Dr. Jeffery Gentry, professor and department head in the Department of Communications at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma, will become ENMU’s new dean of the College of Fine Arts in the early part of July.
Q. What are your current position and responsibilities?
Professor and Head of the Department of Communications. My responsibilities including teaching, research/creative works, service, and administration. I also oversee the theatre director, the general manager of KRSC-FM (RSU Radio) and the supervisor of the Will Rogers Auditorium.
Q. What are some of the highlights of your activities and accomplishments at Rogers State University, and previous positions?
I may be proudest of our program growth. Over the past five years student-credit-hours in our B.A. program have grown 49 percent. A personal highlight was a two-month fellowship to Canterbury University in New Zealand, where I produced six on-camera interviews with media professionals and presented my research on opposition rhetoric in the New Zealand and British parliaments. Earlier in my career I was a college speech-and-debate coach. Some of my students won national awards.
Q. What led you to a career in communication?
I needed an elective for my freshman year of high school. Almost randomly I signed up for debate. My dad was there with me and he always said it was best decision I ever made. Later I researched a debate case on the challenges shy children face. Nearly four decades later I still study rhetoric and interpersonal communication.
Q. What do you consider your specialty in communication?
My Ph.D. concentration was in political communication, thus my research on argumentation and parliamentary rhetoric. I’m a bit of a generalist, though, and enjoy working in readers theatre, to media studies, to the social-scientific side of communication.
Q. Do you dabble in fine arts?
Yes, I’ve arranged and directed a dozen readers theatre productions, acted some, and even wrote a full-length play with ten original songs. I’m an amateur songwriter and a decent singer but I’ve performed in just one full musical play. I’m thrilled to be working with art and music again after ten years of focusing just on theatre and communication. (For three years I headed a department that included everything in CFA at Eastern. Then we grew so much that we became independent departments of Communication and Fine Arts.)
Q. What attracted you to the position at ENMU?
The College of Fine Arts (CFA) is a smartly-arranged grouping of programs, with departments of Theatre and Digital Filmmaking, Art, Music, and Communication. That combination of disciplines hooked me immediately because of their natural synergies. Then when I arrived on campus for my interview, ENMU’s people blew me away with their kindness and professionalism.
Q. What are your goals for the College of Fine Arts at ENMU?
Some are to-be-developed, of course, but one idea is to help facilitate new co-curricular programs within CFA and with the other colleges, such as an interdisciplinary faculty recital. I coordinated three of them at my current institution. Another key area is student recruitment, as well as helping more of them persist to graduation. I kind of specialize in low-cost and no-cost initiatives that contribute to the university mission.
Q. What are your degrees and majors, and what activities did you participate in college?
I hold a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D., all in communication. I attended Eastern Montana College, Colorado State University, and the University of Oklahoma, respectively. In college I competed at a pretty high level in speech and debate, did a little bit of theatre, and played just about every intramural sport you can think of.
Q. Where were you born, raised, and what was your life like growing up?
Born in Denver, but I lived in Montana from age four to 22. Neither of my parents is still living. My dad was a route salesman for Keebler cookies. He must have been their tallest elf at 6’0. My mom was a homemaker and my sister, Cheyanne, is a now a high-school ELL teacher (English Language Learners) in Western Colorado. I played football and baseball as a boy and then focused on debate in high school. Chy and I used to enjoy putting on plays for our parents.
Q. Tell us about your own family?
My wife, Cindy, is a scrapbooking consultant who was high-school state champion in dramatic duo. She still does some theatre and lots of volunteer work. Kyra is our last child at home. She is 9 and will be a fifth-grader in the fall. She is now a two-time area “PTA Reflections” champion in film production, specializing in comedy. Our older children Gretchen, Daniel, and David are grown and college-educated. Gretchen is an M.D. completing a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic. Daniel is a computer IT specialist in Oklahoma City, and David is a mechanical engineering graduate in Tulsa looking for a long-term position.
Q. What are your hobbies?
Long-distance running is my favorite avocation. It’s fun to be able to compete in a sport at any age. I’m a geography nut and enjoy reading in history and biography. I will sing karaoke if I can just get one other person to go with me.
Q. What is your ultimate career goal?
To serve as dean of the College of Fine Arts at ENMU. You have to understand that I was a first-generation college student who had no clue about what I was supposed to do in life. Education created my destiny. Then when I started my faculty career 29 years ago I never expected to become a department chair, much less a dean. Every position I’ve held has been a dream job.
Q. Besides career goals, what else do you hope to accomplish?
To become an integral part of the Portales community, be a good husband and father, maybe run a fast marathon.
Q. Other thoughts?
I’ve enjoyed sharing ideas with you. You asked some great questions. I can’t wait until July.