During college, Melba Vélez Ortiz shuffled among four different academic disciplines — communications, political science, philosophy and theater. Her multifaceted style continues as a faculty member.
In the fall semester, the professor of communications will bring her interdisciplinary approach to teaching to the Frederik Meijer Honors College as a full-time faculty member.
Vélez Ortiz joined Grand Valley's School of Communications faculty in 2009. When the honors college position was announced, Vélez Ortiz said she applied because it felt like "being called home to the mothership."
"When I was an undergraduate, at one point I had four majors that I loved," she said. "Teaching in the honors college, with vibrant, highly motivated students and distinguished colleagues, this is the kind of environment where I will thrive."
Roger Gilles, director of the Meijer Honors College and professor of writing, said Vélez Ortiz joins the faculty at a transition time to a revamped curriculum that emphasizes interdisciplinary learning. Honors students will have more common courses and sequences with an emphasis on project-based learning.
"We had so many fine applicants," Gilles said. "For Melba to rise to the top is a testament to her teaching and strengths as an educator."
Vélez Ortiz's research expertise focuses on communication ethics and global environmental communication. Gilles said Vélez Ortiz's understanding of how an individual fits into social and ecological communities will lend itself to class discussions.
"We look forward to Melba's enthusiasm in the classroom and how she generates dialogue among students. In today's climate, it's very necessary to learn from someone who is a listener in the global community and can bring communication ethics to a classroom," Gilles said.
Accompanying Vélez Ortiz to class will be Chad, her guide dog. She was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease. Vélez Ortiz has learned to rely more on listening and will, in turn, develop a new sequence for first-year honors students that puts the focus on hearing and listening.
She is also revisiting recent research on communication ethics. "I've discovered that it goes back farther than the ancient Greeks to Africa, it's fascinating," she said.