Meet Em Griffin

Em, with wife Jeanie and grandsons Sam and Josh, ready to take off!

For thirty-three years, I was a professor of communication at Wheaton College, a Christian liberal arts college in the western suburbs of Chicago.  I taught courses in interpersonal communication, persuasion, public speaking, group dynamics, intercultural communication, ethics of communication, conflict, intimate communication, communication research, and, of course, communication theory.

I retired from full-time teaching in 2003, was named Professor Emeritus, and continued to teach communication theory and conflict mediation through 2008.  I am now President of Communication First, which encompasses a conflict mediation practice and my continuing work on the First Look text

Although most of  the extended examples in the text are fictitious, they were often stimulated by my own life experience.  Hopefully this brief bio will help the examples come alive for you and encourage you to use your own story to understand and illustrate theory.

I was born and raised on the south side of Chicago into a family deeply rooted in the newspaper business.  Politics, circulation figures, reporters’ ethics, and labor-management negotiations were dinner table conversation.  Alcoholism and eating disorders were never discussed, but were below-the-surface realities. 

I majored in Political Science at the University of Michigan with the intention of going to law school, but, half way through college, decided I wanted to do youth work with teenagers. I  also began to take communication courses as my electives.  After graduation I began training and working with Young Life, an organization that had a major effect on my life during high school.  While working with Young Life I married my wife, Jeanie, and we had two children, Jim and Sharon. 

After six years of marriage, I realized that I was spending more time with other people’s kids than I was with my own, so I  began to prepare for a second career as a college professor, which would allow me to be with my family more.  At Northwestern University, I earned  a Masters and Ph.D. in communication.  My dissertation was an experimental public address study on the persuasive effects of crowding large audiences into small meeting rooms. After a year of teaching at Northern Illinois University, I came to Wheaton.

I’ve enjoyed teaching at a school where professors are encouraged and rewarded for spending  time with students.  For example, for twenty years I taught a two-week group dynamics seminar with eight students on an island in northern Lake Michigan.  As a pilot, I flew students on and off the island.  The intensive time together in this isolated setting resulted in deep friendships with many of the students that have continued past graduation.  Glenn Sparks, who responds to the Diehard Peyton ad in Chapter 2, was a student in the first island course.

As a scholar, my focus is on translation of complex ideas into terms the newcomer to the field can understand and apply.  As shown in my curriculum vitae, prior to The First Look project I authored three applied communication books: The Mind Changers analyzes practical techniques of persuasion; Getting Together offers research-based suggestions for effective group leadership; and Making Friends describes the way that quality interpersonal communication can build close relationships.  My research interests center on communication in close friendships. Articles reporting my findings have appeared in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships and Personal Relationships.

I have a strong desire to apply my communication knowledge and skills in the area of social justice.  I spend a few days a month as a mediator with the Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution, and even more time with Opportunity International, a microfinance organization that creates job opportunities for the poor in impoverished  countries.  My activities with Opportunity include service on the U.S. and Global Network Boards, fundraising, and a stint as acting President during a sabbatical.

Jeanie and I have been married for 51 years.  She is an artist, concentrating mainly on pastel portraits of children at play.  Our children are grown.  Jim is an airline pilot for American Airlines and is married to a doctor.  They have three children—Alison, Kyle, and Amy.  Sharon is an English teacher in an inner city Chicago high school and her husband publishes Substance, a monthly investigative newspaper that reports on the state of public education in Chicago.  They have three sons—Dan, Sam, and Josh.  

My recreation is varied. I’m a movie buff who sees about fifty films a year.  For aerobic exercise, I swim laps.  For a good laugh with friends, I play golf.  For adventure, I fly a small airplane.  For relaxation, I read novels.

I hope this sketch gives you an idea of the person behind the pages. If you wish to communicate directly with me, I'd be happy to meet you via e-mail.

The syllabus from Em's offering of Communication Theory is available as a pdf document.

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