Communication professor considers teaching an honor


University of Wisconsin-Eau Clarie professor, Martha Fay, says that teaching and working with students during their formative years is such an honor. © 2019 Erin Liebeck

By Erin Liebeck

Having the title of doctor was something that Martha Fay never envisioned for herself. During her four years of graduate school, while student teaching at the age of 47, Fay found what she now calls her consuming passion while earning her doctorate in organizational communication.

“I always wanted to be a life-long learner,” Fay said. “Teaching allows me to do that.”

Earning her doctorate opened the door to becoming a professor – what she says is something she can’t imagine her life without. She describes teaching and working with students as a fun aspect of life, but also as one of the things in her life that she takes most seriously.

“Teaching is an honor,” said Fay.

This driving passion is what led Fay to return to school at the age of 47. While living in Columbus, Ohio, Ohio State University provided Fay with an opportunity that was too good to pass up. Fay was able to earn her doctorate in organizational communication while teaching classes for the university.

This turned out to be a win-win opportunity for both parties – Fay was able to add “Ph.D.” to her name and discover her passion, while the university was able to benefit from her teaching communication courses.

“I have always been interested in communication,” Fay said. “Every aspect of it interests me in some way.”

Fay taught for a few different colleges before landing her current position as a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Thirteen years later, Fay continues to enlighten college students with her personal experiences and background. She believes using personal stories and examples helps her students learn and retain information better. Current organizational communication student, Haley Briquelet, couldn’t agree more.

“Hands down, she is one of the best professors at UW-Eau Claire,” Briquelet said. “Her teaching style makes learning and engaging in class fun and effective. She adds her personality and flare into everything she does, and she makes it her priority to put students first. I’ve had many other great professors at UW-Eau Claire, but there is just something about Fay’s presence that makes me look forward to going to her class at 8 a.m.”

Fay has not only left an impression on students, but on colleagues as well.

Janet Driever, one such colleague, believes that Fay is an exceptional professor at the university.

“Martha is tough but fair,” Driever said. “She does not give easy A’s, but she recognizes and rewards excellent work.”

Driever recognizes Fay’s accomplishments professionally and explains how Fay is an inspiring and talented individual.

Fay’s education has allowed her to be multi-asset individual at the university but instructing communication courses is where she finds the most joy.

“One of my favorite moments is when I see the light in a student’s eyes once they figure something out,” Fay said.

Teaching, however, is just one of Fay’s responsibilities at UW-Eau Claire. She also stays busy by conducting research with students on campus .

Considering that UW-Eau Claire was the recipient for the 2016 Undergraduate Research Accomplishment at a Masters University award, being a researcher at the university is no light task.

“I embrace the challenge,” Fay said.

Fay’s research is extensive, she covers many areas. Some include informal interaction of remote workers and organizational identification, leadership, communication and aging stereotypes and teaching and learning.

“What we should be doing is using our research to make organizations a better place,” Fay said.

Fay enjoys helping her students see that they can make a difference in the organizations they are a part of. She believes that they can help make the organizations a better place.

“When you help the organizations that you are a part of,” Fay said. “You will be more satisfied with your work.”

Fay has worked with different organizations and nonprofits, such as Avon, General Motors, and Lexus to name a few. She said that she understands how organizations run and knows how to make organizations stronger.

Past work experiences are what Fay said allows her to connect with and understand organizations better than many. While she is thankful for her past, now working with students resonates deeply with her.

“Nothing in the world is more rewarding than working with students,” Fay said.

Her love of teaching is derived from her students. Being able to work with them every day has benefited her life in more ways than she thought imaginable. She admits that she has learned so much from her students, everything from communication related knowledge to insights that she said helped her raise her own children.

“Teaching helps you stay on top of what is going on in the world,” Fay said.

If you ask Fay, her experience teaching has been unforgettable, and she wouldn’t change it for the world.