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Faculty Profiles

Emily Langan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Communication

On Faculty since 2005
630.752.5070



As a student and now as an educator, I have been fascinated with close relationships; Exploring the simplicities and complexities of people and their need to connect with each other in meaningful ways is at the heart of what I do. Though the study of interpersonal and communication theories can seem rather pedestrian at first glance, I believe its ordinariness is the greatest argument for continued study. Everyone has experiences with other people that have shaped them in profound ways but we also all have mundane, everyday interactions that make up the bulk of our relationships. To me, part of being created in the image of God means that we are designed to live interdependently with others. But, those relationships can be simultaneously joy-giving and challenging. This tension draws me to the study of interpersonal and relational communication, friendship, nonverbal communication & social influence. As I work with students both in my classes and in the many conversations outside the classroom, I want them to gain a greater awareness and understanding of both the “big” deals and the smaller, foundational things that impact us. The second command is that we “love one another.” In my courses, we examine the exquisite verbal and nonverbal ways that command is fulfilled, given the multi-layered worlds that we live in where context, power, and relationship cannot be excluded. Academics are only one facet of my life; I find that my students and my research endeavors benefit from experiences outside the walls of the College. I am a Chicago-native having been born and raised in the south suburbs. I frequently indulge my wanderlust; taking me to friends and family spread out across the US and students working in the developing world. Recent adventures include Australia, Indonesia, The Canadian Rockies, and Uganda. My sport pursuits keep me closer to home. I am a [very average] triathlete and a [extraordinarily super] hockey fan, most especially the Chicago Blackhawks.

Arizona State University
Ph.D., Human Communication, 2000

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
M.A., Communication, 1996

Wheaton College
B.A., Communication, 1994

  • Friendship
  • Interpersonal Communication
  • Relational Communication
  • Nonverbal Communication
  • Social Influence
  • Public Speaking
  • Oral Communication
  • Family Communication
  • Communication and Gender
  • Communication Theory
  • Sport and Communication
  • Personal Relationships
  • Teaching College Communication
  • Male Flirtation
  • Family Stories and Identity
  • International Association for Relationship Research
  • National Communication Association
  • Religious Communication Association

How to Keep Your Friends When Life Happens
Christianity Today online
The bad news is that friendship in adulthood is harder than it looks. Long-term friendships are a rarity. The reason is that they take work...The good news is that friendships in adult life happen in unexpected places. You always have to keep the radar out for expanding the circle, because you’re never sure which seeds are really going to take off and become a more substantial friendship.
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Why there's nothing fake about Facebook friends
KGW Portland online
"We have all these cognitive structures to arrange our friendships," said Emily Langan, an associate professor of communication at Wheaton College. "The problem with Facebook is there is only one category, you can’t qualify different kinds. So it does distort the term." Facebook can oversimplify what can be a complex relationship. But that doesn't mean it fundamentally changes it...
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The Importance Of Friends And The Difficulty Keeping Them
90.0 WBUR online
Researcher Emily Langan studies friendship. She speaks with Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti about its importance in human development and how it changes over time...
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How Friendships Change in Adulthood
The Atlantic online
This is true in life, and in science, where relationship research tends to focus on couples and families. When Emily Langan, an associate professor of communication at Wheaton College goes to conferences for the International Association of Relationship Researchers, she says, “friendship is the smallest cluster there. Sometimes it’s a panel, if that.”...
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Sporty spice: Bonding through sports
Paper presented at the 8th Summit of Communication and Sport Charlotte, NC, March 2014

Teaching the college course in communication theory
Langan, E.J., Griffin, E., & Ledbetter, A.
Short course taught at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association Chicago, IL, November 2014

Sporty spice: Female bonding through sports
Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research Melbourne, Australia, July 2014

Getting started: The process of and holdups to moving from acquaintance to friend
Humphreys, M., & Langan, E.J.
Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research Melbourne, Australia, July 2014

Teaching the college course in communication theory
Langan, E.J., & Griffin, E.
Short course taught at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association Washington, DC, November 2013

Teaching the college course in communication theory
Langan, E.J., & Griffin, E.
Short course taught at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association Orlando, FL, November 2012

"When I was little...": The shaping of identity and management of face through family stories
Langan, E.J., Bae, A., Cannell, G., Fabry, J., McNamara, M., & Nielsen, C.
Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research Chicago, IL, July 2012

Playing by the rules: Supportiveness, loyalty, and tolerance in adult friendships
Langan, E.J., Bae, A., Cannell, G., Fabry, J., McNamara, M., & Nielsen, C.
Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the International Association for Relationship Research Chicago, IL, July 2012

  • Public Speaking (COMM 101)
  • Fundamentals of Oral Communication (COMM 201)
  • Interpersonal Communication (COMM 221)
  • Family Communication (COMM 222)
  • Communication & Diversity: Gender (COMM 223)
  • Communication Theory (COMM 301)
  • Human Communication Research (COMM 312)
  • Persuasion (COMM 363)
  • Sport and Communication (COMM 424)
  • Personal Relationship (COMM 424)
  • Nonverbal Communication (COMM 424)
  • Qualitative Data Analysis (PSYC 893)

While my academic home is the field of communication, I feel most comfortable situating myself as a close relationships researcher. Scholars from across the social sciences have addressed my focus areas (friendships, relationship maintenance, and nonverbal behavior) and as my career progresses, I find the cross-disciplinary nature invigorating. Since I began graduate school, I have had an enduring interest in relational maintenance. From their initiation through their evolution, relationships take work. Close relationships such as friendships and marriages, can be voluntarily initiated and terminated. As such, the vitality of any relationship depends upon strategic and routine maintenance efforts. Maintenance may take different forms and functions depending upon the goals of the partners and research indicates that maintaining relationships is important both for the individuals and their relationship. At the center of my scholarship is a focus on friendship as a unique and important interpersonal relationship. I have studied the development and significance of friendship and its unique role from other relationships, such as kin or romantic associations. Friendship, as a relationship type, does not appear stable throughout the lifecourse. In other words, the relationship’s value and role takes on different values at different stages of life.

My personal interest in sport has led me to new areas of research and teaching. In 2012, I spent my sabbatical semester grounding myself in the literature of sport and communication, paying particular attention to sport fandom. In many segments of societies around the globe, sport transcends mere entertainment or recreation and becomes a currency of conversation, of national and civic pride, and of personal identity. As a rabid Blackhawks fan, I have particular interest in the behaviors associated with fandom, how sports interest is developed and nurtured, and actual and perceived differences between male and female sports fans.

Good girls don’t but boys shouldn’t either: Towards a conservative position on male flirtation, Dating and Philosophy
Langan, E. J. 2011

The function of holiday greetings in maintaining relationships, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships
Dindia, K., Timmerman, L., Gilbertson, J., Langan, & E., Sahlstein, E. 2004

Maintaining friendships across the lifespan, Maintaining relationships through communication: Relational, contextual, and cultural variations
Dainton, M., Zelley, E., & Langan, E. J. 2002

Environmental features in theme restaurants, The nonverbal communication reader: Classic and Contemporary readings
Langan, E. J. 1999

Not everyone listens when “just say no’ “: Drug resistance in adolescence, Journal of Applied Communication Research
Trost, M. L., Langan, E. J., & Kellar-Guenther, Y. 1999