Whether it's a verbal disagreement between friends or a political protest in a foreign country, conflict seems to be ever present in our world. But for Tasha Souza, effective communication can dissolve tensions and foster real understanding on any scale.
"It can all be solved if people just thought about 'Well, what are their values? What are their interests? How can I communicate more effectively so we can meet somewhere and build some kind of common ground?'" she says. "If more people were trained in communication, the world would a much better place."
That's where Tasha steps in to help. Communication is the key to understanding how the world works, and her passion is to help people become more effective communicators.
Although she had always been interested in how people communicate, Tasha didn't start her undergraduate degree knowing what she wanted to do with that interest.
"I think I had four majors as an undergraduate," she says. But the further into her studies she got, the more Tasha realized just how important–and empowering–communications could be.
"I was able to learn about why the world functions the way it does and why it doesn't function in the way it should, and it's always communication. It just felt very empowering to me to have a more complex understanding of human interaction," she says. "I felt like I could make a difference with it."
And she has been making a difference at HSU. While she worked with the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, Tasha used her training to help staff and faculty understand how to communicate more effectively with students. She drew inspiration from her education as well as her experience as a student.
"In some classes as a student, I would learn a lot, and in others I wouldn't," she says. "And a lot of it was based on the teacher's communication style."
Since then, she's gone from teaching teachers to teaching the students herself. And as an instructor, Tasha is able to implement the skills she used to work on with other professors. She also gets to use a variety of teaching styles and tools in the classroom.
Some students learn better with lectures, some with hands-on activities and others with PowerPoints and online classroom forums. "I think it's important to have a variety," Tasha says about ways to teach.
Tasha embraces new technology and the ways it can help facilitate understanding in the classroom. But she's also aware that it can be used as a crutch and that too much technology can actually get in the way of learning.
"People need to think of technology as one tool amongst the variety of tools they have in their toolbox. It can't be the class," she says. "People say 'I wouldn't step into a class without my PowerPoint slides,' but that just highlights some of the content. A teacher should have ways to enhance the content.
Although technology can be used to help foster effective communication, in the end, it's all about people.
"If students want to learn more about themselves and if they have a passion for human interaction, it's the major for them," she says. "Relationships are built and dissolved based on communication. Wars are won and lost because of communication. Children are inspired to grow because of communication. It's everything."