staff and, most importantly, students,” said University President Dr. Walter Wendler. “Trudy’s passion for WT and her commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship and service will be long remembered and held as a benchmark. Trudy has my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for a job well done.”

Hanson has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in speech, storytelling, rhetorical criticism and gender communication and advised Lambda Pi Eta (the national honor society for communication studies) and the Panhandle Storytelling Guild. She directed the WT Storytelling Festival for 30 years. Her research focused on topics such as gender portrayals in popular media, college teaching, women in leadership, storytelling and rhetorical criticism, and she has published several public speaking textbooks.

She has been an active member of several academic associations, including Southern States Communication Association (SSCA), Texas Speech Communication Association (TSCA), and National Communication Association. She served in a three-year executive leadership position for both SSCA and TSCA, culminating in a year as the head of SSCA in 2002 and TSCA in 1997. SSCA named her the Gender Studies Scholar of the Year in 1999, and she was recognized by the Tejas Storytelling Association in 2011 for the Colson-Herndon Educator Award for her efforts in the advancement of storytelling in education. She also received the T. Earle Johnson-Edwin Page Distinguished Service Award from SSCA in 2012. Dr. Hanson served as the editor for the Texas Speech Communication Journal from 2004 to 2007.

“It’s been a great journey,” Hanson said. “I’ve loved working here at WT and loved the family feeling in our department that has developed over the years. I appreciate the wonderful people I get to work with — both my colleagues within my department and across campus. It’s been a great experience in so many ways.”

Dr. Emily Kinsky, associate professor of media communication, will assume the department head position following Hanson’s retirement. Kinsky joined WT in 2011, teaches media design, new media, and qualitative research methods, and helped establish 1910 PR, the student-run PR firm.

The University said that excellent faculty and servant leaders such as Hanson are key components of the University’s long-term plan, WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World.

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