Madeline Maxwell Retirement Celebration

Madeline Maxwell Retirement Celebration Event Held

On Tuesday, May 10, members of the CMS community gathered at the home of Dr. Madeline Maxwell to celebrate her recent retirement. Guests flew in from as far away as southern California. Madeline was with CMS for over 40 years before retiring in 2021. A special thanks goes to Jennifer Betancourt and Lisa Moseley for organizing this special event to honor Maxwell.

Dr. Anita Vangelisti delivered a few remarks about Madeline and her career. She explained that “Back in the olden days, the Department was a Department of Speech Communication – and it consisted of faculty in Communication Studies as well as Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences (SLHS). For various reasons – not the least of which was that the faculty were from different fields of study – the SLHS faculty split off into a Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Dr. Maxwell, who has a PhD in Linguistics, elected to stay with the Department of Speech Communication – so that is how we were lucky enough to get her.”

Vangelisti went on to note that Maxwell “took her own interests and developed them in ways that not only contributed to her own growth as a scholar, but contributed to the growth of the department. She developed courses on language as well as conflict, and she offered something no one else in interpersonal could offer at that time – which was expertise in qualitative methods. Professor Maxwell also became extremely active and well-known across campus on issues related to conflict – in the law school, sociology, and other units. She established and served as Director of The University Conflict Resolution Center – a center that trained students to provide conflict intervention services and to study communication in conflict resolution.”

Vangelisti closed her portion of the comments by stating what a few of Madeline’s  current and recent graduate students said about her.

Shuting Yao commented: “She is so knowledgeable: from relationships to conflict, from interpersonal communication to intercultural communication, she always introduces me to the right literature. She is so encouraging: she always supports me to pursue my passion, one after another. She is also so open-minded: she always listens to all my quirky ideas and thoughts, and says they all sound so interesting. She is my best advisor, and my biggest cheerleader in academics, as she always brings the best in me. When you see her smile, you just know, everything will be alright.”

Genelle Sanders noted: “During my first meeting with Dr. Maxwell, we discussed the concept of an Overton Window; not in politics per se but more the shifting of one’s mindset or worldview. Little did I know that she was setting me on the path of shifting my own Overton Window. A gradual shift only made possible through her support and guidance over the years. Rather than feeling alone in my field of research, she was a pillar of knowledge and source of strength that I depended upon as a reference point during my work and research at UT. Looking back after completing the marathon that is doctoral school, my work with her has led to a more free way of thinking, of seeing the world, and I will be forever grateful for what I gained with her.” 

Robert Carroll said: “Dr. Maxwell took a chance on me. Coming from Higher Education I knew I had some catching up to do when I began the program and I was a bit worried about finding my footing. My first TA assignment was with Dr. Maxwell and her Conflict Mediation course. I was both excited and terrified at what this opportunity would bring. But it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Over the years I worked with and taught for Dr. Maxwell I became a better teacher, more empathetic communicator, and still miss our conversations about narratives, politics, and kayaking. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her guidance. Thank you SO much Dr. Maxwell for everything.”

Following her comments, Department Chair Craig Scott presented a plaque commemorating the UT Project on Conflict Resolution that Madeline started. The plaque, which will be displayed in the department, reads as follows:

The UT Project on Conflict Resolution
Founder and Director: Dr. Madeline Maxwell
Professor Emerita, Department of Communication Studies

Since its launch in 1998, the University of Texas Project on Conflict Resolution (UTPCR) was an innovator in addressing interpersonal, organizational, and societal conflict through communication that enhances collaboration and relationships. The UTPCR utilized the expertise of the entire University of Texas system to provide services, events, academic and research opportunities, and public impact and participation programs. Founded by Communication Studies Department faculty member Dr. Madeline Maxwell—herself an experienced mediator and mediator trainer—the mission of the UTPCR was to change the way people think about and handle conflict in order to positively affect individuals, our communities, our nation and our world.

Under her leadership, UTPCR organized several periodic events and outreach programs in support of their mission These included an annual research conference, a summer symposium for high school students, the Bridging Divides awards (with Willie Nelson as the inaugural recipient), and a Graduate Portfolio Interdisciplinary Certificate in Dispute Resolution. Maxwell was instrumental in bringing UN Arms Inspector Hans Blix to campus, in putting on the “Instruments of Freedom” symposia, and in organizing several nationally-acclaimed events related to managing conflict. UTPCR also provided conflict mediations on campus between students, professors, staff, and/or community members. In addition, it provided consultations for individuals facing a conflict and facilitations for meetings and student groups. Over the years, UTPCR trained hundreds of undergraduate students, graduate students, and staff as conflict mediators—providing 100 hours of training while enrolled in CMS 371K - Practicum in Conflict Mediation. 

As Maxwell put it, “Communication is fundamental to our approach. Communication can be the source of conflict or the path through conflict.” Although she retired in 2021 and stepped away from UTPCR, several of the programs she helped to create and develop continue to have impact across the UT Austin campus.

Madeline closed the formal part of the gathering by thanking everyone for coming and reflecting on how fortunate she felt to land at UT Austin and how much she enjoyed all that she did there. The department extends a huge thanks to our colleague and friend, Madeline Maxwell, for everything she has done for the department, the college, and the university over the last 4+ decades. Congratulations and warmest of wishes on your retirement!