Marquita L. Byrd

Marquita L. ByrdAssociate Professor, Communication Studies

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

My main question is how would I get quantitative data analyzed without paying for it or having to write a grant to get money to do it. Since we have no research department or office do to it, I have stopped my quantitative research. How can I get that done without paying students to enter data into SPSS? We have no way to read IBM data sheets. People keep telling me we have someone here who can do it, but they have been hidden from me for 25 yrs.

What personal factors contributed to your study of communication?

I loved talking to people, I loved giving speeches and every class I took as an undergraduate seemed like it was about me. In every course I felt that I was simply remembering knowledge I already had. Communication Studies prepares people for healthy lives and relationships across the lifespan. When people take our courses they learn how to live, how to think and how to be in relationships with self and others. No matter what one’s job or career is what sustains life is relationships with others.

What has been most challenging in your research (or teaching)?

The greatest challenge in my teaching here as SJSU is dealing with poor classroom behavior. People walking in and out of class at will and talking throughout class sessions causes me to spend an inordinate amount of time on class control. I cannot teach in the chaotic environment of people leaving class to go to the bathroom and answer the phone during class, while I am lecturing and when their classmates are performing. No matter how many times I say not to do these things the students do it anyway. I feel there are no protections for faculty. Students can do whatever they want to in class and there is nothing we can do about it.

These are major problems. They have raised my stress level over the years to the extent that I have actually thought about retiring early. The lack of an attendance policy is also a major issue. It is the students who have chronic absences that require intensive individual instruction, repetition of directions ad nauseam, and innumerable do-overs.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research (or teaching)?

The cultural diversity of the student body heavily informs my emphasis in communication, diversity and culture. They bring experiences and questions to the classes that help me gain a deeper understanding of culture, identity and experience.

A hidden (research or teaching) talent:

My hidden teaching talent is the ability to develop class assignments that are deceptively simple, yet require higher order thinking and analysis. In completing these types of “simple” assignments, students often report having profound experiences or leaps in insights.

One book that changed your life (or teaching/research) and why:

The one book that changed my life was the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was life changing because it introduced me to the feminine principle in the Divine. It was as significant as the movie, The Green Pastures, that introduced me to the notion of God as Black. There is nothing more empowering than seeing yourself reflected in the Divine.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

New faculty: Networking is paramount to success. Don’t get overloaded with committees. Learn how to say “no”. Develop a life outside of the university. Get your publications done in the first four years. No matter what they say about the importance of teaching, it is publications that make the case for tenure. Cultivate a healthy work-life balance so that family and friends are not neglected.

Choose research areas that are of personal interest to you. They will sustain you through many cycles of your career.

RSCA Accomplishments

Webseries and blogs addressing communication, culture and diversity. Eleven shows interrogating the basic demographics that create differences in power, access and choice. Those would be race, class, sexual orientation, gender, religion, and ability. These are stand alone works that can be used in class or as corollary materials for a course. The shows run 15–23 minutes. See Culture Chat Show and Culture Chat blog.