Missions in Communication at TCC with Dr. Mattson

By: Brittany Dole


The Trinity community may know Dr. Craig Mattson for his artful display of speech and his role in directing the communication arts department as head chair. Well, that begs the question; what else is behind the revolving door of rhetoric and knowledge? For starters, a passion for research combined with a concern for international development, and it will be taking him on a journey alongside other members of the Trin family this year. Dr Knight-Johnson, assistant professor of sociology and the department chair will collaborate with Mattson and honor students in an effort to understand another culture in God’s beautiful creation.

Before Mattson accepted his position at Trinity in 2001, he heard that the “talk is good here” from Dr. Michael Vander Weele, and Craig truly believes that phrase still resonates. The Trinity Community means the world to Mattson, as he described it as a place of “interdiscplinary collegiality”. “There are people in departments that have nothing to do with comm arts, who are asking about my book project, and coming to a faculty coffee meeting to hear me talk about the research I have done”. He truly appreciates the care in others work across disciplinary lines, in really generous ways.

Before his many contributions to the world of communication near and far, Mattson suggests that he was just “living in a world of communication”.Craig grew up in an economically depressed area of Southeastern Michigan with a deep understanding of the value of learning. Both of his parents were educators. Their careers seemed to have a big influence on his future mindset as he explained “I always assumed being a teacher would be something I would be after.” He however never really thought about communication besides his participation and love for writing ; “My mom would always have me writing letters to my grandparents”. His family valued speaking, language and writing in deliberate ways, but Craig thought that was “kind of ordinary”. He acknowledges always possessing this mindset of wanting to “do more” whether it was practicing magic in high school, enrolling in grad school or starting to write a book, which is another activity keeping Mattson quite busy before partnering with ‘Many Hands for Haiti’. His book project has strong ties to his mission work, as his ideas sparked from curiosity about cause-related marketing, which involves business and doing good in the world. In other words, for profit mission work. He is looking closely at organizations and how they spot social problems. Their approach is interesting, as they start a company to address the problem instead of a charity. “Their kind of communication is very complicated. They have to tell their company story to complicated audiences in distracting conditions about overwhelming problems, ones that people don’t necessarily want to hear about. That’s hard. So, I wanted to figure out how do you do this, how is it being done?” It relates heavily to the international development mentality. It’s a challenging process.

Luckily, one of Mattson’s biggest motivations is a challenge, “I could go to each part of my life, and that has sort of been the story of my life, I will come into a context and figure out what is the game to be won here?’. He explains this with the notion of knowing that this type of thinking can not always be good, especially when Christian theology is concerned. Craig’s faith has always been an important part of his timeline, as he believes God’s steadfast love doesn’t change based on how much or little he achieves, “I live by grace, I do not live by getting stuff done”. He warns of the major problems with being an achiever is letting that define you. “You can become obsessive, preoccupied, insecure”.

His biggest challenge? Marriage and family, raising four kids, and just figuring out how to make a life with other people, “that’s probably the most challenging, demanding thing I am doing.” Craig met his wife and competed against her in a speech contest back in college, where they were both communication majors and shared many classes together. Funny thing is, Craig originally decided to be a church and ministry work major, but a public speaking class had Craig’s brain thinking “wow, where have I been? This is what I like to do, that’s where this moment really started this trajectory”. Church and ministry work has not left the picture, though.

Colleague and former research partner Dr.Bethany Keeley-Jonker  describes Mattson as “sincere”, and recalls the positive influence he has had on her. “He’s very committed and methodical about his work, and that is something I really admire about him, him just showing up everyday to his book project is a great example”. Dr. M is awaiting news of publication after another revision coming up, the current title of his book “Money-Making, Change-Making”.

His team’s goal when they travel to Haiti is “to discover cultural conditions that affect the decision of participating in certain programs that we would view to be of help”. To learn more about the mission work your fellow Trinity family will be doing, and how you can make a difference; visit ManyHandsForHaiti.org