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David Csizmadia
David Csizmadia recently visited Sukhothai, the ancient capital of Siam

David Csizmadia

  • Founder/Owner, Partner Communications
  • Master’s Degree in Speech Communication (Note: The departments of Speech Communication and Radio, Television and Motion Pictures were combined in 1993 to create the Department of Communication Studies)

Please share the factors and/or people that (who) inspired you to pursue your area of graduate study.

I was inspired by one person in particular to pursue my area of graduate study: Dr. Annette Martin at Eastern Michigan University, where I did my undergraduate work. “Dr. Annette” was a professor in the theater department at Eastern. Her area of focus was the oral interpretation of literature, which falls under the larger umbrella of speech communication or speech studies or performance studies or whatever it is called these days, and she was the first person in my undergraduate career to actually say encouraging things to me as a budding performer.

“It is an amazing honor to do graduate work in
Chapel Hill.”

As a theater major at Eastern way back in 1981, I remember being very afraid to audition for anything in the department. In fact, I spent my whole first semester there as a freshman avoiding the theater building. I did not enter the building. I would just walk by and wonder what was going on in there. During my second semester, I finally dared enter the theater building to seek out the audition announcement board. On the board was an audition notice for a play called Wings by Arthur Kopit, to be directed by Dr. Annette Martin. I knew nothing about this play, never heard of Kopit and never heard of this Dr. Annette Martin person, but I went to the audition and simply dove in to the whole thing. Dr. Annette had us playing games, crawling on the floor, interacting with each other in creative ways, etc. We did not read one word from any script. It was the most fun that I had ever had. I felt great — felt home.

I was cast in her play, we did the play — we traveled to Pennsylvania and did the play — and I spent the rest of my undergraduate career in the Dr. Annette stable, where many wonderful performers resided and from whom I learned so much while at Eastern. During my senior year, Dr. Annette pressed me to attend graduate school for further study of oral interpretation, so I applied to the Chapel Hill M.A. program in the speech communication department, and bada-bing-bada-boom, I was accepted and the rest is history. Without Dr. Annette Martin, I would not have made it to Chapel Hill.

Please describe your favorite memories as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill.

My favorite memories as a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill involve trauma and growth. Graduate school was very hard for me. I felt like the dumbest person in my class all of the time. But somehow I completed my coursework, fulfilled all of my obligations as a teaching assistant, managed to teach a couple of my own classes over the summer as a second-year striver, mounted a graduate directing project, delivered a slightly coherent graduate thesis solo performance project, passed my comprehensive exams, wrote and defended my master’s thesis and made it out of Chapel Hill with my M.A. completed in two years flat, which only one other person in my class managed to do. My work was never the best, but it was all completed on time. So I drove away from Chapel Hill and moved to New York City with a deep satisfaction in my gut that I had weathered the storm and grown in ways that I never imagined I could. Wow, what a traumatic, amazing, nutritious two years that I had down there in Chapel Hill!

What aspects of your graduate studies are most useful in your current professional role?

Aspects of my graduate studies that are most useful in my current professional role include the following:

  1. Being able to think — attending grad school at Chapel Hill taught me how to think. Being able to think clearly serves me well every day as a corporate communication coach traveling the world helping people all over the planet talk with each other and hear each other.
  2. Learning how to teach anything — my experience as a teaching assistant at Chapel Hill paved the road that I have followed to become an effective coach and teacher today.
  3. Living with humility — graduate school was an incredibly humbling experience for me. I had to learn how to live with the fact that I am not the greatest dude ever — such a wonderful, valuable lesson for so many folks…traumatic, but wonderful.
  4. Embracing the confidence that comes through hard work — graduate school is a whirlwind of huge amounts of tasks, activities, demands, expectations and evaluations. Navigating through all of this made me unafraid to dive into any task that I have faced since leaving Chapel Hill. My experiences in Chapel Hill led me to doors and opened doors that I never imagined even existed. I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to attend UNC-Chapel Hill.

Please describe the most significant aspects of your work.

The most significant aspects of my work include the following:

  1. I help people connect with other people. The ability to speak with clarity, precision, focus, vitality and good humor is a powerful tool that leads people down magical roads in society, work and play. I am honored every time I get the opportunity to help people collaborate, cooperate and come to understandings with one another.
  2. I travel all over the planet. The more I travel, the more humble I become. Our planet is gorgeous, fabulous, silly, mysterious and fragile all at the same time. I am honored every time I get to visit a new place and spread some joy, connection and appreciation for the human condition in the business world and beyond.
  3. Breathing. Breathing feels good. All of my work always leads my clients back to this. There is great power in consciously breathing and simply going with the flow in business, in academia, in life. Simple stuff, I know, but there is great wisdom in simplicity.

Do you have advice for current UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students?

Find and connect with the people who can help you succeed, i.e., fellow students, professors, thesis advisers, program directors, administrative staff, etc. You cannot do anything well alone, so resist isolating yourself. Get away when you can: Attend professional conferences, go on road trips with trusted friends/colleagues, holiday travel, etc. Don’t let grad school be the only thing in your life if at all possible. Breathe — you will need to do this a lot. Take care of yourself — try to eat well, get whatever sleep you can, exercise. And cherish every second of graduate school because this, too, shall pass. BAM! Next thing you know you will be somewhere working on a Ph.D. or teaching somewhere or working in business somewhere, and you will look back and laugh…at least, this is what I do. Finally, enjoy and be grateful. It is an amazing honor to do graduate work in Chapel Hill. Do the best work that you can and doors will open for you that you can’t imagine exist. Go Heels!

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