Skip to content
  • Print

Ryan Maliski

Visiting Assistant Professor


Phone: 209.946.2505


PhD, Communication, University of Missouri, Columbia, 2017

MA, Communication, San Diego State University, 2013

BA, Human Communication, Arizona State University, Tempe, 2011

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

I can trace the roots of my teaching philosophy back to a tough time as an undergraduate student. That is when a Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University took a chance on me. She initially said “no” to let me become an assistant for her Communication Theory course. She said I would have to earn it by being a top performer in her current course. In so doing, she turned from an instructor to a mentor. She continued to challenge me to prove myself to her and, more importantly, to myself. This early experience with this instructor-turned-mentor has shaped my philosophy on my role as a teacher, mentor, and researcher. As such, my overarching goal as a teacher is to foster an environment that allows students to not only show me growth but to be personally proud of their improvement. My teaching philosophy consists of three tenants. First, I believe that a classroom is more than a collection of students; it is a community that learns together and supports each other. Second, I believe that students should be allowed to take control of their own education and it is my role to hold them accountable to do so. Third, I believe that it is important to embed my passion for research and knowledge of interpersonal communication within my teaching. The following will expand on each of these tenants.

Classroom Climate and Community

As an interpersonal communication scholar, I recognize the importance of supportive relationships. I believe the classroom is a space that many relationships are forged with peers that might remain past the walls of the classroom. These relationships are built on respect, trust, and familiarity with others in the class. I believe in the cultivation of a community in the classroom because it allows students to collaborate and learn together, rather than passively listening to me lecture. The community approach also encourages students who are shy to feel safe to speak up or students who are confused to turn to others for clarification.

One approach to craft this community in the classroom is built into the very first component of each class by posing an attendance question. In order to help students get to know each other better, during attendance, I will ask the class a general question, such as: “what was the last movie you watched”? In teaching reviews, I have even had students note their enjoyment of this, stating “Asking questions for attendance was really fun and helped us relax and be more willing to speak up in class” (Comm1200, Sp.2016).  Asking the question does more than just gain a little information about the student, it gives each and every student a chance to hear his/her voice out loud in the classroom, and I get the chance to acknowledge that voice. Second, I build a sense of community by having students frequently work on tasks in class in small groups. These small groups are a time for students to become acquainted with another classmate and to practice accomplishing tasks in a group.

Foster Student Agency and Accountability

I also believe in giving students the opportunity to drive their own education. This means that students have agency over their own education. I facilitate student agency through keeping components of major assignments open to fit with student’s interests. I accomplish this by giving students openings to pursue an idea of interest within the context of the course. For example, in the Communication Research Methods course, I allow students to decide on a research question of interest and pursue that by designing a potential method to address that question. Through this approach, students get to understand the methodological tools available to communication researchers within a content area that they find interesting. Similarly, in public speaking, I encourage students to focus on a speech topic which they are experienced or about something they are excited to learn. By letting a student pick a content area that they find interesting, they will further be excited to engage that topic in a new way.

Beyond giving students agency in the pursuit of their own education, I allow them to be accountable and to demonstrate what they have learned. Through interactions with the material in the classroom, I am able to assess the students’ understanding of course concepts. I am then able to probe their understanding to push students to critically evaluate their claims and understanding. For example, I developed the “Reflection Paper” assignment in the Human Communication Theory course that is an explicit exercise on translating communication theory into real-life situations. Students are required to take a theory covered in class and using it to either explain or understand a communication experience she or he has had. In fact, my ability to push students is noted by Dr. Haley Horstman when she observed my lecture on experimental methods, stating: “He (Ryan) led an activity that prompted students to creatively generate new versions of the classic experiment (Prisoner’s Dilemma). Throughout the class he went around the class and talked with individual groups, asking them challenging questions, and constructively critiquing their decisions” (Dr. Horstman Observation of Comm3422, Spring 2016).

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

I believe that learning is infectious when the teacher is genuinely passionate and enthusiastic about what s/he is discussing and is able to share current research. I embody that principle in my teaching, bringing enthusiasm for empirical research and for uncovering the systems at work in interpersonal communication. For example, one of my students from Human Communication Theory stated: “So excited about the content, which made me excited for it too. Very good at answering questions and ensuring students understood course material” (Comm145, Spring 2018).

Another way my passion for research is applied to my teaching is through course refinement through experimentation. As a passionate experimentalist, I understand that knowledge can be gained through systematic manipulations to as few components as possible. So, I critically refine my courses every semester by keeping the base design of the class similar and only changing one to two elements of the class at a time. I make the decision to change course elements based on course reviews from students and personal reflections on the previous semester. By not overhauling the whole course, I am in a better position to evaluate the effectiveness of each new element in the classroom. Even in a well-defined class, the use of experimentation in the course will serve to keep the course fresh and exciting for the students and me. For example, in refining the Communication Research Methods course I teach, I have decided to manipulate the approach to the overall course writing an assignment. One semester, I had students write a full mock method section for a research line of inquiry they developed for both a quantitative and a qualitative study. While it was useful for students to have the hands-on experience in writing a detailed method section, I felt that the students would benefit from more time developing a theory-based study. To test this idea of how to better engage research methods with students, I am experimenting with having students pair up and make a single full study proposal. This will include a theoretically driven literature review and a proposed method section. The outcome of this course design experiment will impact my plans for future versions of the course. An additional benefit of this approach is that it pushes me beyond simply being open to changes in my course design. It makes me assume that every course that I design is one that will constantly be growing.

Ultimately, my teaching philosophy is a living concept. This means that the three tenants that I discussed will continue to develop, refine, and shift as I grow as a scholar and a teacher. I seek to continue growing as a teacher knowing that with each student and each semester that passes I refine my skills in building a community in the classroom, advancing the quality of my course design, and better integrating my passion for research with my students. In short, my decisions and growth as a teacher are grounded in a pursuit to believe in and support future generations of students, much like the Ph.D. candidate I met during my time as an undergraduate did for me.

Scholarly Interests

Communication and Health
Interpersonal Communication
Communication Perspective Taking
Communication Theory
Research Methods


COMM 43, Interpersonal Communication
COMM 145, Human Communication Theory
PACS 2, Communocation and Health


Top Four Paper Award in the Interpersonal Communication Division at the annual National Communication Association Conference (2014, November).
3rd Place Social Sciences Quantitative Presentation Award. (March, 2015). Research and Creative Activities Forum, University of Missouri: