College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Meet IAA Lecturer, Dr. Eric Dunning

Nina LaTassa

IAA Oral Communication lecturer Dr. Eric Dunning comes to us from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I took some time to talk to the southern scholar in-between his classes. An intriguing conversation with him revealed his thoughts on hip-hop, Bruce Lee, and even Zen philosophy. Read on to see what Eric had to say!

1)    What's one interesting fun fact you learned about one of your IAA colleagues?

I’m not sure if there’s one particular “fact” that I have learned, but I would say that I did find Tony’s interest in hip-hop/rap to be incredibly interesting.

2)    What word or phrase best describes you?



3)    If you could meet one famous rhetorical figure/person, who would it be and why?

Total nerd question. But I would have to say Bruce Lee.


4)    What's one thing a student of yours taught you? Why was that a teachable moment for you?  

I think my students teach me something every day, but I can remember one student who was really struggling with some severe personal/family issues outside of class and they brought them into class in the form of a persuasive speech, to help others – and the class was completely floored. It was a really teachable moment for me because I got to see the power of an absolutely fearless spirit when it is combined with rhetoric. That day, I knew they were done with the course – I had nothing else to teach them.

5)    What's the most exciting part about working at UMD?

I love the diversity of the student body and faculty. Love meeting people from different areas and intellectual perspectives.


6)    If life were a series of speeches--the topics of which you got to choose---what topic would you talk about and why?

I’m a huge advocate of Zen philosophy, and I always make a point to close my classes with a Zen story or parable. I would talk about the concept that the very nature of life is about challenges. It is something that we will never avoid. I believe that the way we respond to those are what defines us and makes us grow. We’re on this planet to learn. In the same way we must be adaptable to circumstances in public speaking/rhetoric, we must be adaptable to life. In the words of Master Bruce Lee, “If you pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup. If you pour water into a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can flow, or it can crash – become water.”


7)    What is one thing about the IAA that you’d like to learn more about?          

I’d really like to learn more about the how the IAA is becoming, or can become more involved, in the political and social areas that are affecting agriculture and hunger.


8)    What's an interesting fact about you?

I have been training for several years in Muay Thai Kickboxing. So, if I don’t answer your email…I’m probably in class.

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