Hello All! I’m Dr. Beth Ribarsky, Professor of Interpersonal Communication in the School of Communication and Media, and we are quite excited to have joined the College of Public Administration and Education.
Admittedly, I never pictured myself as a teacher when I was growing up, but now, I have a hard time imagining myself doing anything else. I started out as a biology major but was also on a speech and debate scholarship for Central Michigan University. However, after my speech coach Dr. Ed Hinck convinced me to take my first communication course, I was hooked! It was then that Dr. Shelly Hinck sparked my love of research and guided me in my fascination of understanding how communication impacts our interpersonal relationships. After my undergraduate program, I stayed at Central Michigan for my Master’s Degree (because, truthfully, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life/career) and began studying communication and identities in romantic relationships. It also was in my MA program that I was given my first class and fell in love with connecting with students and seeing their own “aha” moments.
From there, I knew teaching and research were my calling, so I headed to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to complete my PhD, where I studied interpersonal and family communication, with a secondary area in rhetoric and culture, and a specialization in women’s and gender studies. Though much of my work at Nebraska focused on romantic relationships, through this unique combination of concentration areas, I was given the opportunity to explore in my dissertation one of my guilty pleasures – reality dating television. More specifically, I examined how women watch The Bachelor together and create meaning for what it means to date while watching these types of shows. Due to people’s fascination with romantic relationships, my research and expertise has continued to be picked up by numerous popular public outlets, including Yahoo News, Healthline, The Washington Post, Bustle, and NPR.
Due to my interest in romantic relationships, I was thrilled at the opportunity when I joined UIS in 2007 to create COM 423: Dating and Relating - a class solely focused on how we build, maintain, and destroy our romantic relationships through communication. In this course and others within the School of Communication and Media and the Capital Scholars Honors Program, I seek to integrate my research and create an environment where students can take the material and apply it to their everyday lives – passing on the same excitement that brought me to my field so many years ago. Even after teaching a version of the same course nearly every semester since I started teaching in 2002, I still look forward to teaching sections of Oral Communication – the general education course. Did you know researchers estimate one in three people have public speaking apprehension (Pull, 2012; Stein, et al., 1996), and many report it to be a fear even greater than death (Dwyer & Davidson, 2012)? Using my years of public speaking experience as a collegiate competitor, coach, and instructor, I love helping students become more confident speakers in and out of the classroom – developing a skill for personal development as well as employability (Emmanuel, 2005). Because of my passion for teaching, I became recipient of one of the 2021-2023 Center for Online Learning, Research and Service Faculty Fellowships, and an Excellence in Teaching and Learning Fellow in 2018-2019.
With teaching being my primary interest, I have expanded my line of scholarship to focus on pedagogy, publishing several teaching activities in national journals, as well as two books: Activities for Teaching Gender and Sexuality in the University Classroom (I’m currently working on a second edition) and Activate Your Superpower: Creating Compelling Communication - a low-cost, approachable (and pretty funny, in my own humble opinion) textbook option for the Oral Communication general education course. While this book has been popular at UIS, it has also been adopted by other universities for use in their required courses. More recently, I have spearheaded the educational assessment efforts within our school and was awarded a sabbatical for Spring 2023 as well as the Berman Sabbatical Award to further advance the assessment being done on the School of Communication and Media’s general education, undergraduate, and graduate programs. For me, effective educational assessment highlights the strengths of a program in relation to university goals while providing fruitful avenues and insight for growth and development for instructors and the program holistically.
Maintaining an active line of scholarship has also informed my service. I am the second longest standing member of the UIS Institutional Review Board at 15 years and am an active member of the Central States Communication Association – having served 7 years in leadership positions, including as chair/program planner of both the Communication Education Division as well as the Women’s Caucus. Most recently, I was elected secretary of the Undergraduate Education and Administration Section in 2022, with plans to advance to vice-chair and chair/program planner in the forthcoming years.
Beyond my service to the university and discipline, I have an immense love for animals (I have several rescues of my own) and have used my communication expertise to become an advocate for animal welfare, serving as a fundraiser chair, social media director, and communication consultant for Illinois Humane. For my work with Illinois Humane, I was award the Star Staff Award from the Good as Gold Springfield Volunteer Awards in 2021.
Overall, my academic journey has been an adventure, integrating my scholarship, teaching, service and personal passions. Admittedly, when I started at UIS, I never thought I’d be here 15 years later. But, I’ve found a home where academic freedom is respected and innovation and growth are encouraged. I look forward to the new adventures and collaborations to come as we transition into our new academic home.
Dwyer, K. K., & Davidson, M. M. (2012). Is public speaking really more feared than death?
Communication Research Reports, 29, 99-107. doi: 10.1080/08824096.2012.667772
Emmanuel, R. (2005). The case for fundamentals of oral communication. Community College
Journal of Research and Practice, 29, 153-162.
Pull, C.B. (2012). Current status of knowledge on public-speaking anxiety. Curr Opin
Stein, M. B., Walker, J. R., & Forde, D. R. (1996). Public-speaking fears in a community
sample: prevalence, impact on functioning, and diagnostic classification. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 53(2), 169-174. 10.1001/archpsyc.1996.018300200870108629892