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Meet the Authors

MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE LEADING COLLEGE-LEVEL COMMUNICATION THEORY TEXT

Meet the Authors
MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE LEADING COLLEGE-LEVEL COMMUNICATION THEORY TEXT

Meet the Authors

MEET THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE LEADING COLLEGE-LEVEL COMMUNICATION THEORY TEXT

 
 

For the 11th edition, Em Griffin (Wheaton College, emeritus) is joined once again by co-authors Andrew Ledbetter (TCU) and Glenn Sparks (Purdue).

For the 11th edition, Em Griffin (Wheaton College, emeritus) is joined once again by co-authors Andrew Ledbetter (TCU) and Glenn Sparks (Purdue).

For the 11th edition, Em Griffin (Wheaton College, emeritus) is joined once again by co-authors Andrew Ledbetter (TCU) and Glenn Sparks (Purdue).

Andrew and Glenn were both introduced to communication theory as undergraduate students of Em. Later, as they each became established in their own academic careers, they began to collaborate with Em. By the time the 8th edition of A First Look came out, they were listed as Special Consultants. WIth the 9th edition, they became co-authors. Emily Langan (Wheaton College) has authored the Instructors Manual since the 6th edition.

 

Em Griffin  CO-AUTHOR

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 resolutio, intimate communication, communication research, and, of course, communication theory.

Photo: Em with wife Jeanie and grandsons Josh and Sam

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Em Griffin  CO-AUTHOR

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 resolution, 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 throughout the decade  I am now President of Communication First, which encompasses a conflict mediation practice and my continuing work on the First Look text.

Many of the extended examples used in the text are fictitious, the ones I created 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 earned a Masters degree at Fuller Theological Seminary and trained to join the staff of Young Life, a youth organization that had a major effect on my life during high school.  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 spend more time with my family.  At Northwestern University, I earned a Master’s 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 joined the Communication department at Wheaton.

I 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.  Co-author and friend Glenn Sparks was a student in the first island course.

As a scholar, my focus is on translating 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 centered on communication in close friendships. Articles published in Personal Relationships and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships describe what I and co-authors Andrew Ledbetter and Glenn Sparks discovered. 

I have a strong desire to apply my communication knowledge and skills to further social justice. For 30 years I've served as a volunteer mediator and trainer of other mediators for Chicago Center for Conflict Resolution. For 40 years I volunteered with Opportunity International, a microfinance organization serving mostly women in impoverished countries. My role has varied from fundraiser, serving on the U.S. and international boards, coaching international visitors how best to communicate with Americans, and taking the role of acting president during my last Wheaton sabbatical. For even longer, I’ve served a variety of roles in our local Presbyterian church.

Pre-COVID, I befriended and mentored seven high school guys from our church youth group—their freshman year through graduation. Almost every week during the school year, we'd meet and eat together while talking about their school, family, sports, social lives, as well as our thoughts and musings about faith. I enjoyed cheering them on in their football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, and lacrosse games—whatever was in season. The huge generational gap didn't seem to be a barrier in the closeness of our relationships.

Jeanie and I have been married for 62 years.  She is an artist, featuring pastel portraits of children.  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 and Journalism teacher in an inner city Chicago high school. She (along with her now-deceased husand) began publishing Substance, a monthly investigative newspaper that reports on the state of public education in Chicago.  She has three sons—Dan, Sam, and Josh.  

My recreation is varied. I love hanging with friends, working out at a sports center, and taking long walks on the beach. Jeanie and I go to concerts and plays together, and we're up for a good movie. I always have a novel close at hand. I satisfy my competitive urge by playing in a weekly bridge game, and for adventure fly a small plane.

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.


Also available: Em's CV and the syllabus from Em's offering of Communication Theory.

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updated July 26, 2022


Andrew Ledbetter  CO-AUTHOR

Like many of you, A First Look was my introduction to communication theory. During the fall of my junior year at Wheaton College, I took Em Griffin’s interpersonal communication course. That class whetted my appetite for more, so in the spring semester I took his class on persuasion–which was also intriguing, applicable, and engaging. I was a computer science major at the time, and although that subject fascinated me, I was pretty sure human communication fascinated me even more.

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Andrew Ledbetter  CO-AUTHOR

Like many of you, A First Look was my introduction to communication theory. During the fall of my junior year at Wheaton College, I took Em Griffin’s interpersonal communication course. That class whetted my appetite for more, so in the spring semester I took his class on persuasion–which was also intriguing, applicable, and engaging. I was a computer science major at the time, and although that subject fascinated me, I was pretty sure human communication fascinated me even more.

So, I enrolled in Em’s communication theory course. I was so excited that I bought the fourth edition of A First Look before I left campus for the summer. I’d eagerly devoured half of it by the time I returned in the fall. I quickly added communication as a second major. More than that, I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school to become a professor of communication.

