Communication Department Head Dr. Trudy Hanson set to retire from WTAMU

Dr. Trudy Hanson, department head of the Department of Communication at West Texas A&M University, has completed 31 years of academic service and will be retiring this year. Hanson began teaching as an instructor at WTAMU in the fall of 1989, teaching basic public speaking classes and business and professional communication classes and has expanded her repertoire to teaching more than 15 different classes.

In regards to her position, Hanson said “A department head wears many hats!”

As the department head, Hanson assists with all New Student Orientations and Transfer Student Orientations. She is a member of the Academic Leadership Council which is composed of academic department heads and direct supervisors. Hanson serves as the advisor for the Panhandle Storytelling Guild and as advisor for Lambda Pi Eta, Communication Honor Society. She also writes the assessment reports for both the communication studies and media communication programs each year. I have overseen the accreditation process for the department in 2009, 2015 and 2020.

“I also direct the annual Storytelling Festival sponsored by the Communication Department,” said Hanson.

Hanson is also responsible for submitting the course schedules for fall, spring and summer and overseeing the budget. She is also responsible for conducting the annual review of faculty performance by each communication faculty member and overseeing their peer observation program. She also coordinated the basic speech course since the mid-1990s.

“I don’t know that there is a single [favorite WTAMU] memory. There are many!” Hanson said. “For example, five of our graduate students presented their rhetorical analyses at last week’s virtual Texas Speech Communication Association conference. I was so proud of their engaging and insightful presentations.”

In addition to this, Hanson loved hosting nationally known professional storytellers such as Tim Tingle, Tom McDermott, Carmen Deedy, Joe Hayes, David Holt and Bill Harley as featured tellers. She loved celebrating the accomplishments of communication and media communication students and seeing the changes they have made in the Sybil B Harrington Fine Arts Complex since moving there in 2006.

“And, of course, I love the creative approach each year’s Communication Week Planning Committee has with planning this annual event,” Hanson said. “I also helped establish the Communication Hall of Fame which began in 2013.”

Hanson’s plans for retirement include devoting more time to storytelling, even though it may have to be virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. She is also interested in searching out her family history and welcoming a new granddaughter who is due to arrive on Groundhog Day.

“And my daughter Leah says I should get a dog. But the jury is still out on that,” Hanson said.

“Dr. Hanson has been a tremendous asset to the department and university over her 31 years of service,” said Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts and Humanities. “She has personally been a great mentor to me during my time here and is always a great person to ask for advice. She will be greatly missed by all of the communication faculty, staff, and students.”

Hanson has often told her students that she was “born to teach”. Both of her parents were teachers, both her grandmothers were teachers, her uncle was a school principal and two of her daughters have degrees in teaching. So, no matter what her title may be, Hanson thinks teaching is something she will continue to do, maybe in different contexts.

“As I look back at my time at WT, so many things have changed,” Hanson said. During her second year of teaching, Hanson gave birth to her fourth child, Tori. At that time she was the only female instructor in speech communication.

“There was literally no one I could easily ask to take over my classes when Tori made her appearance on Nov. 23, the Friday after Thanksgiving,” Hanson said.

So, she did what she thought she needed to do. Hanson took Monday of the next week off and then was back in the classroom on Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. to teach organizational communication. Her daughter was four days old.

“I’m happy to say that now none of the COMM faculty, whether male or female, have to worry about taking time for their families when needed,” Hanson said. “They know that this department is family friendly but back in 1990 that was not exactly the case.”

“I love talking about my family,” Hanson said. “I have four children, three daughters and a son and eight grandchildren. Our family vacations are usually filled with hiking adventures of one kind or another. My favorite gathering is our annual family vacation when all my children and grandchildren gather for a week in the summer.”

Hanson’s daughter Leah is a museum educator at the Dallas Museum of Art. Her daughter Ashley teaches piano and violin in Lehi, Utah. Her son Chad is an orthopaedic surgeon who practices in Henderson, Nevada. Her daughter Tori teaches 6th and 7th grade science in Tucson, Arizona. Hanson’s husband, Mike, is retired from the Department of Energy and manages a soaring club on Long Island. Her eight grandchildren are active in sports and choir.