Professor of Multimodal (Inter)action
School of Communication Studies
Not everyone can say they have a hotel room named after them. Professor Sigrid Norris is one of the few that can. The hotel is located in her hometown of Feudingen by the river Lahn in the northwest of Germany. When staying in the Sigrid Norris room you can sit at a desk and read her poetry while looking out onto a pine forest.
While Professor Norris is known as a poet in her hometown, her academic career is based on the theory and method of analysing human interaction – looking at language, gesture, posture, and other non-verbal modes of communicating.
That’s not such a long way from the career she thought she’d have growing up. As a child she got to visit the office of a friend of her father and he showed her his manuscripts. That was enough to convince her to become a researcher. While at high school Professor Norris became interested in the sciences and went on to start a degree in chemistry. But then on a visit to America she became more interested in language. She went on to graduate with a degree in Russian language and literature.
Over the following years Professor Norris and her family moved back and forth between Germany and the US. She knew she wanted to do a PhD but not sure what in. So, in the meantime she worked in public relations and had twin boys. She became really interested in how to raise her boys bilingually, so they could speak German and English. After five years she decided to go to Georgetown University in Washington DC to study sociolinguistics and bilingualism. But since she already knew much about bilingualism she instead looked into discourse analysis. She got a master’s degree and then a PhD. Professor Norris then tested her theory from her PhD and wrote a book about the results. Then, she began teaching her theory at the university.
In 2007, Professor Norris started to feel too comfortable and longed for something more challenging. She saw a job at AUT in New Zealand, and she jumped at it.
Initially, Professor Norris was the Head of Research in the School of Communication Studies. Now she supervises research students and runs AUT’s Multimodal Research Centre which specialises in human interaction.