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Wes Durham, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

Image is of Wes DurhamI was born and raised in rural Western Kentucky about an hour and a half southeast of Evansville. From an early age, I had a strong interest in learning…and talking. Thus, it is not a huge surprise that I found myself drawn to a career based in learning about talk. During my early undergraduate years at Western Kentucky University, I struggled with selecting a major. That is, until I enrolled in Introduction to Interpersonal Communication. In that particular class, everything seemed to “click” for me. The material was theoretical, applied, interesting, and relevant to everyone. Because of that course, I decided to major in communication and to devote my life’s work to understanding how and why we communicate the way we do in personal relationships.

After receiving my BA and MA degrees in Communication from WKU, I went on to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in interpersonal and family communication. At UNL, I was advised and mentored by Dr. Dawn O. Braithwaite, one of the most influential people within the field of interpersonal and family communication. During my early research at UNL, I began reading extensively on issues of privacy and disclosure within family relationships and fell in love with this line of research. It was indeed an exciting time to be a family communication scholar interested in studying disclosure, as my time at Nebraska coincided with Dr. Sandra Petronio’s development of Communication Privacy Management, the most innovative, complete, and communication-based disclosure/privacy theory in the field.

My current research blurs the lines between marital, family, and health communication. My primary research agenda deals specifically with communication, family planning, and sexual health. I have published (and forthcoming) articles in such outlets as Journal of Family Communication, Communication Studies, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. I have also had the great honor of co-authoring a book chapter on Communication Privacy Management with Dr. Petronio.

When I arrived at USI as a new faculty member four years ago, I was unsure of what to expect. However, I must say that I feel tremendously fortunate to work at a university that highly encourages and supports the teacher-scholar. It is my belief that we have some of the most talented and collegial faculty members anywhere here at USI. The students, colleagues, staff, and administration make it a joy to work here. Plus, I find it incredibly exciting to be on the faculty at a university experiencing so much physical and programmatic growth. Without question, the bit of progress that I look the most forward to is the Master of Arts program in Communication slated for fall 2010. I just hope by then my Chicago Cubs will be the two-time defending World Series champions.

Richard Mussard, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Philosophy

Image is of Richard MussardI spent my early life in the 1940s and 1950s growing up in Oakland, a small town in the westernmost county of Maryland.   After graduating from the local public school I immediately started college which, through my youthful foolishness proved unsuccessful (I was expelled for good reason).   A more profitable and successful experience followed in active U. S. army and inactive National Guard service, which ended with my honorable discharge.   My second attempt at college life at West Virginia University was successful. There I focused on philosophy and sociology, earning a bachelors degree in Sociology (1964). But early in the process I became certain that my greatest intellectual love was for questions of philosophy.  

With a newly formed family, I went to Carbondale, Illinois and enrolled in the young graduate program in philosophy at Southern Illinois University.   I gained a deeper and lasting appreciation for the greatness of ancient Greek philosophers, especially Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  They have remained the shaping force in my thought and life, although my doctoral dissertation (1969) addressed the philosophy of language of Gottlob Frege, a key figure in the history of modern logic and the development of 20-century analytic philosophy.

I started my 40-year teaching career when I arrived in Evansville in 1968 early in the history of USI’s development.  The school (then ISUE) was an extension of Indiana State University at Terre Haute.  For about two decades, I was the only full time Philosophy professor on our campus.  Since 1990 the philosophy department, like USI generally, has grown, indeed has more than quadrupled since then though we remain shorthanded.

Since coming to USI I have worked hard to understand and develop a theory about the nature of human wisdom and its logical contrary, human folly. I seek a philosophical theory useful to both students and to me in our quests to become wise.  As the great literature of the world reveals, we can live best by avoiding the most serious human follies and truly living wisely.  The intimate connection between wisdom and philosophy appears in the components of the word philosophy itself—phila (love) and sophia (wisdom)—includes the concept of wisdom.  But in spite of the existence of a mass of relevant literature and philosophy for the study of wisdom it does not all point to an obviously clear answer.   I, like many people, have been deeply puzzled about the questions, where exactly does wisdom come from and how do we get it.

In my study of wisdom I have developed and continue to offer a senior synthesis course called Becoming Wise. I organize this course around the problem of understanding what wisdom is and of identifying the requirements for becoming wise.  The project of becoming wise poses a challenge for the whole self, both mind and body, because the concept of wisdom is, at its core, the concept of a state of being that includes knowing what we need to live rightly and well—and that involves a knowledge of one’s individual and collective nature and one’s place in historical circumstance—and that we properly express that knowledge in our emotions and desires and in the conduct of our lives.  We are foolish when essential knowledge is accessible to us yet we do not know it; and we are foolish when we know what we should do, but do not do it.

For the mind, the challenge concerns comprehending what wisdom means and avoiding mistakes in choosing among the intellectual powers and methods.  I frame the fundamental problem as one of determining just what powers and methods of inquiry are reliable and trustworthy for gaining knowledge and living wisely, and which powers and methods are unreliable, illusory or useless.  Are the reliable ones just the normal, virtually universal human powers of perception, memory, introspection, and reasoning and the refined methods of inquiry grounded in them—roughly the established methods of the contemporaneous liberal arts and sciences?  This broad conception I call the rationalist way of pursuing wisdom; symbolically, this way is represented by Aristotle and Darwin.  Or should our pursuit of wisdom rely on a much wider inventory of powers that embraces “knowing by the heart” or “gut” and even paranormal powers and methods such as the powers of ESP, mental telepathy, psychokinesis, astrology, crystal ball gazing, Tarot Cards?

The use of such powers and methods is what I call the romantic way of pursuing wisdom; it is symbolically, the way represented by Rousseau, Wordsworth and New Agers.   Or, again, is the best way of acquiring wisdom-making knowledge the way of cultivating mystical perception to directly perceive wise-making visions and messages from God?  This mystical way of pursuing wisdom is represented by Moses, St. Paul, and Mohammed. Or do we discover wisdom lies in concluding that there is no reliable set of powers and methods that will lead us to wisdom making knowledge?  Is wisdom, paradoxically, just knowing we cannot attain knowledge and then living accordingly?  Or is wisdom the state of suspending the formation of all beliefs, or of many accepted categories of belief?  This I call the skeptical way of pursuing and teaching wisdom; it appears in Pyrrho of Elis and the author of Ecclesiastes, and many under the banner of Postmodernism.

The challenge is to critically examining the best available literature in defense of each of these basic ways, treating this literature as a library of hypotheses about which version is the best, most reliable path to wisdom, and then choosing to follow the knowledge generated by that way of inquiry.  Nevertheless, though the critical mind aims to find the most reliable path, the challenge is to get the body or the whole self to do what one then knows to be wise.  Also I recognize the study of wisdom is a great risk with much at stake.  If we make serious errors we can remain, or become, foolish rather than become wise; of course the bigger risk lies in not making the study.  As Plato depicts in his famous myth of the cave, the original condition of human beings is our ignorance. We must study our way out of it.  To refuse to study and enter into the dialogue is to remain ignorant and foolish.