Patrick McElearney


President's Scholar

College of Social Sciences
Communication Studies


Why did you choose your major?

I suppose a love for speech blossomed early inside of me and I am continually amazed at how much I enjoy the act of communication itself.  I have always found that a poetic beauty lives within speech and discourse, and like many things in life, it was this beauty that initially attracted me to it and its study. However, as I continued further into the major, it seemed that communication studies had less to do with ‘communication’ and more to do with ‘studies.’  This would require a workload that I had not anticipated.


What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

I am deeply honored and privileged to receive the President’s Scholar Award.  Although my diligence and determination in school was never accompanied by a desire to receive awards, it is nice to be recognized by my mentors and the University.  However, I feel that this award should not be bestowed upon me, but my family and professors that have supported me throughout my academic journey.


Who has been instrumental in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?

During the course of the last few years there have been many individuals that contributed toward my academic success.  I wish I had the opportunity to name them all, unfortunately, my space is limited.  I must first mention both my mother and father.  Whether they know it or not, they have played an integral role in all of my achievements.  Furthermore, the support I have received and continue to receive from all of my family and friends fuels my motivation to continue working hard.  I have also been fortunate to have had many great professors along the way.  I use the word ‘great’ because it is my opinion that these professors have done more than teach me, they have inspired me.  Professors like, Dr. Stephanie Coopman, have played an invaluable role.  As my major advisor, she has helped guide me through this journey and has served to motivate me to continue on to graduate school.  Also, both Dr. David Terry and Dr. Matthew Spangler were able to open my eyes into the area of performance, a sub-discipline of communication studies.  I have now grown to love performance and I could not see my life without it. These professors and many others have helped me deal with the difficulties in my academic journey thus far, allowing me to realize that it is alright to ask for help when things are hard.  In my past struggles this was not always the case.


Did you overcome any hardships or adversities during your life, that has helped shape who you are today?

I was diagnosed with leukemia my junior year of High School.  Three years of chemo and radiation therapy would follow me into the beginning of my college career.  I am not so sure how to explain the effect that this had on me, but it influenced nearly every dimension of my life.  Physically, mentally, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally, I was forever changed.  For three years I lived in and out of the pediatric oncology clinic at Stanford Hospital.  Most of those years were not pleasant.  I was more fortunate than many of the patients in that clinic and I believe that this experience has led me to seek a career that gives back to the community.


Where would you like to be in 5-10 years?

For some time now, I have felt that it is part of my responsibility to help others.  My experience with leukemia solidified those feelings and for several years now, I have struggled with how I would give back to my community.  A couple of years ago, I began to consider a career in teaching.  That is why I am hopeful to be accepted into the Teaching Associate (TA) program in the Communication Studies Department.  This program works with graduate students here at SJSU and allows them to gain teaching experience at the college level.  I would then like to complete my PhD in communication studies and begin teaching an innovative interdisciplinary communication and performance studies program that I developed here at San Jose State University.


A few words from his nominating professor:

"I second Dr. Coopman's nomination of Patrick McElearney.  He is a hard working and gifted student who has taken a non-traditional path to college.  He consistently goes above and beyond in his school work and extends his reach well beyond the classroom walls.  Patrick is currently working on a full length research based performance about substance abuse that he will perform at the end of the semester.  The work is a creative and timely example of the power of performance to address social issues."
-Dr. David Terry