Some students never leave school, like all of your professors! Read about Chapman alum Brett Robertson’s experience transitioning from student to teacher post-graduation at the University of Texas at Austin.   

Tell us about what you are currently doing.

I am currently a Ph.D. student and Instructor of Communication Studies at The University of Texas at Austin! I am definitely using a lot of what I learned from the faculty at Chapman in my work today. I teach many classes, such as public speaking, interpersonal communication, and small-group communication. As a doctoral student, my specialization is studying organizational communication and technology use.

How did you decide to get your Ph.D.?

After I graduated from Chapman in 2014, I went on to get my master’s degree. I realized I liked learning, research and teaching so much, that continuing on to doctoral studies seemed like a perfect fit. I applied to a few different schools for a Ph.D. and decided moving to Austin, Texas would be a great match! I’ve been at The University of Texas at Austin for over a year now.

What do you love about being in a Ph.D. program?

I love that, as a Ph.D. student, I get to read and study about things I am interested in. Obviously that doesn’t change throughout one’s experience in academia, but what kind of job do you get to create-your-own-adventure in terms of what you want to study? I think that’s pretty cool.

How did the School of Communication at Chapman prepare you for this next step in your education?

In terms of teaching, I was well prepared for this position. Many of the upper-division classes in the School of Communication are taught Socratic-seminar-style, and I use that philosophy and teaching method in my classes today. Also, with research, I was an undergraduate research assistant on Dr. Kerk Kee’s National Science Foundation-funded grant. That project gave me the experience to conduct research on my own at the graduate level. I even submitted my first sole research grant this past year!

Is there a particular class/professor that stands as influential in your time at Chapman?

One of the first classes that got me interested in learning about communication in organizations was Dr. Jennifer Waldeck’s “Business and Professional Communication” course. From then on, I tried to take as many organizational communication classes that were offered when I was a student. Dr. Kee’s “Communication and Workplace Technologies” class was influential, as it was one of the last courses I took before taking the senior seminar, and I still use and refer back to a lot of material from that class. Building on a project in that class, I collected data and published my first peer-review journal article with Dr. Kee a few years later. We also had a conference proceeding publication out of that project too. Both took a while, but they came directly from the classes I took in the School of Communication.

What advice do you have for current students?

Take classes with your friends! When I started at Chapman, we were “cohorted,” meaning many of the first-semester freshmen took the same communication classes together that first year. From then on, a lot of us continued to take classes together until we graduated. We often coordinated our schedules and worked together on team projects. It made the experience even more enjoyable!

Anything else you want us to know?

I still get to see and reconnect with the Chapman faculty a few times a year at conferences, so it’s great to see how everyone is doing. I miss Chapman a lot!