By Grace McNamara
Danielle McGeough has been with the Department of Communication Studies since she first came to UNI as a freshman in 2000. She grew up in small-town Iowa, graduating from Southeast Webster High School. With dreams of becoming a motivational speaker, she came to UNI and decided on the Communication Studies Department. She took courses on performance studies, worked on shows in the Interpreters Theatre, and was a very active member of the speech and debate team during her time as an undergrad.
It was through the speech and debate teams that she met her husband, Ryan McGeough. “We met in an Argumentation and Debate course with Dr. Cate Palczewski, who is now one of our best friends and colleagues,” says Danielle. Upon graduation, she left for Illinois State University to attain her master’s in Communication, but decided to come back to UNI to finish the degree for a few reasons. The first reason was the fact that UNI is the only university in the state of Iowa that has a performance studies program. Her second reason for choosing UNI to finish her master’s degree was for the way research is done in the program. “Whenever I would think about doing research I would imagine presenting it both in a written format and in a more creative format, and that’s one thing that I really love that our department does. We offer various methodologies and find creative ways for people to practice presenting their research and I think that provides a really hands-on and applicable approach.”
She and her husband then took off to Louisiana State University to earn their PhDs, and afterwards worked for a few years teaching in South Florida. Danielle began teaching at UNI in 2012 and her husband followed shortly after. “It feels like the universe aligned to make it happen,” she says. “To both be able to come home and be in the same department is a real honor.”
Danielle teaches many different courses across the department, ranging from general communication or performance studies courses to graduate level courses. Nonverbal Communication, Qualitative Communication, Cultural Performance, Performance and Social Change, and Gender and Communication are among her most frequent course offerings.
Performance classes are Danielle’s favorite courses to teach, since not everyone who takes those courses are theatre majors. “I love seeing how students find themselves in a performance class and seeing how they learn through play and explore different subject,” she says. “I want to look at how we can become better communicators by taking a research paper and presenting it to other people.”
Her personal interest lies in environmental communication. A few years ago, Danielle created a production called “Wasted,” which looked at all of the ways people talk about waste, whether it be physical, time, energy, or resource waste. Her approach is to write with students and give them prompts from her research, to see where they take the story.
She has also advised a few theses and papers for graduate students, as well as graduate interns working on their assistantships working in the Interpreter’s Theatre. “The graduate program here in the department is pretty broad and accessible for students who want to dive into a master’s degree and be a full-time student, but it’s also really great for those who are working full-time and want to take a class here and there,” Danielle explains.
Danielle names Cate Palczewski as a person in the department who’s been life-changing for her. “She’s incredibly rigorous and wicked smart. She really set a high bar for me and taught me how to write,” she says. Danielle also lists Karen Mitchell as playing influential role in her college experience at UNI. “Karen really introduced me to performance and taught me that learning can be done through play. She taught me that it’s not just about memorizing theories, but connecting as humans and connecting the work we do at universities to our communities.”
Since Danielle went to UNI for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, she has taken courses with many of the faculty in the Department of Communication Studies, considering many of them her mentors. “I can honestly say I think we have incredibly good teachers in our department and it’s something I’m proud of,” says Danielle. Now, she considers the faculty to be some of her best friends. “All of our faculty have been incredibly supportive of me and made this a space I feel I can flourish in. They’ve pushed me but also provided support. I’ve always felt very respected.”