Social Media

My Manchester Story

Tim McKenna-Buchanan

by Mam Samba | Mar 26, 2019

Director of Honors Program and Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

“What brought you to Manchester?”

“Um, I came to Manchester [for] a couple of different reasons. I went to a similar school like Manchester - Wayne State College in Nebraska – and it had 2,500 students and the focus was on students and the professors teaching. So, when I was looking for schools… I kind of, throughout my education – getting my PhD and stuff – I always wanted to end up at a school where teaching was the focus and students. I like doing research and I still like doing research, but I wanted to provide students opportunities like I was provided.”

“What interests you about Communication Studies?”

“It all interests me. I think what interests me the most is just how important communication is to everyday life, and [how it] kind of challenges people’s concept of what communication is. I think it’s often taken for granted and we don’t often think about how we can improve it. We know how important communication is for the work place, for relationships, but it’s hard to think about strategies for how to improve our listening and how to improve our communication. So, I like that it’s a part of our everyday life - whether it’s work, relationships, anything. It’s also [important] to think about it with a critical lens because I don’t think we do that – I don’t even do that. In a lot of my classes I learn from a lot of my students in thinking ‘I had never thought about it that way’ or 'Why do I do that that way?’ I learn a lot from students and from past professors in kind of challenging my own perceptions.”

“Are you working on any special projects at the moment?”

“Well, there’s a lot of stuff in the works. One thing is – I’ll give you three examples – I’m working on a piece from my dissertation. My dissertation looked at how gay and lesbian individuals come out in the work place or really navigate the workplace. And so, there’s a piece on navigating invisibility – a lot of the research has talked about diversity and some of that stuff is on the surface level, but what happens when your diverse characteristic is invisible and how do you navigate that? And so, we’ve talked about doing some research comparing experiences and what invisibility looks like in the workplace. Another thing is I worked with Carly Kwicien this summer. We interviewed pharmacy students at Manchester and looked at how they’re socialized in the pharmacy program to become professionals and [looking at] professionalism in the workplace and how it’s different for pharmacy students compared to medical students. And the last thing is a teaching activity for the Emotion in the Workplace classes. I do an emotion work audit and that’s where students find a job and interview someone and do an analysis – and so I want to use that activity and get that activity published in a journal called Communication Teacher, which is a place where we can share teaching ideas with other people so people can use our ideas.”

“Why do you love teaching?”

“I love teaching because… I really love it for the students. The relationships I build with students and getting to know students and having fun in the classroom. I love students being engaged in the classroom, which doesn’t always happen. Also, just kind of building those relationships that are in the classroom and engaging or challenging them with ideas. But also outside of the classroom – when students that aren’t even this major come and talk to me about life or just come to talk about a tv show or something – those aspects of teaching. I like building relationships with students and doing stuff out of the classroom, whether it’s activities or starting a club or something like that that gets them applying what they need to know to be successful in the workplace.”

“What is something most people don’t know about you?”

“I have two kids – we’re in the adoption process for our two boys. Troy is six and Alex is four, and we’ve had them for a little less than a year. They’re crazy and energetic. Also, I’m speech and debate captain, I’m from Colorado, I’ve been married for almost five years to Josh, I have a dog named Pepper, but my life has changed a lot since adopting kids. We got them last April and it’s been like a whirlwind –not in a bad way, just a change.”

“What are you looking forward to as the new director of the honors program?”

“I’m looking forward to just having more of an administrative role with students and being kind of a go-to person for the honors program. [Recently] students were often left on their own to navigate it, so I want to be the kind of person to show them the way. We’ve actually done a lot in the past semester or so in making sure everyone knows where they’re at in the honors program and making sure they’re on track and know if they need to improve their GPA. And also, to make it more manageable for students – for high achieving students for creating a kind of excellence at the university.”

“What kind of shared experiences have stood out to you?“

I think – I have a couple. The first one [was] my first year [where] we did advanced public relations. My students took on creating their own VIA and I think what stood out to me was how the students took ownership of the project, which is kind of the goal of that class, but we really had a successful event. One of the really large VIA’s had filled up the upper JYSC, like it was to capacity, and so it was just an exciting experience. The VIA was called 'Small School, Big World’ and it was about what you can do with your degree after your time at Manchester. We brought back three alumni to talk about their experiences: what they learned while they were at Manchester and then how that’s shaped them in their careers today. But the students – I can’t take ownership for it, I was just the proud bystander watching my students pull it all together.”

“How has your time at Manchester shaped you?”

I think in many ways… I don’t know. I have a really good group of support here and friends that are kind of like a second family. Like, when we adopted the boys, there were a lot of people that helped us out because it was quick when we got the boys. And I would say a really good social support network here that’s shaped me and I [think] that speaks to the community that’s created here at Manchester between faculty, staff, and students. And one of the things I love about the students is when they’re interested –when we were adopting the boys they were interested and that doesn’t happen at a lot of other universities. So, I think it shaped me around a community that’s inclusive and I also - something I study is LGBT issues and coming out in the workplace and I always worried about where I would end up and if I would be accepted where I was at and that’s never even been a question here. So, I think it’s shaped me about being open to other ideas as well and also being open to a community and being there for other people.“