Getting to Know: Rya Butterfield
October 4, 2018
Rya Butterfield, an assistant speech professor, enters her sixth year of teaching at Nicholls State University, and uses her knowledge on Chinese politics and communications in her every day life.
Butterfield has expertise in Chinese politics and communications with the country.
“My Ph.D. is in rhetoric and political science, and I occasionally teach special topic courses in this department, such as Chinese politics in particular because it is a specialty of mine,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield has served as president of the Association for Chinese Communication Studies, and she has recently been named to the editorial board at Michigan State University for the U.S.-China relations publication series.
“The series developed out of a task force that was formed through the National Communication Association,” Butterfield said. “Each new president gets to appoint a special interest section that they think is important to the field at large, and when Steven Hartnett was president, I was appointed to the research arm of the task force.”
Butterfield said it was her father that sparked her interest in Chinese culture and politics. While working on her master’s degree in corporate and public communication, her father worked as a chemical engineer, traveling to refineries in China.
“When he was away, we would have different schedules, but he would call me and tell me about his experiences in China, and that’s what got me interested,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield said her father’s company lost a huge contract in China when everything was originally going well. This lead to her interest. Butterfield was working for the corporate office of his company as a summer job, and the owner of the company joked around with her about finding out what happened with the contract.
“I needed a project for my class and this was an interesting, real problem right in front of me,” Butterfield said. “I started reaching out to foreign agents of the company and I inquired about what happened and I was able to figure out the problem and help them fix it.”
Although Butterfield doesn’t attribute the results of what they have in China to herself, the fact that they didn’t completely leave China at the time was the success of her efforts. They now have two big offices in China and a permanent presence.
Through her knowledge of Chinese culture and politics, Butterfield has future plans of contributing work for different books and assuming her new position on the editorial board at Michigan State University.
Also, every semester, Butterfield hosts a speech forum required for all Speech 101 students. The forum is a debate about a controversial topic, decided by popular requests made by students.
Tryouts are open to anyone who is in or has been in Speech 101 or the equivalent.
“Most of my students are reluctant to participate, but after experiencing it, they agree that they like it far more than they thought they would,” Butterfield said.
Despite the remaining weeks of the semester, Butterfield looks ahead at her spring semester courses.
“Next semester, I will be doing social movement rhetoric as a special topic. Last semester I did intercultural communication, and I also offer Speech 301, which focuses on persuasive communications,” Butterfield said.