Faculty Feature: Department Chair's Interest in Field Comes from her Fascination with Human Beings

by Jennifer Shaskan

Faculty Feature: Department Chair's Interest in Field Comes from her Fascination with Human Beings

Dr. Anne Nicotera currently serves as Professor and Department Chair for the Department of Communication. In her role as instructor, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in her area of expertise—organizational communication. As Department Chair, she is dedicated to representing and advocating for the department to the college and university for our initiatives and goals, as well as being responsible for the daily operational needs of the department.

Nicotera’s interest in the communication field comes from her fascination about human beings, the ways in which we communicate, and puzzling through these complexities to develop understanding. Nicotera explained her interest by stating:

“There are a multitude of ways that people perceive the world and there’s a multitude of values that aren’t always in concert with one another and yet we tend to focus on bad conflict and the times things don’t work. But the reality is that the vast majority of the time we are able to navigate successfully and do great things together as human beings and that absolutely fascinates me.”

Teaching organizational communication is one way that Nicotera gets to explore these passions. By analyzing everyday communication from a theoretical perspective, these courses allow students to gain new perspectives and to see aspects of their lives through a new lens. She relates this moment for students to seeing the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz because as a former graduate student stated, “disillusionment is the process of letting go of one’s illusions” said Nicotera. “Once you understand what’s really going on, you can be more effective.”

In addition to communication instruction, Nicotera is dedicated to her several research endeavors. For the past 10 to 15 years, she has worked to develop the structurational divergence theory and associated measurement tool used to describe the intractable organizational conflicts that can result from the simultaneous application of multiples meanings in intra- and inter- professional interactions. Due to this research being focused on face-to-face workplace interactions, the pandemic has disrupted the work, causing Nicotera to take a temporary break to focus on theoretical writing and research projects with graduate students to help them develop their work for presentation and publication.

For students, Nicotera advises that “everyone should see themselves as a potential leader.” In doing so, everyone should examine their abilities to help the group they are working with to progress in a positive direction.  Additionally, she stresses the importance of quality professional relationships for accomplishing the tasks at hand. Nicotera explained, “we can use our work to build our relationships and then use the strength of our relationships to enhance our work.”