About Timothy Brown, Ph.D.: Timothy Brown is the Dean of Queens University of Charlotte’s Knight School of Communication, where he oversees the design and implementation of the University’s strategic mission as it regards to the Knight School. In addition, he oversees graduate and undergraduate program development, advocates for the interests of students, faculty, and staff, and serves as the primary liaison between the Knight School and the University. Prior to his role at Queens University, Dr. Brown served as the Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at West Chester University, where he also held positions as Chair of the Council of Chairs and Special Assistant to the Provost.

As a Professor of Media and Communication at the Knight School, Dr. Brown’s research, teaching, and consulting focus on the intersection of culture, communication, and identity. He has published numerous articles and books, including the article “Public Memory as Contested Site: The Struggle for Existence at the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” and the textbook Public Speaking for Success: Strategies for Diverse Audiences and Occasions, which he co-authored.

In addition to his scholarly work, Dr. Brown has been a motivational speaker and workshop presenter on leadership skills for the Federal Government’s Leadership Assessment Program. He also served on the National Communication Association’s Learning Outcomes Project to establish and refine target learning outcomes for communication programs.

Dr. Brown earned his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication Studies from West Chester University, and his Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Public Address from Ohio University.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] May we have an overview of your educational and professional background in communication? In addition, what are your responsibilities as Dean of Queens University’s James L. Knight School of Communication?

[Dr. Brown] I was born and raised in the small steel mill town of Coatesville, PA which is on the western edge of the Philadelphia suburbs. At Coatesville High School, I played football for three years and basketball for one year. I stayed close to home for college, attending West Chester University (WCU) where I majored in Communication Studies. My interest in communication came from my work on Coatesville High School’s TV station. At West Chester University, I was a first generation, African American college student who landed on academic probation after my first semester. However, through mentoring and hard work, I improved my grades, completed an internship at FOX 29 Philadelphia in its sports department and received my B.A. in Communication Studies at WCU.

Upon graduation, I worked for a short time at the now defunct newspaper, the Coatesville Record, as a sports reporter. At the encouragement of the long time department chair of the Department of Communication Studies at WCU, I returned to WCU to complete my master’s degree in communication. As a M.A. Communication Studies student, I wrote a paper on the 1980 Olympic boycott in which I received direct communication from the former President Jimmy Carter. Carter wrote in the letter that my paper was the best analysis of the Olympics issue he had ever read. Upon receiving my M.A. in Communication Studies at West Chester University, I went on to complete my doctorate in Rhetoric and Public Address at Ohio University.

My first faculty position was at Buffalo State College where I worked for five years before the same department chair from the Department of Communication Studies at WCU recruited me back to WCU. After five years as a faculty member at WCU, I was tenured and promoted to Full Professor. Also, I succeeded the department chair of 26 years—the same chair who had encouraged me to complete my master’s degree.

I served 10 years as department chair of the Department of Communication Studies at WCU. As chair, I oversaw a program that had over 500 majors and over 35 faculty members which included an undergraduate, graduate and general education program. I also held numerous positions at WCU from Special Assistant to the Provost, to Chair of the Council of Chairs, to co-founding WCU’s faculty mentoring program and multicultural faculty commission. In addition, I served in leadership roles in the National Communication Association and the Eastern Communication Association. During my career, I have received many awards such as WCU’s Drum Major for Justice Award and ECA’s Past President’s Award.

In the spring of 2018, I accepted the position of Dean of the Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte. As dean, I serve as the primary advocate and liaison for the School’s faculty, staff, and students in regards to curriculum, policy, program development, and resource allocation. In addition, I oversee the development and implementation of the university’s strategic plan at the school level. As a scholar of rhetoric, my research, teaching, and consulting focus on the intersection of culture, communication, and identity. My research areas include: African American Culture and Communication, black masculinity, communication and sport, and speech pedagogy.

My recent publications include being co-author of the textbook Public Speaking for Success: Strategies for Diverse Audiences and Occasions, second author of the textbook Argumentation and Debate: A Public Speaking Approach, and the author of “Public Memory as Contested Site: The Struggle for Existence at the National Museum of African American History and Culture,” which is published in the book, U.S. Public Memory, Rhetoric, and the National Mall. Recently, I have completed a book on leadership that is submitted for publication and I am working on a co-authored article on LeBron James.

