Back from CSCA: Orgcomm Top Paper, Steelcase tour, & Other Awesomeness

Colors of Grand Rapids
Colors of Grand Rapids

It has been a wonderfully informative and stimulating time spent at the Central States Communication Association, in Grand Rapids, MI. Several vignettes stand out…

First there was the amazing pre-conference tour of Steelcase corporate headquarters, organized by the Organizational and Professional Communication division. The tour enabled us to examine how contemporary workplaces may be designed to stimulate maximum creativity, socialization, and productivity. It was fascinating to learn all about Steelcase’s work, both in designing its own space and workplace practices, and in working with clients, like Google, to design theirs. The wonderful pictures are probably going to become the basis of a new class activity for my COM 6250 org-comm graduate seminar in the Fall.

Wayne State COM 3250 students of F2015 touring the Detroit Institute of Arts’ Industry murals for their “finale” paper

Second, I learned some great new tips for the “foundational” org-comm undergraduate class, or COM 325o at Wayne State. It was wonderful to share my own strategies and pet projects (e.g., the journal entry assignments, the murals “finale” paper) with colleagues, while getting novel ideas to experiment with (e.g., organizational shadowing, “how to” presentations). Although I won’t be teaching COM 3250 in the Fall of 2016, this was definitely food for thought.

Third, I was part of a Vice-Chair’s Special Panel on navigating the academy as a queer scholar, which resulted in a wonderful roundtable with junior faculty and graduate students, sharing our experiences and suggesting best practices. I provided the perspective of a faculty member who does not do (primarily) research on LGBT issues, but engages nevertheless with the campus community as a gay scholar. I’m so grateful that I was asked to participate.

Finally, Patrice Buzzanell and I presented our research on how sustainability practitioners negotiate the complex tensions of their work to derive meaningfulness. We were thrilled at the response and feedback from the audience, and to receive the Top Paper from the Organizational and Professional Communication division. Check out our slides HERE.

This study adds to the growing body of literature that advocates for a more nuanced approach to meaningfulness of work. Our study is based on in-depth interviews with 45 practitioners in the field of environmental sustainability. Drawing from the crystalized self framework, we argued that practitioners need not find work meaningful despite various organizational, professional, and political constraints, but because of such constraints through a complex process of negotiation spanning process, impact, and career trajectories. In addition to examining meaningfulness as a tensional/contested negotiation process rather than purely positive outcome, the political implications of such meaning-making are traced.


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