Gordon Rowland

Retired Professor, Strategic Communication

My Story

So how did I get here anyway? That's not obvious from my vita, so I'll fill in a few blanks. I grew up on a small farm in New England. We were rich in many ways, but not in terms of money. There I learned about life and death, about cycles and systems, and about making do with whatever resources were available. I learned to work and to make things. I learned to value individual and group accomplishment and about the importance of community. I learned that I had talents and an intellect that could be channeled in creative directions.

In high school I turned my mathematical abilities and love of water toward naval engineering. I drew plans for underwater vessels and dreamed of piloting them to the depths of the oceans. However, taking a silly fall from a diving board at swim team practice I damaged an eardrum and have been unable to bear more than a little underwater pressure since. The thought of building crafts that I wouldn't be able to pilot myself was unattractive. Other factors intervened as well, and I turned my studies toward another love, music.

Rather than accept the engineering scholarships and appointments, I entered the University of Connecticut and practiced playing the tenor saxophone. I had no previous lessons, but I worked hard and (still to my amazement) convinced the faculty that I had promise. I was accepted after a term. Three years later I did my recital to earn a bachelors degree in music performance. I completed nearly all the coursework for a music education degree and studied composition as well. The underlying math fascinated me, so I went on to complete a masters of music theory at Ithaca College.

After a rather random series of jobs—everything from stacking shelves to precision assembly—I took a position teaching aural skills and music theory at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. I was frustrated that the class exercises would typically reach a small number of students, though. Whatever I chose would be too hard for some and too easy for others. This was the early 1980s when microcomputers were coming out, and my colleague Bart Bartle and I developed a computer-based instruction (CBI) laboratory in order to individualize instruction. This was very successful, and piqued my interest in developing systems that would help people learn.

I went on to a doctoral program in instructional systems technology at Indiana University. My initial interest in CBI was soon expanded to a range of areas having to do with human learning and performance. Consequently, six years later when I completed the degree I sought opportunities that would cross boundaries rather than a position in strictly instructional technology. I also wanted to continue teaching at the undergraduate level.

I was a member of the faculty at Ithaca College from 1991 to 2022. I chaired what are now the Strategic Communication Department and the Communication Management and Design program for eight years, then the graduate program in communications for three years. My interests in human learning and performance continued throughout my career and expanded from the individual to the group and societal levels. In 2019, I was honored to be appointed Director of our Center for Faculty Excellence, a position through which I focused on paying it forward to my newer colleagues. It's also where I had a greater opportunity to act on my understanding that, while I can be proud of what I accomplished, as a white cisgender male I always had unearned privilege. Black Lives Matter.

In retirement I am enjoying sailing on Cayuga Lake in the summer aboard my aptly named sloop, Kwitchibitchin. I also participate in the fabulous Ithaca music scene with my band, Common Railers, and my wife, Anne Stork's, band Li'l Anne and Hot Cayenne. The gorges and waterfalls, restaurants and clubs, museums, visual and performing arts—it is truly amazing what this small city has to offer.