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Prolific Writer

June 06, 2011

For Dr. Shawn Wahl, his career is also his passion.

Head of the ASU Communication, Mass Media and Theatre Department, Wahl teaches communication, writes about it and lives it. Lately, he has been writing quite a lot about it with a newly published book and two more on the way.

“People will ask me, ‘What did you do last weekend?’ and I’ll say I wrote a chapter in my book,” Wahl said. “They ask if I ever take time to unplug, and I tell them that is my way of recharging because I’m enamored with writing. It’s a hobby and a passion, so it’s what I spend the majority of my time doing.”

Wahl’s lifelong interest in writing is what set him on the educational path to his current occupation.

“I was a double major in English and communication,” he said. “I wanted to be a high school speech and English teacher, and decided to go to graduate school.”

While working on a master’s degree in communication at Texas Tech University, the Fredericksburg native changed his focus to becoming a college professor, earning a doctorate at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. His next stop was Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, where he served as an assistant and then associate professor, and directed the graduate program for 10 years.

“I was certainly thankful, and obviously it was great to move back to my home state to be closer to my family,” Wahl said. “I enjoyed living in South Texas, but being able to come back closer to home was attractive, and it’s been a pleasure to be here at ASU.  I’ve had a few students from Fredericksburg, and it’s really special to have conversations about my hometown.”

Wahl recently published a textbook titled Business and Professional Communication: Keys for Workplace Excellence with co-author Dr. Kelly Quintanilla, who he met at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“This particular book works well in courses, typically in the communication discipline, but also in business communication,” Wahl said.

Wahl’s interest in electronic communication, like the ubiquitous nature of e-mail and its etiquette, is reflected in his writing. One segment strikes a cautionary note for e-mail communicators who might hit the send button while they are angry.

“Your credibility in a professional situation will go out the window if you uncork in an e-mail,” Wahl said. “I think if people are concerned about something, or they are emotional or angry about a particular issue and have something to say, it is easy to sit behind the computer screen and fire off responses. That’s something we talk about in these texts.”

He also focuses on bullying in the workplace.

“Bullies have a major impact on organizations because they can really take everything away from a person to where they are emotional and can’t do their job well,” he said.

Wahl’s upcoming textbook projects are scheduled to publish in January of 2012. One looks at persuasive messages, whether they are in advertising, personal relationships or professional situations. The other book, The Communication Age: Connecting and Engaging, has been in the works for years and focuses on the millennial generations’ communication skills and their lifelong relationship with the Internet.

“We have Generation X and Generation Y,” Wahl said, “and we have ‘cuspers,’ who are between the millennials and whatever was before that. So, we look at how we teach core communication skills to someone who has grown up in the information age always being online.”

When the Fox television show “Lie to Me” became popular, Wahl took notice because the show’s premise relies heavily on nonverbal communication to determine whether a subject is telling the truth.

“‘Lie to Me’ actually has a nonverbal communication consultant who has advised in writing the show,” Wahl said. “Body language is something that is fascinating to me.”

When Wahl isn’t focusing on human interaction, he puts his communication skills to work with his family of Pug dogs.

“They are part of my routine and writing process,” he said. “They park and hang out, and my oldest Pug is deaf, so I use hand signals to tell her to go to her bowl. If I want to direct her into a room or into her space when we are leaving the house, it’s all done with gestures.”

Dr. Shawn Wahl

Head of Communication, Mass Media and Theatre Department

Published author:Business and Professional Communication: Keys for Workplace Excellence (with Kelly Quintanilla), The Communication Age: Connecting and Engaging (January 2012).

Ph.D. University of Nebraska at Lincoln, M.A. Texas Tech University