Communication professor prides himself on energy, honesty, variety


Earnest uses design and audience investment in his lectures.

William “Billy” Earnest sat comfortably in his office. Diplomas and artwork were on his walls and dogs were on his button-down shirt.

“Somebody always comments on the dogs,” Earnest said with a chuckle. “It’s a conversation starter.” To describe Earnest as intriguing would be an understatement.

“Ever since college I knew that I wanted to teach, and I knew that what I wanted to teach was speech,” Earnest said.

Earnest earned his degree in marketing at Midwestern State University. He then worked at the Atlanta, Georgia-based software company EDS for five years before attending the University of Texas at Austin to earn his master’s and doctorate in communication. While earning his doctorate, Earnest realized he needed a place that would cater to his greatest passion: teaching the art of communication.

Earnest was offered to be a communication professor in 2005, a offer he says he’s lucky to have gotten. “This is the kind of place that you tend to stay at,” Earnest said.

At St. Edward’s, Earnest developed a teaching style to keep his students compelled and present. He describes this teaching style as a “workshop dynamic,” an interactive setting where students exchange ideas with their peers and get basic understand of communication.

“First of all, the classroom environment has to be interesting,” Earnest said. “If I can make it interesting, then learning will happen.”

He stressed the importance of discussion-based classes and agreed that face-to-face discussion encourages student to look outside of themselves and consider different perspectives.

“The ability to express yourself in a persuasive, effective manner is the universal skill,” Earnest said.

“So, how do you make a class engaging?” Earnest asked himself.

He proceeded to say that variety, high energy (with the occasional joke), being honest about what you do not know, telling students how you feel and allowing them to do the same, not shying away from controversial subject matter and facilitating the sharing of values are all integral components of a functioning classroom. “Create a forum where every idea is worth sharing—like a symposium,” Earnest added.

Earnest’s love for communication has compelled him to extend to multimedia platforms, including PowerPoint presentations. In years of study and observation, Earnest created rules of design. With help from audience perspective, he developed an understanding of what works and what doesn’t in presentations.

“We went to the moon, but we can’t make a decent PowerPoint,” Earnest exclaimed. Earnest pulled out the first through fourth editions of his textbook “Save Our Slides,” all enclosed in glass cases. When asked if a fifth edition is in the works, he simply responded “We’ll see” with a contagious grin.

As of right now, Earnest is content with encouraging student’s passions.

“I continue to learn and grow as a teacher each day,” Earnest said. “I can always try new things and I can always adapt.”

Earnest looked forward with a smile, pausing for a moment. “I love teaching. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”