Communication Studies Department Chair Richard West recently became president of the National Communication Association (NCA). NCA is the premier organization for communication scholars, teachers, and practitioners with more than 8,000 members from all 50 states and 20 countries, including nearly 20 Emerson faculty and students.
As president, West will undertake several executive initiatives and oversee a $4 million budget. He was initially elected to a four-year term on the NCA executive committee in 2009; for the past two years, he served as the second and first vice president before taking on the one-year term as president. He recently planned the organization’s 97th annual convention in New Orleans, which attracted more than 5,000 people from around the world.
“The theme for my term is ‘difficult dialogues,’ and it is going to resonate in a number of ways,” said West. “Essentially, it’s time for our organization to look at issues [in the field of communication] that have been ignored or overlooked over the years.”
One initiative West plans to undertake that falls under that umbrella is an examination of introduction to communication courses at colleges across the country. “There isn’t standardization,” he explained. “Should there be?” For instance, he said, Emerson’s version is very public speaking-focused. Some colleges teach the introduction as a basic theory course. Others teach it as an introduction to the different types of communication. And some places combine all these. “It’s a conversation we’ve been needing to have for some quite some time.”
West also plans to start a discussion about how NCA is addressing international issues and enhancing and articulating global outreach. “That benefits members outside the U.S. and gives U.S. members a better understanding of global issues,” said West.
Another area West hopes to focus on this year is civil discourse. “How can NCA be at the forefront of civility in the workplace, within families, and within other human relationships?” he said. “We should be the ‘go to’ people when those conversations arise. At the core of NCA’s mission is a commitment to improving the quality of human life. Assisting others and helping to distinguish between passion and denigrating communication are essential.”
Apart from these initiatives within the organization, West also hopes to raise NCA’s public profile and advance its influence, through developing relationships with the media and with government leaders, especially since NCA’s headquarters is in Washington, D.C.
“Communication issues and themes resonate every single day around our world. With NCA members placed far and wide, we want our members to be accessed by the media and other institutions, for instance, during U.S. presidential debates, work-home spillover challenges, marital conflicts, among many other issue areas,” he said.
At the conclusion of his one-year term, West will spend one more year on the executive committee as the immediate past president. He is also the chair of the Association’s Centennial Committee, overseeing the NCA’s 100th anniversary celebration in Chicago in 2014.