Over my career, I have taught a range of courses such as Rhetorical Theory and Criticism, African American Culture and Communication, Communication Theory, Persuasion, and Public Speaking at the undergraduate level and Rhetoric & Leadership and Culture, Media, & Representation at the graduate level. I plan on teaching Rhetorical Theory and Criticism in the fall.

On the national level, I have been a motivational speaker and workshop presenter on leadership skills for the Federal Government’s Leadership Assessment Program at its Eastern Management Development Center. Moreover, I have been a workshop presenter on integrating diversity into the curriculum for the Educational Resources of New Jersey which provides professional development for public school teachers. The presentations and workshops I have completed over the years are opportunities for me to share the knowledge and insight that I have gained from my lived experience and from my leadership positions. My leadership presentations tend to underscore the following themes:

  • Lead people, manage things
  • Focus on people’s strengths instead of their weaknesses
  • Be adaptable in accomplishing goals
  • Instruct people on what to achieve, not how to achieve it
  • Struggle is a necessary component for accomplishment

Furthermore, my diversity workshops, tend to focus on the following themes:

  • Culture is a lens that shapes how we perceive, how we make sense of reality, and how we place value.
  • Incorporate cultural ways of knowing into assignments and tasks.
  • Be a competent communication by learning the cultural values and practices of those around you.

[MastersinCommunications.com] In addition to your work as a scholar of rhetoric and a leader in academia, you served on the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Learning Outcomes Project, which developed new guidelines for target learning outcomes for students of communication studies. Could you elaborate on this project and how the James L. Knight School of Communication embodies the values and objectives of the NCA’s project?

[Dr. Brown] The National Communication Association’s Learning Outcomes in Communication (LOC) project was a three-year endeavor that involved 30 competitively selected faculty members representing a diverse range of institutional types (public and private, large and small institutions, four year and two year institutions, etc.). The 30 faculty members were divided into 6 workgroups, which I served as one of the “team leads.” Funded by the Lumina Foundation, NCA’s LOC project was a faculty driven initiative that was charged with answering the question, “What should a graduate with a Communication degree know, understand, and be able to do?” The workgroups used the “Tuning” process to identify specific learning outcomes for the communication discipline (the “tuning” process included feedback from colleagues, students, alumni, and employers).

The LOC project resulted in eight learning outcomes (see below) that are central to the discipline of Communication Studies. The goal of the learning outcomes is to encourage faculty discussions on improving curricular design in order to improve student learning. The learning outcomes are meant to be adaptive to the mission and focus of individual communication programs.

NCA’s Learning Outcomes in Communication

  1. Describe the communication discipline and its central questions
  2. Employ communication theories, perspectives, principles, and concepts
  3. Engage in communication inquiry
  4. Create messages appropriate to the audience, purpose, and context
  5. Critically analyze messages
  6. Demonstrate the ability to accomplish communication goals
  7. Apply ethical communication principles and practices
  8. Ulitize communication to embrace difference
  9. Influence public discourse

The programs of the Knight School of Communication reflect the values associated with NCA’s Learning Outcomes. The learning outcomes reinforce that effective communication involves adapting a message successfully to an audience. In the Knight School of Communication, whether a student is a communication or multi-media storytelling major, they learn how to adapt communication effectively to an audience. In the Knight School of Communication, students have the ability to work closely with professors and professionals from the Charlotte community to apply what they learn. It is the application of their communication knowledge and skills that distinguishes Knight School students from other students.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What is the history and core mission of the James L. Knight School of Communication, and how have they informed the School’s undergraduate and graduate programs? Could you describe Queens University of Charlotte’s Yes/And Promise initiative, what it entails, and how it has reshaped the mission, programs, and extracurricular student support that the James L. Knight School of Communication offers?

The Knight School of Communication was created in 2010 through a $5.75 million grant from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation to support the School’s mission of being a leader in the study of digital and media literacy. With a focus on practical training along with intellectual rigor, the Knight School of Communication provides its students with both the theory and practice of communication through its undergraduate and graduate programs that span communication studies, digital storytelling, and digital media production.

Queens University’s Yes/And Promise is an initiative that every Queens student will engage in a unique combination of experiences, both in and outside of the classroom, that expands the lens through which they understand and contribute to the world and which differentiates them among other college students.

