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Bill Rawlins cultivates new ideas about communication in friendship

Mar 27, 2013

Stocker Professor of Communication Bill Rawlins / Photos by Megan Westervelt

Bill Rawlins cultivates new ideas about communication in friendship


By Kerry Tuttle

ATHENS, Ohio (March 27, 2013)—Bill Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Communication in the School of Communication Studies, is devoted to educating his students by cultivating new ideas about communication, specifically interpersonal communication and communication in friendship.

“I want my students to think about how communication can facilitate a well-lived life for both individuals and communities,” he said. “I encourage them to think about how to live well with others by emphasizing the value and dignity of listening carefully to other people.”

Previously a professor at Purdue University, Rawlins has been at Ohio University since 2003 and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses such as Interpersonal Communication Theory, Small Group Communication and Communication in Friendships Across the Life Course.

“Dr. Rawlins is a leading expert on the topic of friendship. His work in this area is vitally important, especially because the ways in which we enact friendship are changing rapidly as a result of social media and new communication technologies,” said Dr. Scott Titsworth, the dean of the Scripps College of Communication. “Bill's scholarship explores these and other issues, and is also branching into new and exciting areas to discover the many ways in which we perform relationships with others. Bill is an outstanding example of someone who continually evolves his scholarly pursuits to keep his work relevant and engaging for a variety of audiences.”

Rawlins credits the Stocker Professorship with enabling him to enhance his research and teaching activities at Ohio University through research assistance and the allotment of extra time to work on these projects.

“I believe that the excitement that I feel about my research makes my classes vital educational experiences and I know that the opportunity to teach and learn from undergraduates and graduate students has made my research meaningful,” said Rawlins.  

The Stocker Professorship was established in 2001 from a $250,000 gift, with the late Beth K. Stocker as the primary donor. Rawlins was named the Stocker Professor in 2003.

Through the Stocker Professorship, he has also been able to develop energizing relationships with international colleagues at universities, as well as present lectures in Sweden, Austria, Spain and Greece.

“These discussions have richly informed my current book on the ethics of friendship as a basis for mentoring, how to find classroom interaction, civic involvement and a well-lived life,” said Rawlins in reference to his international relationships and their influence on his most recent publication, “The Compass of Friendship: Narratives, Identities and Dialogues.” The book received an award from the National Communication Associate Convention in the fall of 2012.

Rawlins has been published numerous times, with another one of his books, “Friendship Matters: Communication, Dialects, and the Life Course,” selected as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1993 by the Editors of Choice, the book review journal of the American Library Association. It also received the Gerald R. Miller Book Award for 1994 from the Interpersonal and Small Group Interaction Division of the Speech Communication Association and was reviewed by many journals.

Since the publication of this book, Rawlins has been focusing more on issues related to gender identities and cross-sex friendships, as well as intercultural friendships.  In addition to this research, he also continues to emphasize dialogue, talking and listening with each other in his teaching.

“I emphasize the importance of everyone’s lives in my classes: their personal lives, their family and their future story,” said Rawlins. “I hope our work together would contribute in some way to making that a good story.”