It has been 20 years since Shannon Hokanson joined the Monmouth University faculty. Hokanson is one of the most well-loved professors, not only in the communication department, but also on campus as a whole. Hokanson is a friendly and energetic person who loves dogs. Anyone who has ever had Professor Hokanson in the classroom knows that she is a huge advocate for pit-bull rescue—she even has a pit-bull herself that you can often find in his comfortable jammies.
Hokanson is loved because of how real and personable she is. She is approachable, compassionate and understanding towards her students and coworkers. Before Hokanson became a professor, she attended Monmouth University as a student herself. One of her past professors was pleased when she saw that Hokanson applied to work at Monmouth, as she was an outstanding student. “Prof. Hokanson is a kind, caring and creative person I have only known her as such,” said Donna Dolphin Associate Professor of Communication. “It’s a lucky thing to work with a friendly and genuinely nice person.”
Now, as a Lecturer of Communication, Hokanson does not see teaching as just a way to make money—that is not what inspired her to become a professor or what has her returning every year. For Hokanson, her students are what inspire her. Watching her students grow and helping them prepare for the real world is what she finds the most rewarding. She holds it as a high honor to be able to watch these individuals go from students to colleagues and friends.
Students value Hokanson as a person and professor. Even students who have only had the pleasure of having Hokanson once love her because she never makes someone feel like they do not belong.
Senior art education student, Francesca Cafasso, said, “Public speaking terrifies me, but her public speaking class was a lot more laid back and comfortable than I thought it would be. She approached me and offered me help when she could tell I was struggling and nervous. I was always joyed to have conversations with Professor Hokanson.” Along with Public Speaking, Hokanson also teaches Communication Theory, Critical Discourse, and Introduction to Communication.
Kevin Sula, an alumn, had professor Hokanson for multiple classes and always recalls her in such a positive light. “Professor Hokanson is the kindest and most genuine professor and advisor I’ve ever had during my time at Monmouth. She makes it her mission to be understanding of her students and help them in any way she can,” Sula said. “She is truly a beautiful soul and Monmouth is lucky to have her in their staff as she brings light into any room she enters.”
Hokanson is not just an outstanding professor, but also a person many aspire to be. When she is spoken about, everyone knows whom you are talking about, even without mentioning her name. It could be assumed that she does her job well, but what her boss thinks of her shows she goes above and beyond. Aaron Furgason, Chair of the Communication Department, said, “Professor Hokanson is the best of the best that the department has to offer students.”
Part of Furgason’s job is to observe professors that report to him. “When I have had the pleasure to observe her in the classroom, I have always observed an empathetic and well-informed professor deliver material in an engaging and enthusiastic manner that connects with students,” he said.
Hokanson looks at professors she had in the past as mentors. She said that she is, “inspired by the incredible teachers who challenged me to think differently and expand my perspective. They had such a profound impact on my worldview, and on my life. I hoped that maybe I could learn to facilitate the same kinds of powerful experiences for others.”
An honorable attribute that Hokanson holds is not trying to change people, rather providing them with experiences to help shape them. She looks to provide her students with a glimpse into the world so they can choose who they want to be. Hokanson is a strong, empowering professor, and a positive role model for her students and coworkers. Hokanson is a bright light in a world that many are afraid of, and that makes all the difference.
Hokanson smiles warmly at all, signs her emails with “best wishes,” and makes sure to address all of her students individually so that not one of them feels ignored. Hokanson takes the time to learn about her students professionally and personally. She is what a great professor looks like, and what people in academia should strive to be.
PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University