BTC's Norland sees connections between music, communication and work

John Norland, BTC instructor

John Norland

Blackhawk Technical College

Communication and Psychology Instructor

Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement, Nursing, Accounting

John Norland plays guitar in an acoustic band called Bathtub Mothers. His “day job” is teaching communication and psychology at Blackhawk Technical College (BTC). How do the two relate?

His college career started at St. Olaf’s in Minnesota. Interest in music drew Norland to the Berkeley School of Music in Boston for a year. Next, he moved to Los Angeles to continue his music career and finished his undergraduate degree at UCLA. He returned to the Midwest and received my Master’s degree at Northern Illinois in DeKalb.

Norland sees the art form in communication and tries to share that with his students. “The only way to teach the art form of it is by example,” he says. “It’s a way of demonstrating how you can be more persuasive, more lyrical in your communication.”

Many career programs at BTC require communication courses including criminal justice, accounting and nursing.

“Whenever we survey employers, they talk about looking for people who communicate clearly and who can develop good relationships with their co-workers and customers,” he explains. “These are the things we work on. A student may never have to make a speech at his place of employment, but the ability to handle a complicated message, organizing it into clear points supported by evidence is a skill that will serve them in their personal and professional lives.”

Norland teaches three classes in the communications field – Communications; Oral and Interpersonal Communications and Written Communications – as well as two courses in psychology – Introduction to Psychology and Abnormal Psychology.

The rising amount of time people spend with media that isn’t written is lowering literacy rates, Norland says. This makes his classes all the more important for students in any career field.

“Communication almost universally is something our students can work on. They are good, smart people. But they are not people who like to write or have thought a lot about doing it.”