Title, department and job responsibilities: Associate Professor of Strategic Communication and Program Director of Strategic Communication, College of Communication. I teach various courses in advertising and public relations, including the senior capstone course; manage the administrative needs of the program, with help from my wonderful colleagues.
Years at Butler: 14 years, including my first year as visiting professor
Most memorable academic experience(s) at Butler: There are too many to mention, as I am honored to teach at an institution with such outstanding faculty and staff and interesting students. I have the pleasure of working every day with colleagues who are creative, scholarly and very dedicated to our students. It makes working at Butler a joy. Still, two particular student-related experiences stand out to me:
- Teaching a capstone class that also is a service-learning course has provided the most significant reward for me as a teacher-scholar. Over the last 14 years, the Public Communication Campaigns course has provided opportunities for student engagement with over 50 excellent non-profit organizations in the community, from large to small, all serving important missions that improve the community. Not only do the organizations benefit from our partnerships, but also the students and I learn and change in important ways as a result of the experience.
- Teaching everything from core courses for freshmen to an honors class for high achievers gives me a broad perspective of our educational mission and the different students we serve so well. I must say that while Butler Summer Institute and thesis projects with students are quite labor-intensive and not officially “counted” in our teaching loads, I have thoroughly enjoyed the learning exchange that occurs when you mentor students through the process of scholarship.
Projects/research you’re currently involved with: I had three publications in the last two years that addressed public health communication issues in an international context, which is my primary research focus. Specifically, I study how divergent publics engage the media, constituents and government to achieve their competing goals. I identify the patterns of strategies and messages that succeed, for good or for ill. I am fascinated by health issues for which we find international scientific agreement on risks — when public policies to address the risks vary from country to country, whether it is environmental health policy, food safety and regulations, workplace safety policies, or “sin” product regulations. My research partner for these international projects is a Japanese physician and public health professional. Currently, we are completing a revision of a comparative content analysis study on mad cow disease media coverage in Japan and the U.S.
What current intellectual or creative questions are you thinking about these days:
- How have Japanese officials managed public risk communication/crisis communication, following the public disclosure of egregious misinformation regarding damage to the nuclear power plant post-earthquake and tsunami? There are known models for effective public health crisis management, and we are curious how Japan’s response compares with other cases involving catastrophic events of this nature. This November, my research partner and I are presenting some preliminary findings on a risk communication panel at the Annual Convention of the National Communication Association in New Orleans.
- How is Hungary communicating and addressing public health issues related to the rise in environmental health illness reports? I will be spending part of my sabbatical leave this spring in Hungary collecting data regarding this issue.
What do you enjoy most about teaching: Besides what I have already mentioned, Butler students are generally ambitious and intellectually curious. It’s great when you can help students get over a barrier and achieve/think at a higher level or even assist them in vocation discernment. At Butler, we have the potential at various points to influence students, so we must be very careful to make sure the journey belongs to them.