Talent Into Genius

by Augusta Neal, photo by David Vaughn

Shannon Bichard, Ph.D.

Words spoken by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova have motivated Shannon Bichard since high school, and those thoughts have helped her arrive at the place she is in today.

Bichard, born and reared in the Sunshine State, has been a faculty member at Texas Tech University since Fall 2001. She was appointed to advertising chairperson by Dean Jerry Hudson, Ph.D., effective Summer 2012.

Bichard received a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Florida in 2001.

Managing to get from Florida to Texas, with both a successful career and family life, was no small feat, Bichard said.

Upon acceptance with a scholarship into the University of Central Florida graduate program, Bichard discovered she had to teach classes in addition to conducting her research — and in turn, Bichard said, she discovered her passion for teaching.

Determining the subject of this passion was not an easy process for Bichard. Throughout her years as an undergraduate student, Bichard changed her major five times: She studied anthropology, art history, graphic design, and communications before finally earning her bachelor’s degree in organizational communications. Bichard said the constant rotation of majors exemplified her thirst for knowledge and creativity.

“Most people are either analytical or they’re creative. I’m really both,” Bichard said.

The Successes, So Far, of Shannon Bichard:
  • Co-author of the book, “Politics and the Twitter Revolution: How Tweets Influence the Relationship between Political Leaders and the Public.”
  • Author of 35 conference papers;
  • Published in 17 refereed journals;
  • Author of three book chapters;
  • Recipient of several grant awards.
“I love creativity, but I struggle with actual production. I tried graphic design and found that I just wasn’t talented enough. Then I was a draftsman for a while, and I had a steady hand and learned some of the software, but when it came to actually creating something, I discovered I would rather just critique it and analyze it.”

The first class Bichard taught was oral communications for an undergraduate speech class. Bichard describes herself as a naturally shy person, and at that point she had never considered teaching. She describes the first day of teaching for her was “like acting.” She came to find that she loved teaching and organizing a class.

“It was the perfect blending of right-brain and left-brain: teaching and researching,” Bichard said.

What really got her heart pumping, she said, was watching the students learn, seeing that spark in their eyes when they just “get it.”

“The exciting part for me was looking at something in a textbook and then coming up with a way to teach a class where students actually understood it,” Bichard said. “I remember inspiring them and seeing their eyes light up and I loved it.”

Quick Facts:
  • Research interests focus on online media and include public research, framing, advertising, branding, consumer behavior, and the scholarship of teaching;
  • Preferred methodology is content-analysis or survey research;
  • Adviser for the American Advertising Federation advertising competition team that won First Place in the District 10 National Student Advertising Competition in 2009;
  • Membership on numerous service, theses and doctoral committees;
  • Consultant for various research needs in the community with an emphasis on advertising effectiveness;
  • Involved with visiting professor programs in an effort to keep current with the advertising industry.

While earning her doctorate at the University of Florida, Bichard began working at an advertising agency. The field of advertising now was capturing her attention.

“It was there that I fell in love with political communication and advertising, and that started rolling the advertising ball,” Bichard said.

Her passion for advertising and research eventually led her to Lubbock.

“I interviewed with several places, but from the minute I got off the plane, I fell in love with Lubbock. Everybody hears that and is like, ‘What?!’ but I totally did,” she said.

“I love the people here and the students at Tech. I came and talked to the faculty and it was like a family; everyone genuinely liked each other.”

Hudson recalled first meeting Bichard.

“She had a very energetic personality, that was the first thing that impressed me,” Hudson said. “She never seemed to meet a stranger, interviewed well, very bright.”

When her first child was born, Bichard proved again that she could more than handle her role as a mother on top of a successful career.

“When asked to be the department chairperson, it seemed like a neat challenge. I feel like I'm already kind of the mom of the department,” Bichard said. “You have to take a step back and everyone else becomes more important. My priority isn’t my advancement; it’s other people’s, especially the new faculty. I want to help people get to the point where they want to put their roots down and grow.”

Bichard credits Trent Seltzer, Ph.D., public relations department chairperson, as giving her some of the best advice for taking on her new responsibilities.

“He said, 'You have to learn to delegate. You have to prioritize differently and learn to shuffle multiple tasks,'” Bichard said.

Awards include:
  • Induction into the Texas Tech Teaching Academy;
  • The President’s Excellence in Teaching Award;
  • The Professing Excellence Award for demonstrating commitment to student success;
  • Outstanding Researcher for the College of Media & Communication in 2012.

“It's crazy behind the scenes, all the things that happen to get class schedules organized and get students into the classes they need,” she said.

Along with taking new responsibilities as advertising chairperson, Bichard continues to advise Texas Tech's advertising team.

“Our team is always right up there with the top schools. I've never ever left headed to a competition without thinking we could win. Never,” Bichard said. “I push them to the point to where sometimes they hate me, but in the end they're always excited because they know they've done their very best.”

Bichard said she enjoys motivating students to do their very best. She has proven to her students, faculty colleagues, and even to the spirit of Anna Pavlova, that through hard work, one can transform his or her talents into genius. mc

Augusta Neal is a senior advertising major and Spanish minor from Carlsbad, N.M.
David Vaughn is a junior university studies major from Spur, Texas.

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