Professor Profile: Celeste Wells
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Celeste Wells bounds into her 12 p.m. Rhetorical Tradition class with more energy than the 150 students there. She talks with animation reminiscent of her students. Wells is a woman with many dimensions. She is incredibly fun, dynamic, and engaging when the situation calls for it, but she’s also very serious and helps others open up without fear of criticism. Wells describes herself as “childish” and when asked about her quirks, she said, “I can’t keep my feet on the ground. My grandmother always called me ‘Little Bird’ as a child because I would always flit around and find a place to perch my feet.”
She seems so fragile with her big eyes, light hair, and slim build. But many who have had the honor of talking with her find out that she’s incredibly strong and resilient thanks to some trying past experiences. Her enthusiasm and positive attitude are inescapable and make those who’ve had the privilege of getting to know her want to remain in her presence.
Wells makes learning attractive. She’ll pull up YouTube videos that relate to the subject at hand and say, “Whoops!” when something inappropriate comes up as a “suggested video.” She has taken classes outside to do a “communication activity” or her version of the game Man Overboard. She has employed Beyonce videos to help people firmly understand the subject matter at hand, through a relatable topic. “Call me whenever you need me, but call me maybe … not after 10 p.m.,” Wells told her class at the beginning of the semester. When a student expressed that public speaking wasn’t her niche, she responded with, “Sometimes, I go back to my TAs and ask, ‘Did I make sense? Did you understand what I was talking about?’”
Wells graduated from the University of Utah with her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in communication. She researches the study of the treatment of workers in America, specifically immigrants, as well as issues dealing with identity, gender, and race.
Before starting her doctorate, Wells worked in the Human Resources department at a local Utah business before deciding that she wanted to obtain her doctorate. She said that it was a gradual process. She primarily teaches juniors and seniors who find themselves in classes such as Communication Criticism, Argumentation Theory, and Research Methods, but she found herself teaching The Rhetorical Tradition this year, a typically freshmen and sophomore-filled course.
“I need to talk this out. I wrote six pages on it. But the main points would be that I want to show people that you can love things that matter,” Wells said of her personal philosophy, which was also her advice to freshmen. “Grades don’t have to be the sum total. If I can show students that I love what I teach, hopefully they’ll see that there is value in learning for more than the sake of a grade. I want to teach so people will be excited, not afraid. Secondly, I would tell freshmen to find one adult on campus they trust. Not an upperclassman, but someone who has graduated college who can be absolutely real with them.”
When asked about what she does outside the classroom, she said, “I’m boring. I don’t do much except spend time with my family, but that’s good enough for me. I am a functioning individual without my family, but with my family I am a whole and complete individual.”
This family-oriented lifestyle is evident in her favorite memory, Christmas Eve. “It’s when every single member of my family is present, and we don’t do anything except hang around and talk around the Christmas tree. It is perfection,” Wells said.
Although she insists “there is nothing extraordinary about me,” people who know her say otherwise. She is worth the attention because she allows people whom she comes into contact with to feel comfortable and be themselves, no pretenses involved. Her positive attitude—as well as her love for her family, students, and classes—draw people to her, and though there was much regret and sadness at the retirement of former Rhetorical Tradition professor, Bonnie Jefferson, Wells appears have a brilliant and long future in her new role.