Faculty: Brittany Thompson
As a wedding photographer, Brittany Thompson saw people during one of the more stressful times of their lives. Little did she realize it would set the stage for her career as a senior teaching instructor in East Carolina University’s School of Communication.
“Weddings are so challenging. People are so stressed on that day, and so I learned skills like conflict management,” Thompson said. “Brides who are losing it, I’m with them all day, so I learned to talk to people, and I realized I loved working with people, and it’s the same thing with students. Students are sometimes stressed and they feel like that this is it, that grades are everything in that moment, and I feel like I can diffuse that. There is so much more than that, and I feel like I’ve been able to carry those skills into the classroom and am able to just talk to people.”
Thompson grew up in southern Virginia, where her mother worked as a professor at Averett University and her father worked as a veterinarian.
“Growing up even as a child, I worked a lot for my family businesses,” she said. “I learned to work hard as a child, and it has carried me far in life.”
She said she always had a creative side, but after being told she didn’t write concisely enough for journalism, she went to N.C. State and earned a degree in animal science.
But then: “Life happens,” she said. “Unfortunately, my father died shortly after I graduated, and it changed my entire life. I had a whole bunch of other interests, and so I just pursued those.”
One of those interests was photography, so she earned a degree from Randolph Community College and eventually opened her own photography business in which wedding photos and portraits paid the bills, though her passion rested in landscape photography.
While running her own business, she grew to enjoy a relatively new aspect of marketing.
“I did all the websites. I did the blog. This was social media in its infancy, and I loved all that,” Thompson said.
Still, the business took much of her time, and wanting to start a family, she looked to her mother, Peggy Wright, for some advice.
“I had experience working with high school students when I was a photographer and loved interacting with students,” she said. “I had a lot of conversations with my mom, and she said to go for my graduate degree and maybe I would get to teach and I could see if I liked it. That’s exactly what happened. I got to teach, and I loved it the moment I stepped into class.”
She got her master’s degree in communication from ECU in 2014, and with experience as a graduate assistant, began teaching at ECU first as an adjunct instructor and then as a full-time instructor in 2015.
Thompson teaches interpersonal communication and communication theory as well as senior communication capstone projects. She ran the School of Communication’s social media sites and is the school’s internship coordinator. During her time at ECU, she has received the Robert L. Jones Award for Outstanding Teaching from the alumni association, the Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Teaching Award and the School of Communication Most Inspiring Teaching Award.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, she began working with Dr. Erika Johnson, associate professor in the School of Communication, on research involving social media posts. They used a prompt and photovoice methodology in which the reasons and emotions behind posted images can be explored. They discovered four distinct themes in the posts:
- a lack of belonging in the community and sometimes in communication;
- a drive to achieve excellence in the communication field that doesn’t have many peers like them;
- gender differences in how men and women are treated in Black communities.
“We’re getting a snapshot into our students’ lives and how they feel in the communication field and here at ECU,” Thompson said. “I’d like to expand on that (research). I’m planning that now.”
Thompson is also a faculty fellow for the Honors College. She teaches a leadership seminar for EC Scholars, speaks during summits and helps coordinate and mentor students for their signature honors projects.
“I tell (students) this sometimes: When I was their age, I definitely wasn’t doing half of what they’re doing, but that’s part of the appeal,” she said. “You get to interact with immense creativity, intelligence, humbleness, kindness and thoughtfulness. They’re so well-rounded, and to be able to interact with students like that, it’s a joy.”
Married to her husband Nick, who has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from ECU, Thompson enjoys spending time with their two children, Conner, 10, and Killian, 3. “They are regulars in the School of Communication hallways,” she said.
She credits her sister, Meredith, for helping her decide to move and make eastern North Carolina her home.
“I really love eastern North Carolina. It’s beautiful,” Thompson said. “I love the ocean and the beach, but the students here are just different. They are these fierce, passionate creatures in the classroom, and I love to interact with them. I got to do that when I was in graduate school and just wanted to stay here. I’m from the Piedmont. I like hills, but I’ve grown to love the flatlands.”
Name: Brittany Thompson
Title: Senior teaching instructor and internship coordinator, School of Communication
Hometown: Southern Virginia
Colleges attended and degrees: N.C. State University, Bachelor of Science in animal science; Randolph Community College, Associate of Arts in photographic technology; East Carolina University, Master of Art in communication
Years working at ECU: Eight
What I do at ECU: I primarily teach, since I am an instructor. I managed the School of Communication social media from 2015 until 2022, and I currently manage the School of Communication website and am the internship coordinator. I am a faculty fellow in the Honors College. I was a faculty fellow with the Office for Faculty Excellence, and for the past two years I helped coordinate the new faculty orientation. That process is exciting because I get to help welcome new faculty to ECU!
What I love about ECU: I love that Pirates are everywhere, and they are fierce and tenacious as a true Pirate should be. I love our students. It is why I am excited to come to work every day.
What advice do you give to students? Embrace being uncomfortable at times. It can help you grow and is a part of life. Sometimes being uncomfortable is because something is new, or a change has occurred; it is not always bad to be uncomfortable.
Favorite class to teach: Oh, this is hard. If it is communication, I am happy! I teach a large lecture theory class. I love communication theory because you can see it in your life and the world around you.
What do you like to do when not working? Adventures in North Carolina, whether camping in the mountains or exploring the coast. When at home, gardening please!
Last thing I watched on TV: I consume a lot of media. Goes hand-in-hand with communication for me. “Great British Bake Off.”
First job: Research technician at the N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine
Guilty pleasure: Anything to do with saltwater and sun when outside. Inside, ugh, Instagram. In general, chocolate and caramel … together.
One thing most people don’t know about me: I do not like surprises — at all.