SIRIS Operations Manager -- David Whitfield

Jun 4, 2013

David Whitfield is a strong believer in the power of communication to impact lives and communities in a significant way, which is why the Cairo, Illinois native is pursuing a Ph.D. in SIU Carbondale's Speech Communication program, with a focus on intercultural communication and pedagogy.

"I'm interested in how people communicate within and across cultures," says Whitfield. "I'm also exploring how to make the study of intercultural communication accessible to students in the classroom."

After high school, Whitfield briefly attended NIU in DeKalb and worked in Chicago. At 23, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he served eight years active duty and three years in the reserves. While based at Scott Air Force Base, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Workforce Education through SIU's military program.

After completing his military service, Whitfield worked at Chicago Title, a subsidiary of Fidelity National Title Group, before returning to SIU to earn a Master's degree in Workforce Education and to enroll in his current Ph.D. program.

While working on his Master's degree, Whitfield got involved with the Saluki Volunteer Corps, which led to rewarding work at a nursing home and a food pantry in Murphysboro. "When summer rolled around, I thought I'd explore new possibilities," he says. "I saw WSIU Radio on the list and thought, with so many students gone for the summer, the station might need help."

Over the past year, Whitfield has worked as a board operator, written and recorded promos, and served as on-air talent during WSIU Radio membership drives. He also writes and records the radio station's oneminute segment at 6pm featuring WSIU-TV's primetime lineup. Whitfield says that his experiences at WSIU Radio have helped to prepare him for his new role as Summer Operations Manager for SIRIS.

"I spend a lot of time organizing and prioritizing tasks at SIRIS, such as deciding which local newspapers need to be read first," he says. "I coordinate the volunteers' schedules, supervise their work, and edit recordings. I also send SIRIS applications and radios to new users."

Whitfield praises his volunteers for their dedication and initiative. "Some of them bring newspapers from St. Louis and other cities, so our listeners can enjoy something a little different," he says. " We also read sale circulars and promote local events like HerrinFesta Italiana. I'm also hoping to build our supply of evergreen programs, so volunteers who show up unexpectedly have quality content they can read for us to use at a later time."

While attending an outreach presentation with SIRIS director, Vickie Devenport, who is retiring this summer, Whitfield met SIRIS users face-to-face – an experience that moved him deeply. "I saw how SIRIS impacts individual lives in such a personal way. It makes me feel honored to be part of this service."

"Unless you live in a world without sight, you really don't understand what it's like to be cut off from the world. When I was younger, I gave money to charity, but didn't understand the value of donating my time and energy to a cause. Getting down in the trenches, getting involved personally and seeing how what you do can make a difference is life-changing."

Whitfield is a long-time PBS and NPR fan. "I discovered BBC America and Britcoms when I moved away from the area and started listening to All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Fresh Air on NPR. But, I absolutely love Car Talk! The Tappit brothers are so funny! I never get tired of listening."

He also enjoys WSIU Radio's local news, Morning Conversation, Magic Soul, Rhythm in Bloom, Sounds Like Radio, Reading Baseball, and election programs. Whitfield also greatly values WSIU-TV's local programs. "Shows like Expressions, WSIU InFocus, Studio A...they are all great examples of WSIU's role as an outreach arm for the University. That's powerful."

Whitfield says working with WSIU staff has been a valuable experience. "I really appreciate the opportunity to work with staff like Lisa Morrisette, Jennifer Fuller, Jeff Williams, Brad Palmer, Vickie Devenport, and Jak Tichenor, and to interact with other volunteers and students. I am always impressed by the station staff's talent and their commitment to provide the region with the best programs and services."

Looking ahead, Whitfield is hoping to launch a teaching career. "I didn't know I would love teaching as much as I do," he says. "I want to use my education and experiences to make a difference – to keep finding opportunities to learn and grow, and to give back to the community. I'm trying to be in the spaces where those opportunities surface."