John Seiter, a California native, had never planned on leaving his home state. Due to state budget cuts, upon completing his doctorate in communication arts and sciences from University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Seiter set to exploring other opportunities across the nation. After interviewing and visiting several universities, he settled on Utah State University (USU) in 1994 as the best option to balance all of his passions and joined what was then a small communication program composed of one professor and one half-time lecturer.
Over the next 26 years, Seiter would work with colleagues, mentors and students, to cultivate and grow the communication program. He helped create and develop the communication studies major, mentoring, researching and publishing, and winning awards along the way. His outstanding contributions to the communication field, his department, and the university, are honored as he is recognized as the recipient of the 2020 Cazier Lifetime Achievement award.
Hosted by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the Cazier Lifetime Achievement award is selected by a committee after receiving nominations from each college. The award recognizes a senior faculty member who has demonstrated 20+ years of exemplary service at USU and has consistently maintained excellence in each aspect of their role statement over the span of their career.
Described by his department head, Bradford Hall, as the “epitome of a well-rounded scholar” for his balance in research and teaching, Seiter is considered a cutting-edge leader in the field of communication studies. His research focuses on persuasion and specifically political aggression, effective approaches to compliance gaining, deception detection, nonverbal influence, and persuasion in hospitality contexts. Seiter’s publications include national “Top Paper” recognition, 48 journal articles, 21 chapters and five co-authored and co-edited books. His latest book, Nonverbal Communication in Political Debates, co-authored by Seiter and H. Weger, recently published.
A distinguished professor, Seiter has been awarded USU “Teacher of the Year,” “Researcher of the Year” and “Mentor of the Year.” His teaching style is innovative, with one student review describing him as a professor who is fun and knows his stuff. For Seiter, teaching has become intertwined with life. Cognizant about the goals for his class, he keeps it fresh by bringing in new and timely topics, often discussing his own research, including current collaborations with his colleague Tim Curran, which focuses on social factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matthew Sanders, a colleague and associate dean in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, describes Seiter as, “second to none in the classroom. His classes are always full with long waiting lists. His persuasion class is always on everyone’s `must take’ list.”
His teaching and research accomplishments alone would qualify Seiter for a lifetime award, but it is his ability to mentor, build a community, and recognize the strengths of others that exemplifies his excellence. Seiter credits many for influencing and contributing to his career: The support and influence of his wife for working and supporting them during his graduate school and career, mentors such as Bob Gass from California State Fullerton and Harold Kinzer, the only professor in the communication program when Seiter joined USU in 1994. Personally, he likens his communication colleagues to a “family.” Professionally, he likens them to anchors on a relay team, where he, usually the pokiest “runner,” can pass the baton and trust them to triumph.
Seiter’s influences go as far back as his second grade teacher, to whom he dedicated one of his books with the words: “To Ms. Gordon, for knowing self-concept is the proper starting place.”
He likens the culture at USU to a home, “It isn’t where you live, but the people you live with,” says Seiter. The people at USU are what attracted Seiter to the university and twenty plus years later, it is the people who are keeping him here.
As to what comes next, Seiter said, “When I first heard the news, I thought Lifetime Achievement Award? I’m not that old … I’m nowhere close to retiring, I have much more to do.”