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Professor Mike Reardon
Communication



Professor Mike Reardon


 
A Virtually Engaging Experience
By Lowell Tilden

Dr. Michael Reardon is a professor who understands how to be a virtually skillful worker.

Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, he earned his B.A. in communications and business from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio and began working as a salesman in the medical field. However, after two years of success in the business, he made the decision to attend graduate school and obtained an assistantship at Cleveland State University.

During his time there he worked in the

area of research and, during his second year, began teaching interpersonal communication and public speaking. This experience allowed him the opportunity to realize his passion for teaching, and upon earning his master's degree in communication theory and methodology, Reardon then went on to Purdue University to earn a Ph.D. in organizational communication.

Reardon's dissertation was on the subject of identification in virtual teams, an area of research he had already had experience in during his time as a medical salesman. "When I was in sales, there was a decent amount of time when I was working with people I did not know," he said. "I would be told by my boss to contact this person or that person in another city to see how they had dealt with a particular type of sale, and it was this different sense of connection that you had with the person which led to my interest in virtual teams."

The topic of identification in virtual teams deals with the concept of building unity, or a comradeship, between people who may work together but never actually come face-to-face. "The basic definition is working with someone with whom you don't share the same time or space," Reardon said.

The idea of being in a situation in which people were taken out of their element, where co-workers were not down the hall and there was no "water cooler talk" sparked Reardon's interest, and he wrote his dissertation on the topic. After setting up an experiment between dozens of teams on both virtual and face-to-face sides, he began to test pre-imposed identification and observed interesting results.

"The face-to-face teams overwhelmingly had higher identification than virtual teams," he said, "which is interesting for a lot of reasons; it verified some research out there and contradicted some out there, which is always interesting."

It was while Reardon was finishing his Ph.D that the job of visiting professor at College of Charleston caught his eye and, after being hired here, he began teaching several different classes on campus. Now an assistant professor, he remains dedicated to his profession and students.

Dr. Brian McGee, communication department chair, commented on Dr. Reardon's success: "Dr. Reardon is an enthusiastic and energetic faculty member. His attention to detail and focus on individual student learning is a credit to the College. Dr. Reardon is the kind of professor who motivates our students to come to the College of Charleston."

In addition to bringing his enthusiasm and experience to the campus, Reardon also designed the new Communication and Technology course- another area which holds his interest. He began studying the idea of virtual teams in the classroom as well as the degree of students' satisfaction with the setup. In this sense, he set up an experiment wherein students used online chatrooms instead of meeting in class. After studying the results of the experiment, he came to a conclusion: "Students enjoy it, but think it is a nice complement, not a replacement for classroom discussion." Indeed, his findings were so interesting that he sent a research paper about them to a conference, where it was recognized as a top four piece.

Reardon has also spent time studying communication apprehension, which deals with the anxiety felt in certain people when faced with a situation involving communication. The topic was brought to his attention when he worked for over a year on an honors thesis with a former College of Charleston student.
"Communication apprehension is usually associated with public speaking, but it can branch out into areas like one-on-one communication or small group as well," he said.

The idea of virtual technology is seen by many as a way to help overcome communication apprehension. For a person who is shy, or just does not want to communicate in the flesh, they could simply sit and type instead.

However, the results of Reardon's experiment showed split results to virtual technology used by people exhibiting communication apprehension.
"They were a little bit more satisfied with chat technology, but not significantly so," he said. "We call this suggestively significant. But you would almost think it would be a slam dunk- that people high on communication apprehension would be statistically more satisfied with virtual technology, but they weren't."

The study did present difficulties though because, as Reardon observed, you are asking people to talk about their anxieties in communicating in general.
"It's almost like putting a snowflake under a microscope- you turn the light on and it melts."

Presently, the papers that Reardon has written on the subjects of virtual teams in the workplace, technology in the classroom, and communication apprehension are being evaluated by different conferences and journals, and he hopes to get results back by the end of the summer.

Reardon lives in Charleston with his wife and two young sons. He enjoys golf, reading and being a professor at the College of Charleston, but admits to disliking the wait to hear back about his current circulating research papers.

Never fear Dr. Reardon, until then you can always practice on that golf swing.
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