Jane Picknell is a no-nonsense Girl Friday with an eclectic resumé and a mischievous gleam in her eye. She knows how to get the job done, whether it be as American Red Cross health and safety education director, SOU career development advisor, student services coordinator, or in her current role as University Seminar (USEM) instructor. What Picknell loves most about her position as a USEM instructor is the opportunity to craft courses about socially relevant topics close to her heart. This year, she’s chosen Food for Thought and Attention on Athletics.
For a total of 16 years and counting, Picknell has taught courses in English and writing, communication, and most recently USEM. Her expertise spans public speaking, interpersonal and small group communication, persuasive business writing, rhetoric, technical writing, nonprofit volunteerism, grant-writing, and community engagement.
An alum of Southern, Picknell earned a bachelor of science in communication with emphases on business and education. She followed that up with a master of science in communication and rhetoric at the University of Oregon.
Picknell brings a practical savvy to the classroom informed by her extensive real-world experience, which includes working as an editor, writer, systems integrator, research assistant, office manager, and director of sales. Her entrepreneurial and leadership skills led to positions as faculty advisor of English and writing practicum students, advisor of the student e-zine Cognito, and coordinator of the University’s former Division of Preparatory Studies, a program Picknell helped establish.
She currently serves as chair of the Athletic Advisory Committee. Previously, Picknell chaired the Academic Policies Committee, Grievance Committee, and Elections Committee as well as serving on a half-dozen others. She was appointed secretary during her tenure on Faculty Senate.
Picknell has a huge heart for the community. In addition to volunteering at United Way, Helpline, and Special Olympics, she dedicated years of service to Jacksonville Elementary, where she was co-chair of the Parent Teacher Organization and co-leader of the school’s Junior Garden Club. She also participated in SOU’s Southern Oregon Leadership Institute and Jackson County Community Service Consortium.
Perhaps Picknell’s greatest contribution lies in inspiring hundreds of SOU students to serve local nonprofits through practica and grant-writing. Her students have helped acquire thousands of dollars’ worth of funding for local schools, food banks, LGBTQ ally training, and organizations such as a wildlife sanctuary, horse rescue program, and Kids Unlimited.
E-interview conducted by Melissa L. Michaels in fall 2012
MM: Were you a big reader when you were little? What books did you find most compelling, and why?
JP: Yes, I read voraciously. I remember hiding a book in my waistband when I went out to do yard work. I would do the work my father could see from the driveway and then go hide on a path behind the peonies and read. When I finished a book, I would go back in the house, get another book, do a little more yard work, and go back to the path to read.
In grade school, I enjoyed biographies and autobiographies, then mystery novels and forensic crime-solving books. As I got older, I explored fantasy and science fiction. Now I mostly enjoy creative nonfiction; I want to learn about new topics.
MM: Your bachelor’s in communication focused on business and education. What drew you to the field of communication? Was the business emphasis out of pragmatism, passion, or a mixture of both?
JP: Through human communication, we can educate, solve problems and accomplish goals. I enjoy managing projects and departments. Organizational communication helped me find ways to be successful working with people to achieve success.
MM: As an undergraduate, did you have an inkling that you might eventually go into teaching?
JP: Yes, I had a teaching assistant practicum in public speaking when I was an undergraduate and really enjoyed that role. Then I was a graduate teaching fellow (GTF) at University of Oregon, also in communication. The die was cast.
MM: Having taught courses such as Nonprofit Volunteerism and Community Engagement Writing, you clearly have a passion for connected learning. You’re also on the Community-Based Learning (CBL) Committee. What are some of the most exciting examples of internships and practica you’ve witnessed at SOU?
JP: I enjoy CBL classes because I value assignments that give students exposure to “real-life” projects. Students in grant-writing classes have contributed to local nonprofit grants, including those helping to fund schools, a wildlife sanctuary, a horse rescue program, LGBTQ ally training, food banks, Kids Unlimited, and many more.
MM: You’ve taught Public Speaking, which continues to rank among people’s greatest fears. What are your top public speaking tips for the timid?
JP: Preparation, practice, and confidence. If students are prepared and know their topic, they can focus on the task of speaking instead of negative thoughts.
MM: Another practical course you’ve taught is Persuasive Business Writing. What makes writing persuasive?
JP: The focus in persuasive writing is examining the goal of the material and the audience. Persuasive writing is the intersection of a goal and an audience.
MM: It sounds like you have a lot of freedom to develop unique courses as a University Seminar (USEM) instructor. Tell me about the Food for Thought and Attention on Athletics courses you’re teaching this year.
JP: Food for Thought focuses on the worrisome state of food production. Many people don’t know how food is grown and processed. We are seeing an epidemic increase in food-related health conditions. My goal is for students to understand food production and teach their peers.
Attention on Athletics examines the role of sports in society, ethics of sports, and value of sports. In addition to those broad categories, students research areas of sports that are of personal interest to them.
MM: What’s your favorite aspect of Southern Oregon University?
JP: Small class sizes and the potential for students and professors to work closely together.