Program Chair and Associate Professor, Organizational and Corporate Communication
Dr. Richard Pineda has been a faculty member in Communication at UTEP for 18 years. He developed the Introduction to Communication course (COMM 1370) for the program and has taught it for over 15 years; he also initially converted the course into an online format. The course is now a signature course for all the department's students.
His broader academic interests are political communication and Latinidad. He also does a lot of media interviews based on his work and ability to communicate academic concepts to a broad audience and has been interviewed by the BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR, and a number of regional and local media outlets.
As the program's chair, Dr. Pineda manages the department’s contributions to the online courses offered through UTEP Connect. He is also the director of the Sam Donaldson Center at UTEP; the Center provides academic enrichment for communication majors, communication programs to high school students, and continuing education and training for media and communication professionals.
Subjects he teaches:
I teach Communication 1370 face-to-face every semester, as well as Political Communication and some variation of Political Campaign Communication. I have also taught Popular Media and Culture, Argumentation, and graduate courses in the same subjects, plus the introduction to graduate studies course.
On developing and teaching an online course:
I am pleased that we have maintained and strengthened our relationship with [Extended University]. The intent of the online degree was to create opportunities for distance students to experience the excellent teaching that the department is known for on campus.
COMM 1370, a required survey course for almost all of our majors, offers an important introduction to the field of communication. I have taught the face-to-face version for more than 15 years and my interest in adapting the course for online delivery was driven by my excitement to introduce students to the complexity of the discipline. Our organizational and corporate communication majors use the curriculum from this course as the building block for their advancement in the major and much of what they will learn all the way through the online program degree is rooted in this class.
I like to think that when we pioneered this program, we were pushing the edge of technology; the initial course had multimedia elements and engaged discussion platforms. The skeleton I adapted was the model for other faculty teaching in the major and most importantly, advancements and innovations in the online class fed into the face-to-face as well.
I love teaching this class and have worked closely with faculty who have taught it subsequently to track changes we are making and to insure our quality control is the highest possible. I believe we have some of the strongest, most dedicated faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and my colleagues actively teaching in the online program are committed to facilitating great learning and dynamic conversations with our majors.
On what ignited his passion for communication:
I have always loved history and politics and while I was a political science undergraduate major, I realized that politics was a communicative process, more than anything else. I was a debater in high school and college and coached debate through my Ph.D.; that exposure to communication in an argumentative framework really connected with me and inspired me to study communication and use that as a foundation to research politics. I love the significance of the 1370 course being taught by a tenured faculty member (now chair); it communicates the importance of this class to a student’s role as a major. I also like to focus on my teaching in the big class; lots of new pedagogical innovations and enhancements.
His proudest accomplishment and biggest challenge as an online instructor:
My proudest accomplishment is to have students commit to the major after taking the 1370 class. I love that I can replicate the learning environment from face-to-face, online, and that students respond positively. I think sparking curiosity AND pathfinding intellectual development are important for online classes. Students already have an energy and an interest in completing the program; classes like ours in Communication fuel that desire.
The biggest teaching challenge is always technology itself. Sometimes the solutions are grander than they need to be because platforms are moving so quickly and advancements even quicker. The challenge is maximizing the technology so there’s user benefit without inundating the user so that technology becomes an obstacle.
On what makes a successful online student:
Successful online students have to be able to pace themselves across a slate of classes and maintain the intellectual interest in the material. It can be easy to turn online classes into a series of checkboxes; ticking off completion of assignments. A successful student uses the classwork to launch into deeper discovery about the subject matter, utilizing the expertise of the faculty member to dig deeper and look beyond.
His advice to his students:
Find ways to connect with your faculty members. Use virtual office hours or Zoom to connect and ask questions; put faces to names! It is easy to push through the classes and not find connections, but faculty are committed to the process and want to connect with you. They want to understand your interests in the field and in life!