Ask a professor: Valeria Fabj

Valeria Fabj

Valeria Fabj (pronounced FAH-bee) is a professor of communication and emerging media and the program coordinator for the B.A. and M.S. in Communication, Media and Politics in the Eugene M. and Christine E. Lynn College of International Communication. She has taught at Lynn since 2001 and is an expert on communication and advocacy with an emphasis on how traditionally marginalized groups can gain a public voice and bring about social change.

She teaches courses in communication theory, rhetoric, persuasion, gender communication and social change. In 2009, she was named editor of Women’s Studies in Communication, the journal of the Organization for Research on Women and Communication. She was named Faculty Member of the Year by her peers for 2006-07 and 2009-10. Fabj holds B.S., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University.

What inspired you to study communication?

I wanted to major in history, but my dad didn’t think it was sensible. I remember I brought the academic catalog home, and it opened to communication. I said, “What about communication?” He said, “Yes! You’ll be a news anchor.” That’s how it started. Then, when I took classes—especially in the rhetoric of social movements—I fell in love with the field. My interest in history blended well with that. We had courses in the rhetorical history of the United States, focusing on how messages—speeches, documents and the like—were constructed and how those messages affected history. That really fascinated me.

What are some things that people would be surprised to learn about you?

My father was the CEO of Olivetti, and we lived in Italy, Peru and Canada. I speak Italian, Spanish and English, and dream in all three. My last name, Fabj, used to be “Fabi.” I can trace my family back to about 477 B.C.

How would you describe your style of teaching?

Interactive. I like to get students involved in discussion, and I try to challenge them to think differently. … One of the things we do in class is debates. Communication is closely aligned with debate, so it’s a natural fit.

Back in 2012, Lynn hosted the final presidential debate. I understand that you have a humorous debate-related story of your own.

In 1992, I was teaching in Boston, and The Boston Globe asked me to serve as a political expert for the vice presidential debate. They called in the afternoon, and the debate was that evening. They told me to watch it and they’d call me immediately afterward. So, I got my notebook and turned on my television shortly before the debate. There was no picture or sound! So with about 10 minutes to spare, I knocked on neighbors’ doors and finally got someone to lend me a little black-and-white TV. I was able to watch the debate and give The Boston Globe my comments.

You met your deadline.

Well, yes. They were counting on me. I was going to get it done.

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