The Communication Studies Department hosted an alumni and student event and brunch called PD BDAY this past Saturday during homecoming festivities.
PD BDAY was the ten-year anniversary celebration of the launch of Public Discourse, and for the launch of a new program, the Public Deliberation and Dialogue initiative.
At Gustavus, public discourse is a course where students study practical public argument and apply the concepts through a semester-long civic engagement project.
The course was made to use unique classroom techniques and projects to learn important communication skills in a way that no college had ever attempted to learn them before.
After ten years of successful projects, the department wanted to take time and celebrate the success by inviting alumni back to the department over homecoming weekend.
“The course is so great for the school and the community at large, and we need to celebrate that. Dr. Brandon Anderson, professor in the communication studies department, said.
“We get to see all of the achievements and hard work that the department has put in. Everyone in this department has put their support behind it which is important to recognize.”
Dr. Leila Brammer, Communication Studies Department Chair, reflected on the course and how far it has come.
“We spent over a year developing the course, and we still didn’t know what it would look like. I was sitting in a workshop and I just came up with the idea and said wait that’s it,” Brammer said.
This light bulb moment sparked what has now been a decade of community based projects from Gustavus Students.
The course has far surpassed her expectations.
“We worried when we changed the course from Public Speaking to Public Discourse that students would have less public speaking skills because we cut back on the number of speeches, they actually were better at public speaking and were more confident, they [students] even reported that they had more confidence in public speaking,” Brammer said.
Brammer and the rest of the Communication Students Department were shocked at the student reaction to the course.
“The thing that really blew our minds was how passionate and engaged the students got,” Brammer said.
“By the end of the semester, students were so thrilled with what they had done, what they had accomplished, the confidence they had gained, and the empowerment they gained in thinking about themselves as citizens, that it was beyond our wildest imagination.”
Beyond the empowerment of the students, Brammer believes that Public Discourse has helped the professors in her department to become better educators.
“We did not know it would transform us… [because of this course] here at Gustavus we have a group of people who are experts at understanding community advocacy theoretically and practically because we have had over 2,000 projects we have had to slow down and teach.” Brammer said.
Anderson also expressed that Public Discourse has changed the way that he teaches.
“Before I got [to Gustavus], I had never taught a class like this, so it was a big change for me and I had to learn some new things, but after that moment, after the first class, I could see what the discipline of communication can do for students…. public discourse changed how I speak about what we do, which is really important.”
The course also created a drive to do more within the department to meet 21 century communication needs, which is why the Public Deliberation and Dialogue initiative is being launched this fall.
“In 2010 we set it as our departmental mission to create the best possible undergraduate liberal arts communication studies experience that prepares students to meet the 21 century needs of society,” Brammer said.
Former students and alumni came to PD BDAY to celebrate the life changing success that has taken place because of public discourse.
Students and alumni enjoyed taking time to reflect on their projects and catch up with former classmates and professors.
Kam Schaefer, Junior Communication Studies major, came to the event to support a course which impacted her life, “I came to celebrate Public Discourse because it’s actually super applicable to everything. I totally use it day to day. So now I’m excited to celebrate it.”
PD BDAY gave alumni, students, and faculty a chance to enjoy one another’s company and breakfast pizza, while also recognizing the significant impact that Public Discourse has had on this campus and on the communities where projects have taken place.