My co-authoring relationship with Em and Glenn began at this time. Knowing my career goal and my interest in communication research, Em invited me to join him on a research project he had begun with Glenn years ago. The study tracked college friends over time, searching for qualities that predict closeness over the long haul. My summer after college graduation was spent reading the research literature, drafting a survey, distributing it by mail to the research participants, and entering the data. It was a challenging project, but after many years of work together, we published the study in the journal Personal Relationships. I’m not only thankful that Em and Glenn gave their time to mentor me in research as a young scholar, but also thankful that the paper strengthened my friendship with them and, eventually, led to our collaboration on A First Look.

I pursued my graduate education at the University of Kansas. I grew as a scholar under the mentorship of excellent professors at KU. Those years were deeply life-changing beyond the classroom as well. Most importantly, I met my very best friend, my wife Jessica, at Signs of Life coffee shop in downtown Lawrence, KS. Everyone whom I’ve ever brought to that coffee shop agrees it’s one of the best, so if you’re ever in Lawrence, please give them your business! (No they’re not giving me any kickback, I promise!)

At the time Jessica was finishing up her law degree, and I my master’s degree. We quickly discovered that we had similar life histories—like me, she was raised in the Pacific Northwest, but, also like me, attended college at a small liberal arts school in the Great Lakes region. More importantly, we bonded quickly over our shared church membership and Christian faith. We were married in January 2005. As I was finishing my Ph.D., we welcomed our first daughter, Sydney, in December 2006. We soon moved to Athens, OH, where we both taught at Ohio University. Our second daughter, Kira, was born there in May 2009.

I’m now a professor at Texas Christian University (TCU). My wife works here too; after earning a second doctorate in Higher Education Leadership, she serves as an Assistant Dean of Students, and enjoys helping students grow during their college years

We’ve greatly enjoyed the community we’ve found at TCU. My department is full of wonderful scholars and friends who take both their teaching and their scholarship seriously. Seeing their excellence in the classroom pushes me to do my best as well. Not surprisingly, communication theory is the course I teach most regularly, typically every semester. Students take our theory course at the sophomore level, and we require the course for students transferring into the communication major. I’ve included a link to my syllabus below. I also teach advanced seminars on social media and on research methods.

My research program mirrors my chief interests in interpersonal, family, and mediated communication. Specifically, I investigate how people maintain interpersonal relationships through communication technology. My work has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals, including Human Communication Research, Communication Monographs, Communication Research, Journal of Family Communication, and New Media & Society. I’ve also been active in leadership roles at the Central States Communication Association and National Communication Association. You can read more about my research program on my TCU faculty website, or check out my personal website and blog. A link to my CV appears below.

What about my life beyond the world of teaching and research? Well, as my friends and family would testify, I’m a bit of a geek. I enjoy Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, video games… few things are relaxing to me as a classic Nintendo video game. I enjoy cheering on the TCU Horned Frogs and the Kansas Jayhawks—especially when it’s March Madness time. I like to go running. And I enjoy listening to music; I’m a particularly avid fan of Taylor Swift. In fact, on my website I’ve rated and ranked every single one of Taylor Swift’s songs, and I keep the list updated when she releases new music. Check it out if you’re interested, and let me know if you agree or disagree with my rankings!

Feel free to contact me by e-mail or on Twitter (@dr_ledbetter). I’d especially appreciate any feedback you have about we can make the book the most accurate and inspiring introduction to communication theory it can be.


Also available: Andrew's CV, and the syllabus from his offering of Communication Theory at TCU (both as pdf documents).

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updated July 15, 2022


Glenn Sparks  CO-AUTHOR

After majoring in Physics for a little more than a year at Wheaton College in 1971, I made an abrupt change in order to study communication—an area that I found to be more intriguing.  I’m still studying. I was fortunate enough to have Em Griffin as one of my first professors and he’s been my good friend ever since.

Photo: Glenn with wife Cheri and grandson Caleb

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Glenn Sparks  CO-AUTHOR

After majoring in Physics for a little more than a year at Wheaton College in 1971, I made an abrupt change in order to study communication—an area that I found to be more intriguing.  I’m still studying. I was fortunate enough to have Em Griffin as one of my first professors and he’s been my good friend ever since.

Upon graduation from Wheaton, I wanted to continue studying communication so I went on to graduate school and earned a master’s degree at Northern Illinois University. I wanted still more. After a brief teaching stint back at Wheaton, I headed off to Wisconsin to continue my studies. After earning the doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983, I joined the faculty at Cleveland State University for three years before moving to Purdue University in 1986. In the Fall of 2014, I’ll begin my 29th year of teaching and research in what is now the Brian Lamb School of Communication. In 2013, I decided to end a 12-year stint as the Associate Head of the school and returned to the ranks of a regular professor. I’ve been able to add a second course to my semester teaching assignment and I chose to begin teaching the introductory course in communication theory to compliment my new role as a coauthor on A First Look.

