After spending a few years working in a children’s hospital performing speech interventions with children with autism, Emma Frances Bloomfield became passionate about the use of language and the power of words.
The thing that really drew me to UNLV was the department of communication studies because of its dual focus on interpersonal communication and rhetoric. I think a lot of communication programs really try to do everything and be experts at everything. But it's so much easier, so much more engaging, and I think so much more fulfilling, to have sort of a narrowed focus and really know what you want your students to excel in.
As a rhetorician, I love the department's focus on the rhetoric of science and new technologies, which I think is really the way that the field of rhetoric is heading.
Tell us about your hometown.
My parents immigrated from the U.K. and I go back to visit relatives there often. I have three brothers, two are in Philadelphia, and one is in LA in medical school. I come from outside of Philadelphia, in the suburbs of Pennsylvania by Amish country. Kennett Square, my hometown, is the mushroom capital of the world and famous for its splendid farmers’ markets. My former suburban lifestyle will always hold a special place in my heart even though I now find myself more at home in the concrete jungle.
What drew you to your profession?
When I was in high school I participated in speech and debate. This was an extracurricular activity that helped me to build confidence and to practice public speaking. My parents told me it was a skill that I would use in any profession. I loved it so much, that when I got to Northeastern University I decided I would study the ins and outs of speaking: what makes speaking so important, so engaging, the best ways to do it, the ineffective ways to do it, and what does that say about people and the way they decide to communicate.
What’s the biggest challenge of your field?
This biggest challenge for my field is how people outside of the discipline perceive it. I think a lot of people misunderstand what communication scholars do. A big emphasis is on how communication patterns and trends actually reflect the culture and society that we live in and what those changes might indicate. So even though communication is ever-present, it is often more complicated than it appears. There is much more happening below the surface.
What do you think your students can glean from the classes you teach?
The thing that I want all my students to take away is that their opinions are important. I think teaching too much relies on memorization and recall of theorists, which of course is important and has a place, but I want students to synthesize and come up with their own opinions about those theories and about those readings.
What will the presidential debates tell us about the candidates’ rhetoric?
The presidential debates are important because they allow for a direct comparison of the candidates’ rhetoric. Instead of just seeing isolated campaign ads, at debates the candidates must directly address one another.
If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?
I wish that compromise wasn't such a dirty word. I wish people were more willing to work together to compromise and not associate compromise with the rejection or a betrayal of beliefs. For example, I think issues like climate change would be a lot easier to address if people could just simply compromise and be able to give up a little bit in order to gain a whole lot.
What are your pastimes and hobbies?
Besides reading and writing, I’ve been playing tennis. I enjoy going to the gym with my partner and watching movies and Netflix. And I love scrapbooking and making photo collages. Everyone likes Facebook or Instagram collages, but I like printing photos and making physical collages.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love horror movies. I’m always there in the front seat on opening night. I review a lot of the movies on my academic blog. I'm writing an article right now actually about The Forest, which is a horror movie that came out recently with Natalie Dormer about the Aokigahara forest in Japan.
Tell us about an object in your office that has significance for you and why.
I had a chance to teach in Beijing this summer and my students made me a watercolor painting with three crabs on it. The three crabs in Chinese together are a pun for “Thank you very much.”