The Knight School’s students fulfill the Yes/And Promise in many ways such as through study abroad, internships, service learning, research projects, community engagement, and conference participation. A few of the ways in which Knight School students can participate in Yes/And experiences include: Digital Charlotte, student media such as the Chronicle and/or Project Airwaves, the Athletic Department’s Sports Network, and through course work such as the senior capstone project.

Both the Knight School’s mission of digital and media literacy and Queen’s University’s Yes/And initiative shape our undergraduate and graduate programs. Our students have the opportunity to learn theory (knowledge) and apply it in initiatives that have impact. Through these experiences which are commonly linked through course work students are able to demonstrate the theory and practice of communication.

For example, in our capstone course students serve as “media literary teachers” for Digital Charlotte’s accelerator program which runs six week modules in the Charlotte community. At the completion of the program, community participants receive a free laptop computer. This is just one of many initiatives where students can demonstrate their communication knowledge and skills. Other examples include students creating a media center for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and broadcasting live sporting events through the Queens Sports Network.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes the faculty at the James L. Knight School of Communication particularly strong, both as scholars of communication and mentors to students’ professional development?

[Dr. Brown] The strength of the faculty in the James L. Knight School of Communication is their embodiment of Queens University’s motto, “not to be served but to serve.” The Knight School faculty truly live and manifest this motto. The faculty are engaged in the learning process and have a deep commitment to helping students succeed. Students are able to develop mentoring relationships with faculty and faculty are accomplished in the Charlotte community and beyond. Through dynamic teaching, innovative research, and extra-curricular activities faculty and students develop relationships that can transform individuals and communities.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What have been some key developments in the field of communication, and where do you see media management, integrated digital communication, and communication for civic engagement building upon each other in the coming years? How does the Master of Arts in Communication program prepare students for these developments?

[Dr. Brown] Although we live in an ever-changing technological world, the essential elements of communication that Herbert A. Wichelns defined in his noteworthy essay in 1925, “The Literary Criticism of Oratory,” still applies today. In his essay, Wichelns not only defined the field of communication studies but explained the vital role of communication as focusing on “effect’–how speakers adapt messages to specific audiences.

As we think about the various forms of communication, they all underline the foundational ideas articulated by Wichelns: source, message, and audience. Technology is simply one means in which we address these three defining features of communication.

I believe our program will best position individuals to effectively employ the three critical features of communication (source, message, audience) in order to be competent communicators. Knight School graduates will be able to address the crucial future needs for:

Meaningful Dialogue

We are in a time where division, mistrust, anger, hate, and other forms of dysfunction prevent individuals from having meaningful dialogue of issues and ideas. Having the knowledge and understanding of communication theory, principles, and concepts will equip individuals how to have and facilitate meaningful dialogues to address the issues of the day.

Bridging the Digital Divide

The technological revolution, while providing information, entertainment, and convenience for our lives, is also a socio-economic divider as not everyone has access to technology. There is a “digital divide” that impacts access along with educational and economic opportunity. Communication programs can have a positive impact on their communities by creating access and improving the technological opportunities of its communities.

Cultural Competency

The lack of meaningful dialogue and the perpetuation of information and representations (stereotypes) that have a negative impact on perception/understanding is another need that can be addressed by effective communication. The communication discipline can play a vital role in addressing these challenges and enlightening individuals in order to be culturally competent when communicating with diverse individuals.

I believe that the Knight School of Communication through its course work, research, and initiatives addresses these vital needs that will make our students effective communicators and prepare them for these ongoing challenges.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Why should students strongly consider a Master’s in Communication versus other graduate programs such as a Master’s in Business Administration or a Master’s in Organizational Leadership? How is the Master’s in Communication degree distinct from other types of professional graduate programs?

[Dr. Brown] Individuals should strongly consider a Master’s in Communication from the Knight School for the following reasons:

  1. Mission – Students will be engaged in the theory and practice of communication by being leaders and advocates in the communities that they serve through the Yes/And Initiative that emphasizes unique experiences in and outside the classroom.
  2. Faculty – Our faculty are accomplished teachers and researchers who value mentoring students and who are committed to student success.
  3. Communication—Students will be prepared to address the ongoing issues of our time—creating meaningful dialogue, bridging the digital divide, and achieving cultural competence.

Thank you, Dr. Brown, for your excellent insight into Queens University of Charlotte’s Knight School of Communication and its Master of Arts in Communication program!