This week, we feature Audrey Cunningham ’05, assistant professor of communication. Continue to check back for more faculty profiles.
What attracted you to join the Hiram College community?
I chose Hiram for the first time as an undergraduate student. I loved what I still call the “sixth sense of comfort” that this place has (and I think that there are so many factors that contribute to this sense). A few years after I graduated, I had just finished my master’s degree when I saw the posting for a media/journalism professor job at Hiram. Although I knew I had not even started my doctoral work, I applied because I wanted to return to Hiram so badly. After a year as an adjunct, I applied and accepted a full-time position. My first year was crazy because I was teaching full-time and attending graduate school at night. But, it was worth it to be in my utopia: Hiram. I love the intimacy of this place, and the flexibility to do so many things, such as work closely with students.
What would you like people to know about you beyond your role here at the college?
I’m very physically active. I run a lot, and I also do yoga, Pilates, weight-lifting, golf, skiing and water sports. I would say the most difficult for me is actually yoga because I have such a difficult time quieting my mind. I also have three dogs: two pugs (Roy and Artie) and a Boxer (Ollie). My husband and I spoil them so much! Roy comes to my office most days. The students love him! Sometimes I think students come to my office just to see Roy and forget that I’m there!
What attracted you to your academic discipline?
The reason that I love Communication so much is that I am able to do with it what I’ve always wanted to do: teach and write. I actually dressed up like a teacher/author on career day in the fourth grade. A lot of the kids, clad in lab coats and firefighter outfits, teased me because there wasn’t really anything stereotypical about my wardrobe: just a long skirt and my mom’s Birkenstocks. I’m not sure how many teachers wear Birkenstocks, but I still have a pair!
How would you describe Hiram students?
Hiram students are so engaged and motivated. It always strikes me how much they care about their grades. It’s actually “cool” here to get good grades. In addition, our students are so involved. As I mentioned before, the people make this place. Hiram students know that. So they are constantly getting involved in curricular and extracurricular activities because they want to be an active part of this dynamic community.
Finish this thought: People at Hiram might be surprised to know that I…..
Used to dance (ballet, tap, jazz, etc.) competitively. Oh, and I showed hogs in the county fair. I’m sort of a walking dichotomy. Pointe shoes and pig pens.
Tell us about one of the classes that you enjoy teaching and why.
I love all of my classes, but I must say that one of my favorites is Media Law & Ethics. I think a lot of students take it because it has an “ES” (Meaning, Ethics and Social Responsibility) core designation, but I am always pleased to see how engaged they become with the material. In this class, we engage in dissecting legal cases, debating ethical dilemmas and case studies, and participating in service-learning. By the end of the class, I am delighted that the students are much more critical media consumers (and thereby more aware of and more critical of media practitioners’ decision-making), but they are much more conscientious in their own media consumption and evaluation.
What opportunities has Hiram offered you as a person and/or a professor?
There is so much opportunity for creativity here. I have the freedom to design classes (not just lessons, but entire classes) that are engaging, dynamic and challenging. Our interdisciplinary approach to learning means that my colleagues value my perspective and my contributions to the college’s curriculum. I have been able to lead study abroad programs, to design new courses that help the students meet the challenges of the 21st century, to be valued for creating lessons that are stimulating and that extend far-beyond the “lecture” model, and to form relationships with people who care about students, the academy and this place as much as I do.