Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Lambda Pi Eta

Lambda Pi Eta is the honor society for communication majors, officially sanctioned by the National Communication Association, and back in the 90s I started up a chapter here at Fordham University, together with a colleague who has since moved on, Roger Musgrave.  So that's why I gave this post the title of my LPH (it's H not E because Eta is not Epsilon--the letter in the Greek alphabet for Eta looks like, and is the ancestor of our letter H in the Roman alphabet, oh, and please, no Greek jokes about Eta Bitta Pie or whatever, I was in a fraternity you know, Beta Theta Pi, so that's all old hat to me).

So, I was very pleased when a colleague who is very much present in the department, Margot Hardenbergh, revived our chapter this year after a long period of being dormant, on hiatus, offline, etc.  Way to go, Margot!  

And the first new induction ceremony was held last month.  We were very fortunate to be able to get the respected communication scholar Michael Schudson, presently teaching in Columbia University's Journalism School, to give a talk at the ceremony, which he did, and I was asked if I'd say a few words and also introduce Michael, which I did, and all that was topped off by some remarks by the Dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Michael Latham.

But don't take my word for it, check out the write-up on our student newspaper's website, The Ram, under the title Lambda Pi Eta Inducts Students for the First Time in Decades.  The piece by Connor Ryan starts off as follows:

Lambda Pi Eta, the communication honor society on campus, lost its name and place of recognition after years of neglect and a history that has dumbfounded even the society's current presidents – that is, until Sara Kugel, last year's United Student Government president, and Dr. Margot Hardenbergh, undergraduate associate chair, inspired Katie Corrado, FCRH '12, and Alison Daly, FCRH '12, the society's co-presidents, to reignite the tradition.

"I volunteered to help start Lambda Pi Eta because I wanted to make a lasting impression on campus and give back to the department that has done so much for me," Daly wrote in an email.  "We want to recognize students of high academic standing for their hard work and dedication to the communication field."

 I'm quite pleased and proud to say that Daly and Corrado are both students of mine.  The article includes a picture of them, Alison on the left, Katie on the right:

So, anyway, back to the write-up:

  The society's first induction in years took place on Thursday, Oct. 27 in Tognino Hall of Duane Library and welcomed the current 37 students that make up this year's collection of the communication department's finest.  Dr. Michael Schudson of Columbia University, Dr. Michael Latham, Dean of Fordham College Rose Hill and Dr. Lance Strate, a professor in the department, offered words of wisdom and personal experience at the intimate ceremony, which was attended by prestigious members of the administration, as well as students and their families. 
"The comments by Dr. Lance Strate were an inspiration, and it was a great honor for Fordham to have a distinguished scholar like Columbia's Dr. Michael Schudson address the group," Latham wrote in an email regarding the ceremony's speakers.

Now, that was awfully nice of Dean Latham to say.  Of course, he missed my initial joke about how when we started the chapter in the 90s, I could make a joke about the name being Lambada Pi Eta, and people would know what I was talking about (remember "the forbidden dance"?).  But I did talk about how the three Greek letters stand for logos, pathos, and ethos, which Aristotle identifies as the three forms of proof or three types of appeals that can be made when addressing an audience.  Logos means word, and also logic, and refers to logical proof and the appeal to reason.  Pathos represents the emotions, and emotional appeals can indeed be powerful.  And ethos refers to what today we would call source credibility, how believable you are, which in part can be generated during the communication process, but in part has to do with the individual's prior reputation.  In a more traditional sense, ethos refers to the speaker's character, and the connection to ethics here is quite clear.

This all comes from the first major treatise on the subject of communication, Aristotle's Rhetoric, and I also explained that inherent in the three terms is a model of communication.  Ethos refers to the source of communication, the speaker in antiquity.  Logos refers to the message that the speaker puts together, the argument the speaker puts forth.  And pathos refers to the audience, and the ways in which the message is received, interpreted, and responded to.  All that's missing is the medium or channel, which Aristotle took for granted because in his time the only form of public communication was public speaking.

But I also suggested that we can consider ethos, pathos, and logos as a guide to life.  Logos, being about reason, is linked to intelligence and learning, and by virtue of being inducted into the honor society, the students had already demonstrated their strength in this area.  But while it is important to have a good head on your shoulders, that is not enough.  You also have to have a good heart. And that is what pathos represents.  Reason must be tempered and balanced by passion, to pursue those things you that are really important to you, that you really care about, and by compassion, as we like to say in Jesuit education, to become men and women for others.  And the balance is achieved with the aid of ethos, to be individuals of good character and ethical conduct, because then others will give you recognition and respect, will listen to what you have to say, and will consider your messages with care.  And even in the midst of the most hostile of crowds, with ethos on your side they will at least respect you for your position, and you may yet succeed in providing a little bit of opening to minds that are otherwise closed.

Well anyway, that's my spiel, or sermon, or whatever you want to call it. It's an approximation of what I said at the first couple of induction ceremonies back in the 90s, and what I said last month.  This is the first time I've written it down.   So, enough about me, back to the article, if you please:

Lambda Pi Eta stems from the National Communication Association, and Fordham represents one of more than 400 chapters spread across the country.  With the strength and popularity of the communication and media studies department on campus, students feel that an honor society dedicated to the major would thereby be popular – and with effort, successful.

"As a school with a very reputable communication department, it only seems right to have the presence of an equally reputable honor society on campus," Corrado said.  "Many of the students within the department have completed internships at some of the biggest media companies, have consistently done well in the classroom and are genuinely passionate about graduating from Fordham and making positive contributions to the media industry."

Yes, we are a very, very reputable communication department.  Are you listening,  Dean Latham?

While the society represents high academic achievement and perhaps a powerful networking tool down the road, Latham reminds that the society also provides an invaluable opportunity for students to create meaningful relationships with professors in the field.

"More broadly, they [honor societies] also help create a culture in which students and faculty can have valuable exchanges about personal goals, careers and values outside the classroom," Latham said.  "Honor societies like these give students an important goal to aspire to and set a standard for excellence."

Excellence indeed!  That is very much a part of Fordham's culture.  And as for what's next...

With the much-anticipated induction ceremony in the rearview, the society is looking to host more internal events dedicated to connecting Lambda Pi Eta to communication industries in New York.  For example, the society had a private meeting with "Jeopardy" host Alex Trebek when he came to campus last month. 

"By the time [this article] gets published, we'll have held our first event with Jeffrey Salgo, longtime director of CBS," Corrado said. 

Besides the joy of being a part of the society, the private events and specialized attention are what draws most students to Lambda Pi Eta.

So, tell me, how do I join, you may well be asking yourself!  And who could blame you?

In order to gain admission into the society, students whose first major is communication and media studies must complete an application that is released in the spring and meet specific minimum cumulative and major GPA requirements.  Students who are admitted into the society are those who show dedication to the communication industry through course work and extracurricular activities.  Dr. Margot Hardenbergh is the honor society's faculty advisor.

"The biggest perk is knowing that you are among the elite of students within the communications field in this country," Corrado said.  "Academically, being in Lambda Pi Eta says a lot, and I think employers will recognize that when we graduate."

So, my hat's off to Margot Hardenbergh, and to Alison Daly and Katie Corrado, and all of our new LPH members.  Congratulations, we are very proud of you all!

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