Deanna Sellnow


Deanna Sellnow, Associate Professor of Communication, directs the NDSU Department of Communication’s basic course program which she has done for eleven years. Describing herself as a mentor and a teacher at heart, she clarifies her devotion to teaching: “As a teacher in a typical classroom, I can only touch or impress upon so many people at a time, but as basic course director, the scope of the number of people I can touch expands.”

Sellnow also teaches Humanities 702—Introduction to College Teaching, the only NDSU course designed to help graduate teaching assistants make the transition from students to teachers in departments across campus. Through the class, Sellnow said she strives to help students “break beyond the concept of ‘teacher as lecturer’ to that of ‘teacher as a guide’ to facilitate critical thinking and lifelong learning. The most important thing to me as a teacher and a person is to help people remember how to be human and how to be humane.”

Sellnow’s research record is as impressive as the commitments on her teaching and university service that have won her both awards and the admiration of her colleagues. In 2003, she won the College of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences “Outstanding Educator Award” which recognizes her broad contribution in areas of teaching, research and service; and in 2004 she won the College Service Award. In regard to her research activity, she has published 25 refereed articles, delivered 76 conference presentations, and has been invited to offer presentations and keynote addresses on 45 occasions. Her conference panels and presentations have won top honors at national conferences, and she has been elected by peers in her field to executive positions in professional organizations, the most recent of which is her election as Vice President to the Central States Communication Association.

Sellnow is author of a textbook, Confident Public Speaking, and has just received a book contract with Sage for her academic book, The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture, a project about which she is very excited. She notes that while some academicians have not been quick to embrace popular culture research, students live popular culture and don’t resist this work. Sellnow sees the rhetorical analysis of popular culture as a way of preserving the study of rhetoric and making it meaningful for her students.

That connection among Sellnow’s teaching, research and service underscores her work at North Dakota State, although she admits that finding a balance is not always easy. She suggests, however, that it might be useful for women scholars to see their professional lives as a journey. She notes that when her two children were very young, she worked on article-length studies and papers because she chose to spend quality time with them. Now that her children have busy lives of their own, she has the opportunity to pursue book projects as she follows the children’s athletic and academic activities. Because women’s professional journeys often look so different on paper than those of their male colleagues, Sellnow notes how important it is for tenured women to support and protect untenured women faculty, whose highest intellectual output may not occur until later in their professional lives.


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