In the Office:
With Deb Breede
A faculty office is an intersection of classroom and individual, of scholarship and identity. Offices reflect an accumulation of a pedagogical and intellectual life that evolves and shifts with the passage of academic years. Rife with meaning, the materials that appear on the walls and shelves of a faculty office are intentionally placed, and inquiries into their context can yield fascinating insights.
Pop into her office any time — she’s got a minute to talk about classes, campus activities, student organizations or current events. All these topics relate to her field of communication, and her office is a warm, welcoming place where students feel safe and valued. Even better, ask Deb Breede, professor in the Department of Communication, Media and Culture, for some context on one of the unique items that adorn her office. There’s a world of material here, from personal photographs to student work to mementos from experiential learning events to props used in her interpersonal communication class. The stories she tells might elicit laughter, sadness or surprise, but there’s always some element of the unknown that gives the listener food for thought.
1. Red Riding Hood - Created for Breede’s Interpersonal Communication class based on mentorship, this student painting titled “Red Riding Hood” ironically depicts an anti-mentor. The image is based on an abusive relationship that nevertheless taught the creator important lessons about what to avoid in an interpersonal dynamic.
2. Don’t Let Flo Steal the Show - Breede’s Communication Activism course changed gears following Hurricane Florence in Fall 2018, shifting its focus to environmental activism and culminating in an educational fundraiser for hurricane relief. This flyer from the event, which raised more than $1,000, was signed and presented to Breede by participating students.
3. Chanticleer - A student soccer star who received this gift as an athletic honor passed on the prestigious Silver Chanticleer to Breede.
4. Barbie and Mr. Right - Breede uses these dolls in teaching the concept of semiotics to explore stereotypes and representations of gender. The physical proportions of “Fitness Barbie,” Breede explains, are so askew that if the doll were human, she would be unable to walk upright. “Mr. Right” is a male who speaks in recorded satirical phrases such as “Oh dear, I believe I am lost. I think I’ll pull over and ask for directions.”
5. A reflection of self - This student piece, created as a final project in Breede’s Communication Theory course, represents Charles Horton Cooley’s “looking glass self” and its relation to symbolic interaction.
6. Family legacy - This group photograph featuring Breede’s mother and father was taken at a fraternity function circa 1954 at Old Dominion College, currently Old Dominion University, which is also Breede’s alma mater.
7. I and me - George Herbert Mead’s concepts of “I” and “me,” which represent the individualized self versus the socialized self, are reflected in this student project. The “me” is a self that evolves through interaction with others, and the “I” is the response of the individual to the attitude of the community.
8. A true original - This original charcoal drawing by Breede’s close friend Ed Roebuck depicts his boyhood house in their mutual hometown of Pungo, Va. Roebuck gained notoriety when his paintings were seized by the IRS for auction when the artist didn’t pay his taxes. Roebuck broke in to the storage area and painted a black “X” on each work, which drove their value up and resulted in royalties far exceeding his delinquent tax bill.