Through my internship, I have not been thinking much about Communication Studies theories if I am being honest. Looking back on different interactions and experiences throughout the semester, I have realized that Communication Studies theories are everywhere! The top theories that I have noticed at play over the duration of my last couple of months as an intern are Social Penetration Theory and Social Learning Theory.
The Institutional Advancement Office is all about fundraising. Fundraising for scholarships, for infrastructure programs, program funding, athletic teams, and so much more. To get those big gifts, we have several gift officers, who meet with our more well-off alumni. These gift officers will meet with wealthier alumni countless times to build a relationship before asking for the bigger gifts. Several gift officers have talked about their job as just an excuse to “make friends.” These relationships are started through superficial means at first. It is started to eventually get a large gift from the alum. As time passes on, these relationships evolve so much so, that both parties become very invested in the others life. They soon are meeting for lunch more, or spending time with each other’s families. These friendships evolve from superficial relationships to intimate friendships. The alumni are vulnerable because they are open to being solicited for a large gift to be donated to the university and the gift officer is vulnerable because these alumni tend to be higher in age, so they usually end up passing. This describes the Social Penetration Theory, which examines how superficial relationships evolve into more intimate relationships.
The next theory that I see evident in my internship is the Social Learning theory, that states that we learn through observing, imitating, and modeling the behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of others. This is exemplified through my time as an intern. I have never worked in higher education before and truly did not know what the Office of Institutional Advancement did on campus. I have learned through doing as my coworkers have done. I have learned through imitating the work that has been done on spreadsheets and to use the templates from previous events. I have learned how to use several different online resources, such as Raiser’s Edge, through watching others use it. I have learned how to communicate with donors through watching my coworkers communicate with them. I have learned how to behave in the world of higher education through watching others.