By Lauren Kaufman
Claire Van Ens, professor and chair of the communication studies department at KU, has decided to retire in May of 2017 after teaching at KU for 15 years.
Van Ens, 63, has been the chair of the communication department for four of those years.
Throughout her time at KU, she has taught gender communication, foundations of oral communication, introduction to women’s and gender studies and interpersonal communication.
She not only took on teaching responsibilities, but she was also involved in many KU committees. She has been involved with the women’s and gender studies advisory board, the KU presidential inaugural PR committee and the interdisciplinary entrepreneurial minor committee.
Van Ens also started the initial conversation and ultimately created the committee for the digital communication and new media minor and has also started departmental committees involved with the curriculum, assessments, media and scholarships.
Van Ens returned to college at the age of 35 after a divorce and studied psychology throughout her first two years of community college. She then moved on to the University of San Diego where she fell in love with the communication studies major.
“When I was younger, I was absolutely convinced that I wanted to study psychology and become a therapist, but after my first communication class, I fell in love with communication studies,” said Van Ens.
After completing her bachelor’s degree, Van Ens attended the University of Texas in Austin, where she received her master’s and doctorate degrees.
While attending college, Van Ens worked part-time as an orthodontist’s assistant and cleaned houses. When she was in the University of San Diego, she worked as the church security, later moving on to be a graduate assistant while at the University of Texas at Austin.
After Van Ens graduated in 1999, she worked in central Michigan for two years as a full-time performance study professor. In 2001, she began working for KU.
Mary Eicholtz, a fellow communication studies professor, said, “Under Claire’s leadership, the department has not only grown, but responded to the needs of our faculty and major.”
Students of the department agree with Eicholtz.
“Claire was the first person I met when I transferred to KU. She was so welcoming. KU will miss her sincere enthusiasm,” said Trevor Arnold, a 21-year-old advisee of Van Ens.
“Professor Van Ens is one of my favorite professors in Kutztown. She made my interpersonal communication class fun, even though it was challenging. I wish I had more classes with her,” said Mikel Kelly, a 20-year-old communications student.
When Van Ens retires, she plans to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico with her two dogs, Theo and Izzy. She said that she isn’t quite sure of the reason behind her decision, but she has friends that live there and it’s a new adventure.
Approaching her last year as a KU faculty member, Van Ens would like to leave the KU community with the message, “Be your own person.”