Wesleyan Way Perspectives October 2021

Creating Culture Through Communication

Humans are naturally communicators. We form relationships, groups and even communities based on shared interests, ideals and beliefs. We call this “culture,” a system of meaning, how people think and believe. Our worldview brings meaning, context and understanding to our realities. Communicating these beliefs is demonstrated in a myriad of ways: art, music, religion and scientific discovery, not to mention the conversations between people. We long to be in communication and in community with others, and when we are, we take part in the creation of our culture. 

It is within these cultures that we systematically create “right” from “wrong,” “is” and “is not.” It is a reciprocal process of meaning making. In essence, our communication has the power to define and challenge the status quo. Now, this is not to say that everyone within a particular culture will perceive that culture in the same way. Communication scholars call this social position; our group memberships that shape our experience of the world and our ways of understanding it. Indeed, within a community such as Kentucky Wesleyan College, there are various groups with diverse backgrounds that have shaped and formed the way we think about others, ourselves and our social world. However, we cannot deny that Kentucky Wesleyan College not only has a culture but should also be communicating to further shape and prepare students for the world beyond Kentucky Wesleyan. This is why it is important to not only understand the communicative messages we receive, but also the messages we as individuals are communicating to our neighbors and peers. 

In any given day, we are bombarded with thousands of messages and stimuli. Media is changing not only how we communicate but also what we communicate, what we define as important beliefs, values and ideals to our culture. At Kentucky Wesleyan College, our mission is to “nourish and prepare students intellectually, spiritually and physically to achieve success in life.” What does that mean? What does that look like? It begins with communication; communicating a culture that is forming and equipping a people to take up vocations and careers that are transforming culture and redeeming society. If our mission is to nourish and prepare students for life beyond Wesleyan, we should not see their intellectual, spiritual and physical tenets as exclusive, but rather as a collaboration of our culture which strives to give students a sense of meaning, purpose, understanding and orientation to the world around us.

Through communication, we can help foster students’ passions, understandings and career exploration in a culture that creates opportunities, not limitations, that encourages students to move forward while learning from our histories. Communication is a powerful culture-creating tool that can be used in both positive and negative ways. How we use communication to create our culture not only influences our present but sets the tone and character of our students to carry this culture outside Wesleyan and into the families, the workplaces and the communities they engage with beyond their time at Kentucky Wesleyan College. The words, thoughts and ideas we share are not simply communicating messages for now. We are communicating for life. 

Dr. Andrew Bolin