7 Questions with Constance Staley, author of “Public Speaking: The Inside Word”

Constance Staley is a professor of communication at UCCS.

Constance Staley, professor of communication at UCCS, researches, writes and teaches in the fields of interpersonal and organizational communication, conflict management and professional speaking.

Having now published over 20 books and editions, Staley most recently authored “Public Speaking: The Inside Word,” available through FlatWorld.

Published in January 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic altered the course of higher education learning, Staley had already geared the textbook towards public speaking courses taught fully online, hybrid and in person. Staley’s motivation was to create a textbook relevant to all generations, but especially to members of Generation Z – the “first true digital natives.”

Gen Z students “tend to be proficient at separating personal from public personas, leveraging devices to research and learn digitally, and collaborating online. They are also quick to filter out information they see as impractical and irrelevant,” Staley writes. “By paying attention to such characteristics and serving the needs of students of all generations, “Public Speaking: The Inside Word” engages today’s students in a personally relevant style that continually answers the central question, ‘What’s in it for me?'”

Staley answered seven questions on the new book, from its emphasis on inclusivity to her decision to work with a publisher committed to accessibility.

1. If you were describing your book to someone outside of your field, what would you say?

Some people say that writing textbooks is easy. It isn’t. My goal as an author is to make learning accessible by translating complex ideas into actionable insights. I try to create metaphors that work, images that compel, examples that explain, and ways to put new knowledge to use. I try to write “empathetically”: What do students need to know? What do they want to know? What will help them learn, not only about my discipline, but about themselves? What will encourage them to become the best learners they can be? What current ideas in the broader culture can I draw upon to pull them in?

Even if I could write a perfect book by faculty standards, the question remains: Will students read it? I try to get inside the heads of readers, and I have had student readers ask me: “How does this book know so much about me?” Learning opportunities should be diverse, equitable, and inclusive. When I’m able to reach those standards, I count my work as successful.

2. How did you get the idea for your project?  

I’ve now written 20 books and editions, with another about to launch. Some of my books are about teaching and learning for faculty, and some are about the discipline of communication and academic success for students. Most of my books have been published by Cengage Learning, but my newest book was published by FlatWorld, an innovative Boston-based publisher with the goal of driving down costs for students. All of their digital texts – no matter the author or discipline – are a flat $29.95, and that kind of accessibility is important to me.

Writing for a large publisher is great fun because I have so many of the publisher’s resources at my fingertips. But writing for a smaller publisher has been a different and amazing experience, too. Whether the texts are about college success or most recently professional speaking, the model is consistent and my goals as an author are the same. I am driven to find ways to make words come alive and speak to a broad range of diverse readers. Inclusivity is one of my top priorities.

3. Did your focus develop or change throughout the research and writing process? 

The theories of learning I build upon are employed consistently in all my books; however, the changing content that revolves around this consistent core is what keeps me engaged as an author.

4. Which idea do you write about that most excites, invigorates or inspires you?      

What invigorates me is the creation and integration of knowledge: locating, selecting, and arranging information to create a learning path for student readers. I love pulling together disparate ideas to create a fresh vision that will help students. When I get a random email from a struggling student from who-knows-which college or university in whatever city or town that says, “I didn’t think I could succeed in college, but now I know I can,” I know my efforts have been worth it.

5. Describe your writing space. Where do you do your best work? What time of day? Do you have any writing routines you are willing to share?           

During these pandemic days, of course, I work from home like most of us. My loft office at home is quiet, if somewhat messy. (To me, a cluttered office is a sign of an active mind – or at least, that’s my rationalization.) I have research articles piled in stacks and notes strewn about, and dozens of categories bookmarked on my computer so that they’re easier to find. I am fully immersed in the often messy richness of writing. Once I’m in my state of “flow,” nothing stops me. I may forget lunch or need to be reminded that it’s time to stop for the day. Truth be told: the real reason I write is because it helps me learn.

6. Is there a favorite quote or passage you want to showcase from the book?

Those who worked with me in Freshman Seminar/GPS will remember that my favorite quote has always been Andrew Carnegie’s: “My heart is in the work.” And it’s still true.

7. What new questions for future exploration have you discovered? 

I’m discovering new learning challenges every day. That’s what I love most about the profession of teaching and learning.

UCCS celebrates faculty and staff who author and edit books each year. In recognition of their achievement, and as part of the UCCS Author Spotlight initiative, authors are invited to submit details on their published works.