Comm. dept chair elected president of national communication organization

by Beacon Staff • September 23, 2009

He occasionally peeks over his computer monitor out through the window in his eighth floor office in the Walker building and out onto Boston Common and the shimmering gold dome of the State House.,It's 4:30 a.m. and Richard West is already doing yoga. A couple hours later, and with massive coffee in hand, West is in his office fielding a barrage of phone calls.

He occasionally peeks over his computer monitor out through the window in his eighth floor office in the Walker building and out onto Boston Common and the shimmering gold dome of the State House. The phone doesn't stop ringing, and he is a flurry of activity.

"Aside from the five hours of sleep and the [Starbucks] venti coffee, I'm really driven by passion," West said. "I keep going because there is always something to do."

West, the chair of the Communication

Studies Department, now has something else to be passionate about. In June he was selected to eventually become the president of the National Communication

Association.

The NCA is the oldest and largest national communication group, which provides conferences, resources and publications to help its members understand the field of communication, according to its Web site.

This November he will take office as the second Vice President for one year, move up first Vice President the following year and will lead the organization as President for four years after that beginning in 2012.

West is the first faculty member from Emerson College selected as NCA president. Other previous presidents of the organization were from institutions like Northwestern University, Cornell University and the University of Texas.

West said his involvement with the NCA is a coup for Emerson image and will show the institution's commitment to communication.

"Emerson's name will be in every piece of literature coming out of the national office," he said.

Current NCA President Betsy Wackernagel Bach, of the University of Montana-Missoula, said she believes West is perfect for the job.

"I think he'll be wonderful," she said in a telephone interview. "Ever since I first met him, I thought he would be great to have as president."

West's responsibilities as second vice president will include being part of the NCA's executive committee, where he must help with operations, decision making, budget and investments, to name a few.

As first vice president, West will play a major role in organizing the NCA national convention, which will take place in New Orleans in 2011.

West said public speaking is probably the most crucial skill for students in the United States, and said he plans to contact the U.S. Department of Education to discuss

the addition of public speaking as a requirement for school children everywhere.

West's candidacy began last September, when he was nominated by three former NCA presidents for the position.

Last November, a committee decided on two candidates: West and Mary Lee Hummert of The University of Kansas.

The two candidates then spoke at four NCA conferences throughout the country to address members about their ideas and knowledge of the organization. On May 16, all NCA members were able to place their vote online for the candidate of their choice.

West has been a member of the NCA for more than 20 years and was formerly the organization's director of the educational policies board. Besides his involvement with the NCA and his position as chair of the Communication Studies Department, West is also the author of four books about communication and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses.

West said the support of Emerson students and faculty were vital in helping him reach this accomplishment. Communication studies professor Gregory Payne said he is pleased with West's election as NCA president.

"He puts a great deal of interest in his work," Payne said in a telephone interview. "He is somebody who takes a very active role in his leadership."

Katie-Coral Horton, a political communication major, is one of West's many student supporters.

"I have learned so much from Dr. West's behavior and attitude," she said in an e-mail. "He has taught me, by example, that if you are dedicated and hardworking nothing can stand in your way.",Laura C. Morel