By Grace McNamara
This academic year, Dr. Melissa Dobosh is one of the recipients of the prestigious UNI Bookstore Outstanding Teaching Award. It is given by the bookstore to recognize the outstanding teaching of untenured faculty members. Dr. Dobosh is not only making an impact on her students, but the Communication Studies Department and the university as a whole.
Dr. Dobosh grew up in northern Virginia, right outside of Washington D.C. While filling out college applications in high school, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to study. At her mom’s suggestion, she decided on the public relations and communications route, although she didn’t know anything about the field at the time.
At James Madison University in Virginia, it was a public speaking class that terrified her so much. “It was such good content and the things we were learning was so fascinating that it overtook my fear. I forced myself to get over my stage fright,” says Dr. Dobosh. She settled on a speech communication major with a minor in human resource development and took an organizational communication course. “I felt like I’d come home,” she says. “It just really really clicked. So i feel pretty lucky that I found that early on.”
Dr. Dobosh thought she’d follow her passion and work in human resources after graduation. Her senior year, she did an honors thesis and research project. “I really fell in love with the research process of having a problem, thinking through how to tackle it, designing a study, collecting data, and drawing conclusions,” she says. “It was awesome.”
“The beauty of taking organizational communication classes is that there’s so much you can do. You’re studying how people create and recreate meaning and how they make sense out of things, so those skills are really applicable to a wide range of contacts.” Dr. Dobosh was fascinated by training and the employment process, so her minor and internship in HR encouraged her interest in the field.
After working in HR for a few years after obtaining her bachelor’s degree, her next goal was to get her master’s in Communication with a focus on groups and organization at the University of Delaware. She was a full-time student and teaching assistant.
Dr. Dobosh currently has several projects in the works. She is doing research on how groups use technology, as a lot of her research is about teams and organizations. “I’ve been really interested in the process groups go through and how that impacts the outcomes,” she says. From student projects to research conducted before she started teaching at UNI, her experiments mostly deal with manipulating technology in teams and measuring the effectiveness in terms of making high quality decisions. Her other line of research deals with how workers manage tasks and personal relationships in groups. This study is extending her dissertation work from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. In fact, one of the Communication grad students at UNI was integral in helping her conduct research by doing one-on-one survey interviews.
Upon receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Dobosh and her husband moved to Cedar Falls in 2014 and she began teaching at UNI. She’s from the East Coast, but says that she fell in love with the Midwest. “I think my students are just wonderful and kind and very motivated to make the world better which is really inspiring,” she says.
“As a new faculty member coming in and becoming more established, I’m in awe of my colleagues,” says Dr. Dobosh. “I think that this department is very unique compared to other departments in that we have experts who specialize in a wide variety of areas of the communication studies field.”
Dr. Dobosh teaches courses such as Organizational Communication, Workplace Relationships and Communication, and Quantitative Methods at the graduate level. A few of her favorites to teach are Communication and Conflict Management and Group Communication Theory and Analysis, although she says she loves them all. Due to her interest in groups, she loves teaching students the material. “At my heart I’m so obsessed with teams and how they function,” she explains.
After spending a few years at UNI, Dr. Dobosh is getting the hang of things in the Department of Communication Studies. “To come into a department where people are using a variety of methods to tackle a variety of problems and looking at the world through really different lenses, is really fantastic. We’re all kind of unified in this communication field.”
Dr. Dobosh says she is always impressed by the good work her colleagues do. “I think they’re great teachers, great scholars, and great people to work with. Many people seem to enjoy and love what they do and I think that transfers down to the climate of our department and our classrooms. I just love it here,” she says.
What’s next for Dr. Dobosh? “I want to keep doing my job really well and striving to improve. No matter how well a semester is, there’s always places you’re trying to innovate and improve,” she explains. “I want to teach effectively, be a great department member, and continue to push my research agenda.”