By DAVID MUELLER
KEARNEY – Ben Myers admits he is experiencing a slight culture shock after spending the last several years in South Carolina. Yet, he is enjoying his adjustment to the Midwest as UNK’s new Department of Communication chair.
“The atmosphere is fantastic. There’s such camaraderie between instructors and students. I think the climate is great. I’ve been at plenty of other universities where the energy wasn’t quite the same,” Myers said.
He previously taught at University of South Carolina Upstate, and served as chair of Fine Arts and Communication. While the demographics are different, Myers is pleased with what he has seen at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
“I’ve just been thrilled with it. It just seems to be an air of positivity that is really nice. … That Midwestern sensibility on a college campus is really refreshing.”
Professor Ford Clark, director of KLPR campus radio station, said Myers has made a smooth transition.
“He’s carried on with helping to make this a great department,” Clark said. “… Dr. Myers is incredibly personable. He not only is there for us on a professional level, but a personal level as well. His experience as well as his personality makes him invaluable as a department head.”
Myers, a native of the Pittsburgh area, brings a wealth of knowledge to UNK, where he replaces Ralph Hanson as chair.
Improvements to the Mitchell Center, which houses the department, have already begun. With freshly-painted walls and other additions planned, the building and department is quickly evolving.
“The one thing we’re working on right now is refurbishing the aesthetics of the department at this point. Modernizing things a little bit – helping it reflect where the department is going,” he said.
Myers also wants to add new programs and additional TVs to the commons area to give students diverse media perspectives simultaneously.
“Communication is a cutting-edge discipline – it’s what we do. It’s constantly about what’s new. I think that having a physical space that kind of cultivates that energy is really important,” said Myers.
In addition, he is working alongside instructors Clark, Janice Fronczak, and Darin Himmerich to create a new student organization, the Theater of the Mind. The group – made up of theatre and communication students – writes, acts and produces a serialized radio drama on KLPR. It will premiere in the spring.
“It’s an exciting opportunity because it’s an interdisciplinary between students. It gets students working and allows them to take advantage of their unique skills,” Myers said.
When Myers was a student, he didn’t envision landing in education. Coming from a long line of pastors, his initial interest was preaching. His plans changed after taking a public speaking course as a freshman at Bluffton University, where he fell in love with communication.
“My career and my politics changed a little bit, so I didn’t want to be a pastor. But a college professor seemed like the closest thing to kind of replicate that. And I loved my communication classes, particularly my rhetoric classes,” he explained. “Anything that dealt with sorting out public policy, how people make decisions, how arguments are formed – I was drawn to it.”
The direct applicability that comes with communication makes the field so important to him. Also, seeing students implement effective communication strategies at different levels is equally rewarding as an educator.
“We all have relationships in various stages going on at all different times of our lives. And being able to look at those, it feels a little more connected and easier to help students to see the relevance of it in our everyday life,” Myers said.
While pursing his MBA at UNK, Myers also enjoys playing racquetball, reading, following the Pittsburgh Steelers and spending time with his son, Henry.
“I’m really happy to be at UNK. It was a bit of a culture shock moving from South Carolina. Things are definitely different, but it was a good move, and I’m really excited to be here,” he said.
Title: Chair, Department of Communication
College: Fine Arts and Humanities
Education: Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, 2007; Master of Arts, Bowling Green State University, 2004; Bachelor of Arts, Bluffton University (Ohio).
Years at UNK: 1
Career: Instructor, University of South Carolina Upstate, 2007-16, Chair of Fine Arts and Communication, South Carolina Upstate, 2013-16.
Family: Son, Henry
Hobbies/Interests: Racquetball, reading, Pittsburgh Steelers
Courses taught: Small Group Communication, Research Methods, Leadership Communication, Communication Theory, Interpersonal Communication