Catherine Sanderson | St. Lawrence University Performance and Communication Arts

Catherine Sanderson

Class year: 
PCA (Rhetoric/Communications)
Buffalo, NY

     As a freshman at St. Lawrence University, the options of what to study seemed endless. Right off the bat I dedicated myself to the Women’s Collegiate Squash team and enrolled in classes I found particularly interesting. One of those classes was a Gender and Sexuality class, which directly exposed me to various media reinforced stereotypes in our culture. I ruled out Pre-Med and other hard sciences as possible majors, as I found educational value in the analysis of our society and social behavior across various mediums. What helped sway my decision to take on PCA as a major was when it came time to choose from a number of FYS seminars. Professor Fordham in the PCA department admitted me into her seminar “As you Communicate, So You Shall Be.” This course was the first at SLU to really challenge my view of the world. The seminar showed me many things including the possibility of actually succeeding in presenting in class, improving my overall public speaking skills, and largely changed my perspective of what “communication” encompasses.
     I not only enjoyed and looked forward to this class, I also attained useful skills to further develop my research and studies. Throughout my PCA classes, I have established interest in many subfields such as interpersonal communication, gendered communication, and media produced communication including social media. My colleagues expanded on these ideas through presenting projects and new ideas, which allowed me to develop as a student. I found that’s PCA’s smaller class sizes and approachability of professors, created an optimal learning space for me at St. Lawrence. The subject matter of Rhetoric and Communications is, to me, a necessary field of study. PCA has not only given me depth to my studies here at SLU, it has also strengthened my ability to communicate effectively, and think critically about the world we live in.
     Not only is communication all around us, shaping our society and our selves, it’s also a perfect counterpart to my Psychology major. There are many ways of looking at the world. Psychology would say our behavior, individually or as a group, is internal, innate, and a pre-disposition. Conversely, communication scholars would agree with a sociological perspective that everything we do is a product of how we live, what we intake; that we are socialized into our culture and therefore we are a product of social systems and various constructs around us. As an underclassman, I didn’t yet fully understand these concepts. It frustrated me to go from “Into to Psychology” class and write down one definition, and then write down the exact opposite definition an hour later in my FYS. As I grew as a student, I studied physically how we perceive, and then how culture, identity, context of communication, and how other distortions can create unclear communication. The looming question always of “why” people do anything was constantly being answered in social, evolutionary, and psychological contexts, and drives my research and passion. These theories coincide and marry, and give me a clear yet broad inspiration for communication in our lives.
     As a freshman I had no idea what would be intriguing enough for me to study. Now, I can’t get enough of what I am learning and reading every day. The relevancy of communication across many mediums in this world constantly attempts to answer my question of “why.” Cultural context of gender norms is one way to look at “why” something like hookup culture is how it is today. The same can be said about the evolutionary perspective and fitness, is “why” hookup culture exists. The intermixing of social and psychological ideas in our existence brews the most interesting and fluent culture. Some people might say the scope of our world is controlled by the media, or family, or other institutions that insight value, or even innate desire to behave a certain way. However, PCA has allowed me to challenge perspectives, critically think about our world, evaluate our flawed culture and new realities, and WHY our world is how it is today.