I spent last Thursday immersed with the students and faculty of Texas Tech's online Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) PhD program. Actually, it all started on Wednesday evening with a delightful dinner at Dr. Tommy Barker's home. Tommy is head of STC's Academic SIG and Director of Technical Communication at TTU. Texas-style, nothing was done small or half way. Tommy had even procured a Dobro for me to use so we could do some bluegrass/rock-a-billy picking after dinner. Tommy played a mean acustic guitar and fellow faculty member Ken Baake joined us on banjo. For those in need of a scary thought to haunt you through the day, I have two words: PhDs yodeling.
Thursday morning I listened to doctoral students talk about their research projects, and I gave a keynote talk during lunch on the role of PhDs as practitioners. I spent the afternoon with Dr. Joyce Locke Carter, the Director of Graduate Studies in TCR, sitting in her usability class and touring their usability and multimedia facilities. That evening the students invited me to a barbecue.
I feel like I have seen the future of technical communication, and we are in good hands. The students were engaged in exciting research projects and projected more energy than I have encountered in a long time. The quality of the program is impressive, from the faculty--which reads like a list of academic Who's Who in technical communication--to the caliber of the graduate students (the TCR program accepts only 20% of its applicants).
The students work online most of the year, but spend two weeks working through an intensive "boot-camp" style program every summer. What I find most impressive about the program is the community of scholars this is developing for our field. TTU has worked out an effective formula for combining distance learning with face-to-face networking. And because these students have become accustomed to collaborating online, they will stay connected and influencing each other for the rest of their careers.
Congratulations to TTU for an excellent program, and thanks for the hospitality. That, and a hearty i-e-o-d-lady-hoo.