Spotlight After more than 30 years in communication, Dr. Diane Umble knows one thing for certain. “Our world is changing faster than we can comprehend,” says Umble, interim dean of Millersville University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences. She has also been a communication professor at Millersville since 1989. Umble can look back at her own youth, when no one had cell phones, college calls were made from the dorm’s hallway phone and the only way to make a phone call while traveling was from a phone booth. Today that has changed completely. “Our children are from a generation that has always been connected,” says Umble. In some ways that can be good. People get news the moment it happens from around the globe. They can stay close to friends and family regardless of distance. They can hear the latest music, see the newest films and be in touch at all times. “But there is a price,” she says, adding that always being connected means that it is nearly impossible to spend time immersed in nature, reflecting, creating and simply turning off the fast-paced world. Umble has done considerable research on the ways we choose to be connected in the world. In Lancaster County, she has been able to look at a unique group that tries to resist getting caught up in the ever-changing world. Her published work includes Holding the Line: The Telephone in Old Order
Dr. Diane Umble Communication & Theatre
Mennonite and Amish Life. “By not having telephones or driving cars, the Amish choose how they want to handle the level of communication. They purposely slow down the speed of communication,” says Umble. Umble continues to be intrigued with the way Americans communicate, and looks at the world through the ultraconnectivity of communication. “What is the sacrifice and what is the gain?” asks Umble, adding that receiving so much information from so many different directions forces people to develop skills for judging the accuracy and reliability of what they hear. When information is gathered so rapidly, there is little time to check facts. And in the rush to have it first, the wrong news can make it to the airwaves or social media sites before it is fully verified. “That means that we need to develop our critical abilities,” says Umble. “We
need to filter through all the news we are getting. And sometimes we need to turn it off to have a respite.” One thing Umble believes to be universal is the need for people to see, hear and touch their world. Seeing live theater, listening to music performances, watching dancers on stage, or looking closely at art and sculpture right before your eyes is still a vital part of the human experience. That’s why Umble is so thrilled about the new visual and performing arts center, which is set to open in fall 2012. She has seen the collaboration and teamwork that goes into planning a live stage performance and has also seen the excitement and inspiration that comes from experiencing a concert or an art exhibit up close and personally. “You can’t get that online; you have to be there,” says Umble. The new facility will enhance the music, theater and art departments, providing opportunities for students that were not available before. Students will be able to design and build sets on a professional level with the new scene shop. There will finally be a climate-controlled, secure gallery to showcase works of art. “It’s all very exciting and something that will benefit Millersville and our students tremendously,” says Umble. Her husband, Ron Umble, is a professor of mathematics. Their two adult children are both musicians and have benefitted from the closeness of communication, allowing them to form friendships and creative bonds with musicians all over the world. “It is possible to make and sustain connections that never would have been possible in the past,” she says. When she wants to escape the rapid-fire world of emails, texts and live feeds, she knits. “That’s my way of relaxing,” says Umble. Faculty Spotlight Spring 2012 17
Magazine for alumni and friends of Millersville University.