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Released May 11, 2005

By David Tisdale

HATTIESBURG Their careers are as diverse as their personalities, but Nancy, Cathy and Susan Steen share at least one other common denominator besides being sisters – all three majored in speech communication as undergraduates at The University of Southern Mississippi.

They agree that their speech communication education is a key element of their success, whether it's Cathy conducting a training seminar as vice-president on premise of the luxury wine and spirits company Moet Hennessy USA; Nancy’s preparations to conduct cross-examinations in the courtroom as a Hattiesburg attorney; or Susan's interactions with foreign university and government officials and students from around the world as director of international education at Southern Miss.

“You chose wisely,” said Cathy Steen to speech communication students during her address to the department’s annual banquet recently. “Whatever you choose to do in life, it (a degree in speech communication) will serve you well.”

Cathy Steen said her degree in speech communication helped her become a better speaker and writer and provided her with skills in persuasion, negotiation and listening– all of which have been invaluable to her as a businesswoman, she said.

She also learned that her reality was not necessarily everyone else’s reality, so understanding multiple viewpoints was also critical for her to be a better communicator, an understanding she gained from her education at Southern Miss.

“I promise you, you will have a definite advantage (in the working world) after you’ve completed the program,” Cathy said.

Susan Steen agrees with her sisters that a speech communication degree is a versatile education. “It helped me become a more effective communicator in a variety of intercultural contexts, from interpersonal, one-on-one encounters to small groups and large audiences,” she said.

Nancy, whose legal specialty is family law, said her work involves direct communication with her clients as well as with juries. “What I learned as a speech communication major helped me not only understand about and empathize with the problems my clients are having in their family relationships, but it also helps when I make a presentation in the courtroom,” she said.

The Southern Miss Speech Communication Department has an estimated 110 students in both undergraduate and graduate programs, said Dr. Charles Tardy, chairman of the speech communication department.

“We’re so proud of Cathy, Nancy and Susan,” said Tardy. “They all are testaments to what people can accomplish with the right background, drive and skills.”


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July 20, 2005 4:00 PM