VERMILLION, S.D. – Kelly McKay-Semmler, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of South Dakota, is the 2017 recipient of the Monsignor James Doyle Humanities Teaching Award presented by the College of Arts & Sciences.
Teaching 13 different courses in her discipline since starting at USD in 2008, McKay-Semmler’s favorite courses to teach are Communication and Conflict Resolution, Intercultural Communication, and Communication and Social Identity.
“One of the reasons Communication and Conflict Resolution is one of my favorite classes to teach is that I am able to do my favorite teaching style, which is very participatory,” said McKay-Semmler. “We learn a few principles and then we put them into practice through activities.”
One classroom activity involves inventing a conflict between students, each of whom has two other students acting as a ‘devil’ and ‘angel’ voicing different perspectives of the situation. “Through all of this, the two participants engage in conflict and hear all those voices that may be involved in why somebody is having a disagreement,” said McKay-Semmler. “It gets kind of wild.”
McKay-Semmler also involves students in her research activities which focus on the role of communication in cross-cultural adaptation. “Most recently, my research looks at host attitudes toward newcomers and how those attitudes are formed through media representations of immigrants as well as rumor and how that ultimately influences their adaptation process,” said McKay-Semmler.
The Doyle award is made possible thanks to a gift from Monsignor James Michael Doyle, former chair of religious studies at USD and a prominent theologian inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. The award is presented annually to an outstanding teacher in the Humanities Division of the College of Arts & Sciences.