Date of Defense




First Advisor

Dr. Chad Edwards

Second Advisor

Dr. Autumn Edwards


The documentary "Open Your Eyes: Possibilities Realized through Peak Communication" is a film I just finished and screened publicly for a communication theory course on Western Michigan University's campus. The film documents my travels across the country and into Canada as I interview leading authorities about some of their more powerful communication experiences. As well as provide insight on peak communication theory, the film also strives to reveal my growth as a student during my 18-month journey.

Peak Communication theory, born of the pragmatist tradition, informs us that communication is much rarer than we traditionally conceive it to be. Contradictory to the traditional concept that tells us communication is constant and happens all the time, "peak communication" theory stipulates that communication only takes when multiple entities share a powerful moment together. Moments that constitute peak communication - a three-hour conversation with a best friend that feels timeless, or a hug one receives from another that does more justice emotionally than any words ever could - are typically profound instances that help shape our life story. In other words, this theory informs us that real communication is the simultaneous experience between the self and other.

When I heard word that I had been awarded several grants from the Lee Honors College in the spring of2006,1 became ecstatic over the potential of my newly developed research project. The grants were secured in order to fund a project that required lengthy travel, expensive equipment, and a serious commitment. For my project, I identified professionals all around the country, amid a wide spectrum of disciplines, who were revered for their excellence. I looked to ask them about some of their more profound conversations and moments with others. My goal was twofold: I wanted to confirm that individuals revered for their excellence in their respective careers experienced the phenomenon described by "peak communication" theory; but I also wanted to collect insight from these admired professionals as to what "peak communication" included. I asked myself this question: can leaders in their fields of study tell us what contributes to these moments? I believed these leading authorities might provide a lens through which we could view these profound moments differently.

During the course of my project, I interviewed nationally-recognized teachers, professors, administrators, coaches, musicians, and religious leaders. Some of the interviews required me to travel as far as Missouri, Ohio, and Toronto, Canada, I used my grants to cover the expenses of my travel and the technology required to effectively film my journey. By the time I finished my last interview, I had logged over 16 hours of film. A careful analysis of the transcribed interviews led me to conclude that peak communication includes three main components: a sense of being connected to another, a giving up of one's self, and a shared experience with another. In other words, these awe-inspiring communication experiences only happen when multiple people simultaneously feel a shared sense of connection by momentarily forgetting about themselves. As a result of this shared connection and exhibition of selflessness, both parties involved rise above and meet each other at a higher level. My film "Open Your Eyes" looks to make available a more understandable conceptualization of these special moments under the lens of "peak communication theory." And in doing so, the film depicts the ways in which the research project profoundly impacted me.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only