I’ve spent most of my academic career writing about the cognitive, emotional and behavioral effects of media. In my graduate studies, I was fortunate enough to work with Joanne Cantor, who was the recipient of a major grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the effects of frightening media on children. After I became involved in that research, I was hooked on the study of media effects. Over the years, I’ve published a number of pieces on the emotional reactions that people have to scary media. I’ve also published work on the appeal of media violence, media depictions of the paranormal, the CSI effect, the impact of media on fear of criminal victimization and the depiction of males and females in news stories.

My scholarly interests are not limited to media effects. I’ve always been interested in interpersonal communication and I’m especially curious about how the media environment is changing the way we relate to each other. That interest inspired me to collaborate on a book about our need for close friendships and how our media habits may sabotage that need. You can read about that in the book, Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connection. I guess the main way I show my interest in communication is to write about it. In addition to the First Look text, I’m always working in one way or another on my undergraduate text on media effects—now in its 5th edition.

Now we get to the really important stuff—my wife and family.  I met Cheri in my undergrad days at Wheaton and we were married in 1975. We’re looking forward to celebrating 44-years together in 2019.  Cheri was a developmental therapist with a private practice devoted to helping young children (up to 3-years old) with special needs. She teaches now in the Brian Lamb School of Communication’s on-line Master’s program.    We have three grown children.  David, our oldest, has lived with his wife, Jenna for the past nine years in South Korea where they both taught English as a second language to college students. This fall, they will both be teaching at Purdue university. Erin, our oldest daughter, lives right around the corner from us with her husband, Cameron, and our three three grandsons, Caleb, Joshua, and Benjamin. Erin and Cameron both work at Purdue University where Erin teaches psychology and Cameron works with computers in Instructional Technology. Our youngest daughter, Jordan, lives with her husband, Dave, in Indianapolis. Jordan is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Indianapolis. Dave works for the state of  Indiana on projects that require special skills in computers and statistics.

I was blessed with such a unique childhood that I decided to write about it. When I was 11, my parents moved the family from Maryland to New Jersey to start a doughnut business. They ran it for 20-years. I had no trouble selecting stories from those years to put into my personal memoir that was published a few years ago, Rolling in Dough: Lessons I Learned in a Doughnut Shop. I believe that growing up in a doughnut shop provided me with a great foundation of communication experiences that inspired my later academic curiosity.

I’m an avid fan of  sports—particularly football and basketball.  I’m also a fan of the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees—Purdue’s own) the Chicago Blackhawks and the Baltimore Orioles.  If there are no games to watch, I also like to tinker with the guitar and have even been known to write a song or two.  I also try to play an unusual musical instrument called the theremin. The theremin may be the only musical instrument that is played without touching anything. You simply wave your hands around in the air. If you click here, that’s me playing along with my daughter, Jordan, who sometimes consents to provide piano accompaniment. Musicians say the theremin is the easiest instrument to play—and the most difficult to play well. 

I always enjoy meeting new people so feel free to contact me by e-mail


Also available: Glenn's CV, and the syllabus from his offering of Communication Theory at Purdue (both as pdf documents).

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updated August 10, 2018


Emily Langan  INSTRUCTORS MANUAL

As a student and now as an educator, I have been fascinated with close relationships; Exploring the simplicities and complexities of people and their need to connect with each other in meaningful ways is at the heart of what I do. Though the study of interpersonal and communication theories can seem rather pedestrian at first glance, I believe its ordinariness is the greatest argument for continued study.

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Emily Langan  INSTRUCTORS MANUAL

As a student and now as an educator, I have been fascinated with close relationships; Exploring the simplicities and complexities of people and their need to connect with each other in meaningful ways is at the heart of what I do. Though the study of interpersonal and communication theories can seem rather pedestrian at first glance, I believe its ordinariness is the greatest argument for continued study.

Everyone has experiences with other people that have shaped them in profound ways but we also all have mundane, everyday interactions that make up the bulk of our relationships. To me, part of being created in the image of God means that we are designed to live interdependently with others. But, those relationships can be simultaneously joy-giving and challenging.

While my academic home is the field of communication, I feel most comfortable situating myself as a scholar and a teacher of close relationships. At the center of my scholarship is a focus on friendship as a uniquely important interpersonal relationship type. Throughout our lives, friendships are consistently valued as a relationship but they are not static; their value, role, and function alter at different stages of life. I wrote my dissertation on the maintenance of best friendships, an enduring interest since I started graduate school and have a continuing research agenda on the dynamics between friends. Outside of interpersonal and theory, I teach and research nonverbal communication, persuasion and social influence, and sports communication. My current mental exercises (aka research endeavors) investigate including the experiences of women sports fans, the use of social media in sports to foster team/fan identity, and early transition points in friendship.

