It’s not every day that the hottest ticket on campus is for a communication studies class. But when a high-profile Iowa State University alumnus carves time out of his hectic schedule to be a guest lecturer, crowd control is in order.
Brock Purdy (’21 communication studies), starting quarterback with the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers, called an audible and returned to Iowa State in early November to lead a one-hour classroom discussion about leadership and communication.
On a week-long hiatus from football thanks to a scheduled bye week, Purdy traveled back to Ames to accept the Communication Studies Program’s inaugural award for Outstanding Achievement by a Young Alumni at the annual College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Honors and Awards Ceremony on Nov. 2. Weeks ahead of the event, Communication Studies Teaching Professor Todd Jenks reached out to Purdy and asked if he’d also be willing to stop by COMST 313, Leadership Communication Theories, to discuss how his communication studies major has served him in the NFL.
“I asked Brock if he’d be willing to speak to the class, and he agreed because he wanted to give back to his major and to Iowa State University,” Jenks said.
Understanding that many football fans across campus and beyond might want a chance to see and meet Purdy in person, Jenks and the communication studies staff implemented a ticket admission process for the class. Only students with a free, previously claimed ticket could attend. In addition to the 32 students in the Leadership Communication Theories class, Jenks said the department invited all other communication studies majors and minors as well as any student taking a communication studies class this semester. Approximately 200 students attended the event.
Purdy spoke for 15 minutes and then spent 45 minutes answering students’ questions.
“Every student who came up to a microphone was able to get their question answered by Brock,” Jenks said.
Cora Benker (’24 communication studies, Spanish) said Purdy talked about how to be a servant leader, and that his perspective on leadership struck a chord with her.
“I think what I will remember most from Brock’s talk is how leadership can be applied anywhere,” she said. “As someone who doesn’t follow football and never competed in team sports, I never thought about the bond that is created between teammates and how important friendship and direction really are. This speech changed my mindset on leadership and will make me more conscientious of leadership in day-to-day interactions.”
Alondra Quinones (’25 communication studies) appreciates the efforts by the communication studies staff to make the Purdy event possible.
“I think it’s awesome that they chose to do this and provide students with such a cool opportunity,” Quinones said. “I think it provides students with motivation, and even some sense of direction when it comes to what they are studying and how to apply that in the real world once we graduate.”
Something to shoot for
Jenks said he hopes the students who attended Purdy’s presentation realize that despite his celebrity status, Purdy was once a Cyclone communication studies major, just like them. And, they can also be outstanding alumni someday.
“I told them that Brock received the first Outstanding Achievement by a Young Alumni Award, but there’s no reason why they can’t receive that award in the future, no matter what profession they choose after graduation from Iowa State,” Jenks said.