The College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences has been well represented this year in the Inaugural Professor Lecture Series at Utah State University. The first three lectures in the series were provided by faculty members from the college.
John S. Seiter, a professor in the Department of Languages, Philosophy and Speech Communication, offered a glimpse of his life and career during his Oct. 12 lecture titled “Lessons Learned about Teaching and Human Communication: John Seiter’s Inaugural Lecture.”
The Inaugural Professor Lecture Series at USU is coordinated by the provost’s office and is hosted by President Stan Albrecht and First Lady Joyce Albrecht. Faculty members in the series have been promoted to full professor within the last academic year and present a lecture that highlights their research, creative activity or teaching at the university.
“Being effective — whether it be as a teacher, a salesperson or anyone in a relationship — requires that you be other-oriented,” Seiter said. “Knowing your audience and being able to listen are essential to success.”
Opening the lecture, he offered an alternative title — the “You Finally Made it Dude” lecture. Humor and insight were combined in Seiter’s successful lecture, where he paid tribute to his friends, family and colleagues.
“As a high school student, I was a disaster in scholarship, but thanks to meeting the right people — people who inspired me to love scholarship and learning — I started my education and ended up here. If you were able to ask my parents what they’d call this lecture — ‘A happy ending to an early disaster in scholarship’ — or my high school teachers — ‘You are kidding me, right?’
“So why do I tell you this? Well, while it might be fun to pat myself on the back and claim my journey from there to here resulted from years of study and gnashing of teeth and statistics, the truth is, I’m here today because there were a lot of people who brought me here.”
Seiter thanked his teachers and mentors, administrators, friends and members of his family, including his son, Christian, and his wife, Debbie.
Teaching and working with students are important to Seiter, and he shared several stories to illustrate his points. Learning about how people communicate and social influence are also important parts of his work.
“Teaching is much harder than I had expected,” he said. “It requires being able to adapt to different students’ needs and motivations. Also, research and teaching fit together. Students like to hear about the research, especially the real-life stuff.”
Seiter made sure students were invited to the lecture.
“Students are so important to me,” he said. “Learning is a collaborative enterprise. My job is to inspire and encourage students, while giving them the tools to learn and be critical thinkers. They do the same for me. We learn together. You could fill books with all the lessons they have taught me.”
During his lecture Seiter provided a brief overview of his work and his research and interest in social influence. His current research focuses on persuasion in selling interactions.
The lecture concluded with thanks to the guests and the university.
“It is wonderful that USU honors its full professors with a celebration at the president’s home, hosted by the president, the provost and their wives,” he said. “Most universities congratulate you and that is all.”
The Inaugural Professor Lecture Series makes the promotion to full professor personal and meaningful, he said.
“One of the great rewards of being able to do a lecture like this is that it leads you to reflect back on the moments you’ve experienced in the course of your career — the people who have molded you, the successes and failures you’ve learned from,” he said. “It has been a useful and enjoyable time for me. Thank you for the opportunity to remember and share.”
Seiter earned his doctorate from the University of Southern California in 1993 and joined the faculty at USU in 1994. He teaches courses in persuasion, interpersonal communication, theories of communication and intercultural communication. His published research includes articles investigating persuasion in selling contexts, nonverbal influence and deception. With Robert Gass he authored one book and edited another. He has published more than 30 articles and book chapters and received seven “Top Paper” awards from the National Communication Association. In 2005 he was named Researcher of the Year for the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. He has been named the college’s Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year and Utah State University’s Professor of the Year.