Hannah Celinski dances her way to becoming a communications professor

Hannah Celinski is one of three newest faculty members to join our Department this Fall. She shared with us some interesting facts, and one boring one, about her life and her teaching in a conversation with Mai Anh Doan earlier this month.

Mai Anh Doan: Congratulations again on your new position. It’s great to see you again with your usual contagious energy and smile. I know that you’ve been teaching as a sessional for a couple of semesters here, but we didn’t get to chat much. Shall we start with your telling us a little bit about your professional background?

Hannah Celinski: I grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo, and after graduating from Sheridan College’s Music Theatre Performance Program, I worked as a professional dancer and choreographer across Canada and abroad on industrials, musicals, music videos, cruise ships, commercials, and notably on the workshop of the Broadway show Fosse with dance legend Gwen Verdon. I eventually moved to Abbotsford and became the owner of Aerial Dance & Acro Academy. I had the pleasure of teaching students from all over the Lower Mainland, and mentoring interested students through the process of becoming professional actors, singers, and dancers.

Hannah being caught at the West Coast Flying Trapeze Circus School, 2018

Mai Anh: That’s very impressive! I used to want to be able to dance professionally but soon realized that not everyone can pursue it as a career (there goes my dream ). How much of it do you bring it to your new position? Can you give us some examples?

Hannah: At UFV, I teach business writing, public speaking, and first-year courses for students learning to thrive in the post-secondary environment. My experience as a business owner allows me to draw from real-world examples to bring the material to life, and my work coaching students to successfully navigate a variety of intense interview settings is the bedrock of my public speaking course. I also relate the theory, textbook readings, and assignments to stories that capture incredible things that happened to myself, my friends, and my previous students. Storytelling has always been a feature of my teaching style.

Mai Anh: We also know that you are pursuing your PhD at the same time. What is your PhD about? How do you think your PhD study helps with you with your teaching?

Hannah: My PhD research is currently focused on what I call Legacy Learning and Legacy Instruction, which capture the role of exponential growth in the physical and cognitive processes of learning. I became interested in the topic while examining Virtual Reality (VR) as a vehicle for archiving movement. The current project has evolved to include the evolution of Learning Outcomes, and the importance of mindfulness in the classroom.

My research is deeply connected to my position, as it informs my teaching practice, assignments, and assessment strategies. For example, my previous experience with technology has resulted in an assignment that incorporates Virtual Reality, reflection, and team development strategies to serve specific Learning Outcomes for CSM 104.

Mai Anh: Given your creative background and your PhD project, what would you say is your most outstanding character(s) as a professor?

Hannah: I believe in student success. Each student approaches the material in their own way, for their own reasons. I am there to offer each student the tools they need to be successful in their own right. I cannot do the work for them, but I can certainly offer them my knowledge, support, experiences, and positivity so they can develop their own academic toolkit. My hope is that their kit serves them long after they have graduated.

Mai Anh: As we are entering a new semester, what would you advise students for them to do well in university?

Hannah: Go to class. Just be in the room. Attendance allows you to connect to UFV’s community, your instructors, and classmates. I encourage my students to attend everything they can because you never know where the conversation will go, what tidbit of wisdom will resonate with you, or who you will meet. My best assignments grew out of unexpected connections I made simply by being in the room, even when the topic did not seem to relate to my interests. Go to class.

Mai Anh: Excellent advice! Let move from students to the Department. What do you like the most about working at UFV’s CMNS department?

Hannah: Our department is full of like-minded instructors who support one another and see the potential for Communications at UFV. I am delighted to contribute to a department that encourages its instructors to expand their teaching practice and subscribe to Universal Design for Learning, while supporting contemporary assignments that stimulate student engagement and development.

Mai Anh: Finally, what’s the most boring thing about you? 😊

Hannah Celinski: I floss.

😊 😊 😊 Hannah, thank you so much for your sharing and for your time. All the best with the new semester and the new role!

Chatting with a conversationalist

 My first impression of Jeff was his carefree and loud laughter that had our classroom full of new UFV staff smitten. Jeff recently joined the University of the Fraser Valley from the Royal Roads University after decades of living and teaching in Turkey, the UK and Ireland and is quickly becoming an important member of the Communications team here.

“I am a conversationalist”

So said Jeff when we sat down for an interview for this blog. It seems so easy to have a chat with him about almost any topic. But this easiness comes from a deeper underlying philosophy that drives his way of interacting and teaching.

“I see myself as a conversational teacher. I like to be able to establish connections with students in- and outside of the classroom. I like to see the students making connections with themselves, with other students, with instructors, with ideas based on the common ground that we all share. I strongly believe that once connections are made, we bond and learn better.”

Sometimes, this common ground comes down to a simple thing such as being new to Abbotsford. In one of his classes, when students were quiet and shied away from answering his simple questions, Jeff decided to break the silence with a very simple request: Can you tell us how long you have been here? The realization that all students, and Jeff, had just been here for a couple of weeks, suddenly made them relate to each other, and as a result, conversations started.

When asked what he wanted his students to take away from his classes, Jeff said matter-of-factly: “That they realize that they are constantly communicating, no matter what”. This is very profound because through communication, individuals “get changed by the world but can also actively change that world.”

A researcher of rhetoric, border studies, cultural theory, and visual communication

Jeff came to the UFV with an impressive CV. He graduated from University of British Columbia for his Bachelor’s, moved to Ireland to do his Master’s, and then to the University of Leeds for his PhD in visual and textual analysis. After PhD, he made a transition to Istanbul, Turkey to teach English literature and communications.

At UFV, he continues his research interest in political communication. Jeff is currently studying audience response to the representation of political issues on the media. Jeff wants to examine the message as well as the “background noise” that are inherent in these issues, but that we sometimes take for granted.

As a student and scholar of visual communication, Jeff is, of course, image-conscious. He always wears a suit or blazer complemented by an Ivy cap while on campus. But you are more likely to recognize him with his contagious genuine laughter. So stop and have a conversation with Jeff the next time you’re on campus.

Abbotsford International: Dr. Mai Anh Doan

A warm Communications Department welcome to our new faculty member, Dr. Mai Anh Doan! Dr. Doan arrives with both practical and academic skills in Public Relations, Journalism, and Financial Communications.  Her broad international experience includes Vietnam, where she grew up and completed her BA in Journalism at Vietnam National University; some time in Sweden, where she went to secondary school; a stint in Australia for her Master’s and then New Zealand for her Ph.D.

She says her own international experience helps her empathize with her students in the classroom, and she stresses the importance of crossing bridges between theoretical and practical knowledge and skills. She is constantly asking, “How does what we do in the classroom apply to everyday life”, to motivate students to learn better?

Mai Anh did her MA in Communication Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, and her PhD at the University of Waikato, NZ, examining crowdfunding models for micro-investing.  After a successful stint as a journalist, and Public Relations manager for multinational corporations, she ran her own PR agency for several years.  She joined the Department of Communication at the University of the Fraser Valley this September and is already making an active contribution to the university and the community, serving on the board of organizers for an event to watch out for in the near future: Valley Fest.

Mai Anh’s international background is reflected in her deep understanding of communications.   “I think”, she says, with a quick, self-reflective nod, “that in a sense, communication is universal. If it’s based on respect, genuineness, mutuality, then it’s good communication, no matter where it is practiced”.