Academics are only one facet of my life; I find that my students and my research endeavors benefit from experiences outside the walls of the classroom.  An avid sports fan, there are two teams that are my particular passions: Wheaton College Men’s soccer (for who I am the faculty partner) and the Chicago Blackhawks. I am a Chicago-native, having been born and raised in the south suburbs. While I love my hometown and make the most of experiences found locally, I also frequently indulge my wanderlust; recent and upcoming adventures include southeast Asia, Uganda, Sweden, and Australia.

I am deeply involved in the mentoring of student athletes and with HoneyRock, the Northwoods campus of Wheaton College. After participating in summer camps since the 3rd grade, HoneyRock is a wonderful convergence of my interests: experiential education, holistic development, and a “place apart” in the outdoors.

I am also a triathlete who spends a lot of time decompressing by swimming, biking, and running.

Feel free to contact me by e-mail.


Also available: Emily's CV, and the syllabus from her offering of Communication Theory at Wheaton College (both as pdf documents).

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updated May 7, 2014

Kate Cooper  SPECIAL CONSULTANT

As was the case with Andrew, I encountered A First Look as a student at Wheaton College. At the time, I wasn't even sure I would be a communication major. But I found myself really engaged in the text and the class, as I could apply the concepts—from interpersonal relationships, group, organizations and media—to my own life. I was also interested in how organizations brought about social change, so I ended up a double major in communication and sociology—and working on the 6th edition of A First Look as Em Griffin's research assistant while I was finishing my degree at Wheaton.

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Kate Cooper  SPECIALL CONSULTANT

As was the case with Andrew, I encountered A First Look as a student at Wheaton College. At the time, I wasn't even sure I would be a communication major. But I found myself really engaged in the text and the class, as I could apply the concepts—from interpersonal relationships, group, organizations and media—to my own life. I was also interested in how organizations brought about social change, so I ended up a double major in communication and sociology—and working on the 6th edition of A First Look as Em Griffin's research assistant while I was finishing my degree at Wheaton.

After college, I worked for several years at a human rights NGO in Washington, DC. While there, I became interested in how organizations worked together on complex social issues. Eventually, I moved to Urbana-Champaign to pursue graduate studies at the University of Illinois, where I completed my PhD. There, I studied organizational communication and focused specifically on nonprofit collaboration, or how nonprofit organizations worked with other agencies to pursue some kind of social change that they couldn't achieve on their own.

I've stayed focused on nonprofit organizations, interorganizational collaboration, and social change in the years since. At Northwestern University, I worked as a post-doctoral scholar and the associate director of the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact (NNSI) lab. I'm now an assistant professor of communication studies at DePaul University, where I teach undergraduate and graduate classes on organizations, groups and teams, nonprofits, and interorganizational collaboration. I love working at a university where so many of the students and faculty are socially and civically engaged, and being able to look out on Lake Michigan from my office building.

My research has appeared in journals focused on communication (Communication Research, Management Communication Quarterly) organizations (Business & Society, Journal of Business Ethics), and nonprofits (Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Nonprofit Management and Leadership). I've recently co-authored my first book, Networks for Social Impact. I like to write for organizational leaders and nonprofit practitioners as well, and have published teaching cases for instructors who teach collaboration.

Outside of work, my husband, Matt, and I are kept very busy (and mostly awake) by our three young children. These days, I can often be found with a baby in one arm and a book in the other, but when I'm able to grab some free time, I love to travel (especially to any beach), paint very mediocre watercolor landscapes, and tend to my ever-growing collection of houseplants.


updated July 6, 2022


Theon Hill   SPECIAL CONSULTANT

I am an Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College, where I research and teach on the intersections of African American rhetoric, politics, and popular culture. My work has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, edited collections, and popular outlets, including Religion News Service, Faithfully Magazine, Christianity Today, and the Chicago Tribune.

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Theon Hill  SPECIAL CONSULTANT

I am an Associate Professor of Communication at Wheaton College, where I research and teach on the intersections of African American rhetoric, politics, and popular culture. My work has appeared in numerous scholarly journals, edited collections, and popular outlets, including Religion News Service, Faithfully Magazine, Christianity Today, and the Chicago Tribune.

Currently, I am in the final stages of completing my first scholarly book, an extended study of the future of Black political rhetoric in the 21st century. I regularly consult for corporate and nonprofit organizations on matters related to DEI, workplace communication, and leadership.

I am also an active member of efforts to promote racial justice and change in my local community. For my efforts, I was recently named a Civil Society Fellow with the Aspen Institute and ADL. In this fellowship, I will develop a venture to promote racial and economic justice in my community.


updated July 12, 2022

 

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