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Humans of JCU: Brent Brossmann

Dr.+Brent+Brossmann+is+chair+of+the+Tim+Russert+Department+of+Communication.
Brent Brossmann
Dr. Brent Brossmann is chair of the Tim Russert Department of Communication.

For members of the Tim Russert Department of Communication, the committed faculty and staff are storytellers, shining a light and making sense of the hustle and bustle of the world. Oftentimes, these people prefer to be the one holding the brush rather than being the subject of the portrait. However, it is important to flip the canvas and make the storytellers the story themselves so that their hard work is recognized.

This is true for Dr. Brent Brossmann, chair of the Tim Russert Department of Communication. With over 30 years at John Carroll, he has helped shape the lives of countless students and community members.

“I’ve now been teaching at John Carroll for more than half my life,” Brossmann said. “I was either fortunate enough or unfortunate enough to be the chair of the Faculty Council during what was probably its roughest time, at least during my time here. But there’s a reason I’m still here. It is the reason why all four of my children ended up getting their degrees here and they’re all doing well. It’s a good place.”

However, Brossmann’s legacy had to start somewhere. For him, his interest in communication stems from waiting for his school bus in the seventh grade.

“There’s this kid who I never took any classes with but we just started chatting, and [we] had about a 30 minute wait every day,” Brossmann said. “We decided to pass the time waiting. We would take a concept every day and just argue about it back and forth. That was our way to kill time.”

Following this, Brossmann’s school bus monitor took notice of his banter and recommended to one of his teachers that he should be a member of the speech and debate team the following year.

“One day, we’re sitting there in a huge debate back and forth and this woman that we’d never heard of steps in front of us and says, ‘hi, my name is Gana Crenshaw, and next year, you folks, you’re gonna debate for me,’” he continued.

This was just the start of Brossmann’s journey in the communication field. Originally wanting to attend law school, he soon decided to venture on a different path.

“I eventually decided that I couldn’t be an attorney for a couple of reasons,” Brossmann said. “One of which was, I didn’t think I could live with the consequences. I’ve always been very, very attached to my work. I live and die with my work. As an attorney, I have two options: to live and die with the dissent of the decisions that are made for or against my clients or to distance myself. If I did the former, I don’t know that I would ever sleep again. And if I did the latter, I didn’t like what that would do to me in my soul.”

First majoring in business and then transitioning to education, Brossmann eventually landed on communication. Yet, this wasn’t an easy path; there was not a communication program at his alma mater, Texas A&M University, until 1985. This was the same year that he was graduating.

“On Jan. 1 1985, A&M finally had their [communication] program,” he explained. “I had seen it developing and so I had taken all the courses I could to get ready for it. I was literally a graduating class of one.”

Brossmann was later recognized by Texas A&M for this accomplishment, being named the top communications graduate in the history of the university. Yet, this was not the last stop for Brossmann’s education. He later attended Cal State Fullerton for his master’s degree, where he both took courses and taught them to undergraduates. Albeit, teaching experience was not the only thing Brossmann found at this institution, as he also met the love of his life.

“In those first five years in California, I went from a single guy from Texas showing up to get my master’s degree to getting a full time teaching position for two years at Cal State Fullerton, meeting the woman of my dreams, getting married, having two children and then leaving to go get my PhD,” he continued.

After some time, Brossmann went to Kansas University for his doctoral degree under Dr. Robin Rowland. Then, after additional research and instruction, Brossmann went to what he calls “the meat market,” a gigantic national conference sponsored by the National Communication Association. While he was searching for work as a collegiate Director of Speech and Debate, he was approached by Dr. Jacqueline Schmidt, a past chair of the Tim Russert Department of Communication. After some negotiation, he committed to JCU in 1993 and has been a faculty member ever since.

For 30 years, Brossmann served as the Director of Speech and Debate and taught a multitude of classes, interacting with thousands of students both inside and outside the rhetoric sphere. For him, many of his greatest moments come from seeing his students grow and thrive, even long after they graduate. This includes rising climate change expert Benjamin K. Sovacool and Elizabeth Wiley who wrote a section of Obamacare.

“I sit there and I look where my former students or my former speakers or debaters are and what they’ve accomplished in their lives and that’s what thrills me,” he said. “I tell my students typically at the end of every day, it’s less and less my world. Every day, it’s more and more their world. The real question is, what are they going to do with it?”

Even with recent graduates, Brossmann has had a large impact on the lives of many. For Ray Flannery ‘22, a member of the speech and debate team, his coach was the “embodiment of what it means to be a person for others.”

“He was always expressing genuine care and concern for everyone he encountered, regardless of whether they were his students or not,” Flannery told The Carroll News. “I think that speaks volumes to his character as a leader, as a good-natured human and as a role model for others.”

This thought is echoed by current student Kat Cannata ‘25 who was coached by Brossmann in various categories of competitive speech.

“[Brent] gave me so much guidance and so much confidence that I genuinely never could have had without [him],” Cannata said. “He’s also given me so much advice as to what I would do with my career and how I should go about things in my life that genuinely I think I would have been lost without [him]. I am so thankful for the great impact he’s made on my life.”

When not teaching, Brossmann is a self-described “gamer” and “sports fan.” Currently, he is playing the virtual fantasy game “Elden Ring” and functions as a Dungeon Master every Monday night. He is also a fan of the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Guardians.

“There’s creativity and escapism,” Brossmann said. “My life is really, really busy and I need to be able to get away a little bit. But the other [reason] is I very much like the collaborative versus the solo [aspects]. I get opportunities to interact with friends and family and friends and family are always going to be important to me.”

When asked to give advice to students interested in communication, Brossmann stated that flexibility is key and finding comfort in that flexibility is important.

“The research today suggests that people your age will end up having seven or nine jobs in their careers, it’s a completely different world,” he said. “The same is true in academia. Whether you’re going from one university to another, or whether you decide that you’re going to take that skill set out of academia and into a business realm of some sort, be prepared.”

Whether you’ve interacted with Brossmann in his capacity as the Director of Speech and Debate, as a professor in one of your communications courses, or just as a positive presence on campus, his ability to not only tell stories but also bolster those of the students he interacts with is crucial to the success of the Tim Russert Department of Communication and its future graduates.

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About the Contributor
Laken Kincaid, Editor-in-Chief
Laken Kincaid is the Editor-in-Chief for The Carroll News from Beckley, West Virginia. They are a senior at John Carroll University who is double majoring in political science and communications (digital media) and minoring in leadership development. Laken has written for The Carroll News since the start of their freshman year and has previously served as a staff reporter, campus section editor and managing editor of the paper. They have received 18 Best of SNO awards, a Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence award for Region 4 and two honorable mentions from the College Media Association. They have also been recognized by universities like Georgetown for their investigative reports. Additionally, they also write political satire for The Hilltop Show and feature stories on global poverty for The Borgen Project. In addition to their involvement with The Carroll News, Laken is involved with the Kappa Delta sorority, the speech and debate team, the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion, the Improv club and other organizations. They also serve as the news director for WJCU 88.7, John Carroll's own radio station, and as the president for John Carroll's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.  Laken also started their own national nonprofit organization known as Art with the Elderly which they have won the President's Volunteer Service Award and the Humanity Rising Award for. When not writing, Laken can be found doing graphic design for their internship with Union Home Mortgage or working as a resident assistant and peer learning facilitator on campus. Laken also enjoys skiing and watching true crime documentaries. In the future, Laken hopes to become a political journalist for a national news organization or to be a campaign commercial editor for politicians. To contact Laken, email them at [email protected].

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