Farmer’s daughter influenced by life’s travels

IUS Horizon

Laura Caruso, communication senior, asks Audrey Deterding, communication professor, right, a question from the textbook.

Most students think of two things when it comes to the first day of classes: syllabuses and self-introductions. For many, reading the syllabus is the easy part, and coming up with something interesting to say is not. For lack of better alternatives, most end up just blurting out that they have a cat or like to watch TV. There are some people, though, whose unique answers seem destined for the task.

If still a student, Audrey Deterding, assistant professor of communication studies, would be one of those people.

“I’d probably say that I have four sisters, because it’s something kind of unique, and it would be something that people remember,” Deterding said.

In fact, if in the situation, Deterding would have several interesting things to pick from. These include the fact that she had a goal of visiting all 50 states before she turned 30 and got to 49, and she was a full-time college student for 10 years.

Deterding is not a student anymore, though. She is now in her sixth year of teaching at IU Southeast and is being considered for tenure.

Deterding and her four sisters grew up on a farm in southern Illinois, where their father was a farmer.

She said it is hard to say what it is like having four sisters because she does not know anything else, but there is one thing that bothers her.

“The only thing I have to say that gets me about having four sisters — or having five daughters — is that people so many times say, ‘Oh, your poor dad,’” she said, “and I’m thinking, why would you say that? It’s his family. He was very proud of his girls.”

Of the five daughters, Deterding was the fourth born, but, due to a gap between her and her youngest sister, she said she considers herself a youngest in terms of birth-order psychology. Deterding said she is really into birth-order psychology and has read many books on the subject.

“I was really more of a youngest,” she said. “I liked the limelight. I wanted people to notice me.”

Deterding said her mother had the first four daughters within five years. The last daughter was born four years later.

“So [the youngest born] almost is like another oldest,” she said. “She’s the perfectionist, has this life plan. I’m kind of like the ‘Oh, let’s have a good time.’”

Deterding said her father stressed the importance of doing well and getting an education. He would not let his daughters simply get a job after high school. They did not have to go to college, but he made them go to vocational school, the Army or something of the sort.

Deterding said she chose to take the college route, and school has been a part of her life ever since.

She attended college close to home at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where she said at one point she had three majors.

Inspired by her high school English teacher, Deterding said she was sure she wanted to teach English. She began her undergraduate career as a double major in English and secondary education. She added the speech communication major after learning it would only be a few more credit hours.

“My dad said when I picked up communication as a third major, he said ‘Finally, something she’s good at,’” she said. “I’m a talker.”

Deterding said at the last minute she decided not to pursue a secondary education major because her advisors soured her on the idea, so she graduated in three and a half years with a double major in English and speech. When it came time to attend graduate school, Deterding said she stuck with communication rather than English but did not know why.

“There was no conscious thought process of what made me pick communication. It was just when I started thinking about graduate school, it was just communication.”

Deterding said she attended graduate school at Penn State because it was the only institution that offered a Ph.D. and classes on conversation analysis, a form of study that researches “pauses or silences to the tenth of the second.”

During and after graduate school, Deterding worked in some substitute teaching and taught a few classes on public speaking.

“It was kind of crazy because I started my master’s program at 21, so a lot of my students were a year or two younger,” she said. “It was kind of interesting.”

Once she graduated, Deterding said she knew she was not done with school, and it just worked out that she became a professor.

“The longer I’m here, the more I like it, the more I get into it,” Deterding said. “[I try] to be around more for students and do a lot more work here.”

One student, Laura Caruso, communication senior, said when she returned to college after a break, Deterding was very accommodating toward her.

“I was frustrated and a little scared to come back,” Caruso said. “It was difficult, and she said, ‘It’s the same place. I’ll help you get through,’ and she really stepped up.”

Caruso said Deterding has also helped her understand information from another communication class and helped her schedule classes.

“She really does a lot of outside-of-the-class stuff, and that’s not just me. There are so many people that say, ‘Oh, I gotta go talk to Dr. D. to make sure that my schedule’s right.’”

Besides teaching, Deterding said she enjoys sewing, baking and traveling.

She said every year she sews pajamas for each of her 11 nieces and nephews, who range in age from a few months to 17 years. According to age, they get to pick out their fabric choice and color.

“I’m cool Aunt Audy,” she said, “but I have to say I really don’t have a lot of competition, because the others all have their kids and the others are married. I’m the one that sort of flies in and out and does fun things and listens to them.”

Deterding does not have any children herself, but she does have a dog, Siobhan, and cat, Scarlett, who she said are enough children for her.

In the future, Deterding said she hopes to obtain tenure, become a member of FACET and travel more.