Bolanle Olaniran studies the impact new technologies have on structure, effectiveness and diversity.
In February, Texas Tech is once again highlighting the outstanding research being conducted by our talented and dedicated Red Raiders through our "TTU ❤️ Research" series. This year, we are pairing this effort with Black History Month in order to feature our influential black faculty and students who have had a tremendous impact through their research. This is the sixth in this series.
When Bolanle Olaniran completed his master's degree at the University of Central Oklahoma, he was looking for a doctoral program in marketing. In his search process, he saw an article in USA Today about how most people with masters of business administration degrees and managers in the marketing and finance fields lacked effective communication skills.
This resonated with Olaniran, and he wanted to make a difference for the corporate world.
"I know every organization needs effective communication," Olaniran said. "So the light just went off and I decided that field sounds interesting."
The world of computer-mediated communication was just taking off when Olaniran got into the field, and he chose to focus on this area because he knew that, as an international scholar, he would need to do something outside the norm.
"The more I looked at organizational communication, the more I began to fall in love with that area," Olaniran said.
Despite this, Olaniran was hesitant to become a professor. His academic adviser told him to apply for faculty positions and Olaniran obliged because he trusted and respected him. At first, Olaniran was unsure if higher education was the best fit for him, but his adviser encouraged him to give it a year before he backed out. That year was not easy, but was the ultimate start of his career as a professor and researcher.
"I kept calling my adviser every other day to give him a reason that he was wrong, but he stuck to his decision and kept telling me, 'Give it one year,'" Olaniran said. "Then came my second semester and the phone calls changed from every other day to weekly, then monthly. At the end of that semester, I met with my academic adviser, and I told him he was right and I might be able to make a career out of this profession after all. Thus, a job I never wanted became a job I learned to love, even with its ups and downs."
Now a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, Olaniran studies organizational communication in a variety of ways, still focusing on the computer-mediated side, but paying attention to new technologies, such as social media, and their impact.
He focuses on taking his research findings and making them practical – creating something actual companies, departments and groups can use to better communicate with their internal and external audiences.
"While most of my research is undertaken with practical implications in mind, one that stands out is my analysis and assessment of videoconferencing use for the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau," Olaniran said. "In that research, I focused on the perception of stakeholders – management and employees – and implications for the system's adoption and eventual usage."
In addition to examining these new technologies and studying their implications for organizations' structure and effectiveness, Olaniran also studies how they impact cross-cultural communication. As organizations become more diverse, new communication strategies need to be implemented to improve diversity efforts and effectiveness.
"All organizations use communication technologies and are increasingly preparing their workforce to be culturally competent while they deal with issues of multiculturalism," Olaniran said. "This impacts the organization as it deals with diversity."
Olaniran credits his success as a professor and researcher in the field to his father and academic mentors. They took him under their wings and helped him find his place in higher education, a place where he now can help and inspire others in the same way.
"They graced me with their time, friendship and knowledge. More importantly, they gave me the freedom to be and express myself," Olaniran said. "They taught me things I am trying to pass on to my students and advisees."
As he continues to teach and mentor the next generation of communication researchers, Olaniran wants to make a positive impact on the field, the people he works with and the world around him.
"The key driver to anything I do as an academician is that I hope it doesn't just benefit people in the academia," Olaniran said. "If it's not meaningful, if it's not useful, then what's the point of doing it?"