Featured Alumni Profiles

Jean DeNiro

MA '03, Speech and Interpersonal Communication

Since 1974, when she received undergraduate degrees in philosophy and Psychology from Nathaniel Hawthorne College in New Hampshire, Jean DeNiro has counseled drug addicts, directed an Outward Bound-based program, toiled as a production assistant on Raging Bull and other movies, and worked in retail at stores such as Bergdorf Goodman and the Sharper Image. It was her frustrating experience in sales that led DeNiro to NYU's Department of Culture and Communication, where she studied communication strategies inherent in organizations.

Why is it often difficult for people in work environments to communicate effectively?

There are many reasons, the problems with technology being center stage. After I read the social scientist and theologian Jacques Ellul for my Media Ecology class, I believe what Ellul said: "We need to change our attitudes about technology." Many people today value the speed at which we communicate information more than content, detail and accuracy. I believe if People in the key positions in organizations - whether corporate, academic or political – placed a greater value on patience, respect, and accuracy, we could improve communication and productivity. It's very difficult and disheartening for people to work in environments where CEO's don't understand the many nuances that are occurring in everyday communication between people.

Do you see a way out of this?

The only way is to educate people –  exactly the way the professors are doing so in NYU's Department of Culture and Communication. Everyone has more information going through their brains, and they are trying hard to manage this extra information somehow. I've been following Dr. Meg Wheatley, who got her master's degree at NYU. In her book, Leadership in the New Sciences, she says, "Information is managing us, we are not managing information." I really believe that. So in order to regain our authority over information, we have to stay more in the details, not generalize all the time, and we'll start to communicate with better quality.

You received your master's in speech and interpersonal communication. What are your plans?

I wrote a paper for Dr. Deborah Borisoff's "Organizational Communication" class, which I recently presented at the New York State Communication Association in Tarrytown, New York. The paper was called, "Quantum Physics; The Chaos Theory and Its Application for the Postmodern Organization." I'd like to pursue that and other topics for publication – but not until I get a doctorate. Currently, I am helping Vermont's Governor Howard Dean in his campaign for the 2004 Presidency.

What excited you most about the Program in Speech and Interpersonal Communication?

I had some great teachers, all of whom were been so challenging and supportive. It's a particularly exciting time to be studying Communication, Cultures and Media – especially in New York and especially at NYU.