Writing as a Communication Professor

Dr. Teri Varner is an integral part of the St. Edward’s communication department, but the title of “professor” barely skims the surface of her essence. Having gotten her doctorate in communication from the University of Texas at Austin, she applies herself in her community of Austin, Texas across many different platforms, maximizing her credentials as well as her contagious passion for equality and empowerment.

In addition to being a seriously incredible professor at St. Ed’s, she also teaches at Austin Community College… as if influencing one college wasn’t enough! A great sign of an effective communicator is that they know how to apply their expertise to all audiences and types of people, and— teaching at two different “genres” of university, if you will— Varner does just that.

Being a previous student of Dr. Varner myself, I know that her speaking and teaching style is highly effective— her engaging presence helped me to learn more in her class than any other. Even though it was just an Intro to Communication course, I felt as if it must have been the only thing on her schedule. The way she delivers her message is so specific to her audience that you feel like her main perogative. Needless to say, I wanted to know more about how she does it.

To inquire some insight regarding her style of writing and the type of writing she does as a professor, I asked Dr. Varner a few questions open-ended questions, centering around style of writing, audience, and writing she looks forward to the most.

When asked about style of writing, Varner reminds us of the four main types of writing: expository, persuasive, narrative, and descriptive. She says, “The best results are subjective and depend upon who the primary reading audience is, however I like a combination of narrative and descriptive.”

Being a professor, this makes perfect sense, because this is what all students are told to do— be professional, but keep your own voice present in your work. She likes to keep her audience in mind, as we know, when relaying information. Any type of information delivery requires an informative tone, which Varner maintains and uses to effectively convey loads of knowledge to both her students and colleagues. She doesn’t stop there, though— she also likes to use her own voice, adding the personal aspect that makes anyone who talks to her feel important, heard, and respected.

Regarding audience, Varner says that she will “generally stick to the basics.” She says, “If, I am writing an article for a scholarly journal I am certain to follow grammatical rules and adhere to APA formatting. For general audiences and in correspondence with students I write in a style that is expository – writing in which author’s purpose is to inform or explain the subject to the reader.”

Not only does she offer amazing insight wherever she goes with her writing, but she also has her audience in mind with every word— a key principle of the concept of effective communication.

When asked what type of writing she looks forward to, Varner said, “I definitely like and have an appreciation for narrative writing. I like hearing stories, and writing about everyday lived experiences is especially enriching.”

It’s nice to hear that narrative writing is what Varner enjoys the most, given her strong voice and presence. We want to hear all she has to say, and she wants to give it to us!

To end, Varner also wants us to know that her most recently read book— Michelle Obama’s Becoming— is one of her absolute favorites. In description, she says, “In this memoir the beautiful spirit of the former FLOTUS comes to life. Mrs. Obama writes in a manner that reveals her deeply personal experiences. Her narration is vivid, she makes the reader laugh, cry and contemplate hope. She writes descriptively in the book about her roots, important people in her life and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother.”

Since Varner enjoys this style of writing herself, it makes sense that she thinks this serves as a relevant example of narrative. This in itself shows us what type of writing Varner views as most important— eloquent, empowering, and meaningful. And the fact that she thinks this means that narrative writing is also impactful.

Professors like Dr. Varner demonstrate the enriching nature of university writing, and set the bar high for the type of writing that is expected not only of the professors, but also the students. When learning and growing under examples like Dr. Varner, writing becomes second nature, and the longing to write to the best of our ability comes naturally, as well.

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