Dr. Roger Aden is the Charles E. Zumkehr Professor of Speech Communication in the School of Communication Studies. His research focuses on rhetoric, place, and space, and public memory. Dr. Aden was a finalist for the University Professor award in 2019. I asked him a few questions about his motivation for writing and advice for students.
Q: When did you first start writing?
A: I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I was interested in journalism in junior high and high school so I spent a lot of time writing newspaper stories in my younger days. Thanks to some encouraging teachers, I continued to develop skills in, and enthusiasm for, writing.
Q: Which book did you have the most fun writing?
A: I’ve enjoyed, for different reasons, each of the books I have written. I have two favorites. I really enjoyed writing "Huskerville" because I learned a lot about myself by listening to other Nebraska football fans describe the nature of their fandom. I also enjoyed writing "Childhood Memory Spaces" because I learned so much about the lifelong pull of the favorite places from our youth; I read so many powerful stories from the individuals who contributed to that book.
Q: What made you want to pursue the subject of public memory?
A: History and geography have also been long-time interests of mine; I’ve always loved learning about other places and times. Public memory allows me to combine those interests with communication studies; I get to explore how the ways we communicate about the past, specifically in places where particular stories about the past are embedded, reveal what people want to remember and try to forget.
Q: What motivated you to write the variety of books you've published?
A: All of my interests circulate around the meanings of places. Some of those places are imagined (like the settings of fictional narratives), some of them are physical places we experience, and some of them are imagined understandings of physical places.
Q: When did you know you were nominated for the presidential teaching award? [Dr. Aden clarified that he was nominated for a Presidential Teacher award in 2018 but declined to complete the application. He was selected as a finalist for the University Professor award in 2019]
A: I had just returned to my office after teaching COMS 1010 and was surprised by a knock on the door. Tim Vickers, Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, had stopped by to hand-deliver the letter informing me of the nomination. I’m grateful for Tim making the moment so special—it will stick in my memory for a long time!
Q: What advice do you have for current students?
A: First, treat every class and experience as an opportunity to learn and grow. What might seem boring, difficult, or irrelevant in the moment might be just the thing you need to draw upon in the future. Second, ask questions. The habit of inquiry—of learning how and why something works or matters—will serve you well no matter what you do.