Dr. Candy Noltensmeyer presented her “Last Lecture” on Thursday, Nov. 18 after receiving the 2020 student-nominated Faculty of the Year Award. 

Noltensmeyer is an associate professor of communication at Western and teaches a variety of courses in human communication focusing on theory, research methods, health, sexuality, interpersonal and small group concepts.

Noltensmeyer’s presentation was titled “This is Me: Authenticity, Inclusivity, and Connection in Relationships.” Her lecture focused on the interconnectedness between relationships and communication. 

During her speech, Noltensmeyer discussed what it means to be vulnerable, and revealed her own vulnerabilities following an accident she had as a teenager. 

The accident caused Noltensmeyer to suffer from second and third-degree burns on her body, leaving permanent scars that she is still recovering from almost 30 years later. 

She shared this part of her life with the audience to illustrate how important vulnerability is in forming and maintaining relationships with others. 

Noltensmeyer was inspired to speak on this topic because she wanted to connect with everyone in her audience. 

“How we show up is how we make and keep our relationships, so I really wanted to talk to people about how we can be better at doing that and enrich our own lives in the process,” said Noltensmeyer. 

Noltensmeyer focuses on researching the difficult parts of relationships in connection with other people. 

One topic of her research she talks about in the classroom is the idea of stigmatizing conditions. Her interest in this concept comes from her own experience with stigmatization as a burn survivor. 

“While not all of my students are burn survivors (thankfully), they also have their own stigmatizing experiences.” 

She finds it beneficial to share her experience in a way that shows other people how they can manage their own stigmatizing experiences by engaging in them rather than hiding away. 

“It’s okay to struggle. We’re not going to be perfect. We are all struggling through that. Seeing our struggles is a beautiful thing because it shows that we are real authentic people. We are beautifully imperfect,” said Noltensmeyer. 

Previous students in Noltensmeyer’s classes found it fitting that she received the 2020 Faculty of the Year Award. 

“[Dr. Noltensmeyer was] one of the most compassionate professors I’ve had! [She] brought Comm Theory to life,” said Waleed Kahlill, WCU 2021 graduate. 

“She always has such fun engaging activities and will even do them with us!” said Sarah Medlin, WCU student. 

“Candy is an exceptional educator. Her classes were incredibly perception-shifting,” said Drue Stinnett, 2019 Western graduate. 

Noltensmeyer is passionate about making sure each of her students know that they are valued here at Western. 

“I want people to feel heard and to feel like they belong here. I want to be a part of what makes people feel welcome,” said Noltensmeyer. 

Noltensmeyer hopes the vulnerabilities and insight she shared during her Last Lecture will leave a lasting impact on the students, faculty, and community members who listened. 

What’s next on the horizon for Noltensmeyer after winning this prestigious award and delivering her Last Lecture? 

Noltensmeyer is excited about the possibility of creating a podcast within the Communication Department, and writing a book is not out of the question for her future. 

For more details on Dr. Noltensmeyer’s Last Lecture, read coverage of the event from the Western Carolina Journalist or watch a live recording of the presentation.