What is your current job title and responsibilities?
Associate Professor of Communication, Nicholson School of Communication, College of Sciences
Brief Bio:I have actively taught, researched, and served in the field of communication for over ten years. Graduating with my PhD from the University of Georgia in 2005, I won the Gerald R. Miller dissertation award for my research on self-disclosure of positive diagnosis of HIV in Kenya. I have since established research programs on communication surrounding HIV in East Africa, with a secondary research focus in instructional communication. I have published over 35 peer-reviewed articles in journals like Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, Health Communication, Journal of Health Communication, AIDS and Behavior, and Communication Education, and co-edited a scholarly volume.
At Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, and now at the University of Central Florida, I teach undergraduate and graduate courses in intercultural communication, research methods, persuasion, and health communication. I have received teaching awards from both institutions, and was recently awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct research on media and adolescent sexual behavior in Uganda from January through May 2015. I have a passion for building research capacity in scholars from the two-thirds world, and dedicating a portion of my Fulbright experience to investigating mechanisms for providing such support to African communication scholars.
What is your history at UCF and before UCF?
Before coming to UCF, I served as a lecturer and then senior lecturer (equivalent of assistant professor) of communication for over a decade at Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya.
What is your academic background?
PhD Speech Communication, University of Georgia (2005).
What is your favorite UCF memory?
I can’t isolate a single memory. I have lots of favorite memories of stimulating conversations with colleagues, successes of outstanding students, FCTL Summer and Winter Conference sessions, and a range of other rewarding, encouraging moments.
If you could change one thing at UCF, what would it be? ($ and time no object)
The student-faculty ratio.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with your colleagues?
For those new to teaching, or facing new teaching challenges, take advantage of the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning. It is an amazing resource where Melody Bowdon and the team manage to create a sense of nurture, support, and even hominess for the hundreds of faculty at UCF. For those looking for life balance support, get in touch with Linda Walters and the Center for Success for Women Faculty. These are places in the midst of a very large university where you can feel you are an integral part of a small, caring group.
If UCF was going to name something in your honor, what would you like it to be and why?
An institute for building research capacity in scholars working at two-thirds world institutions.
That’s a long title, but it grows out of my own experience working for years in sub-Saharan Africa. I know firsthand how hard it is for our university colleagues in low income nations to inject their voices into the global scholarly conversation. There are many, many barriers—from issues as basic as inconsistent electricity to the lack of local mentors in research and publication. And yet without those nonwestern contributions, especially in the arts and social sciences, the knowledge structures in our disciplines are incomplete. I’d like to find a way to create some sort of clearinghouse for mentoring resources to address this situation.
If you could have lunch with anyone at UCF (who you do not normally eat lunch with), who would you choose and why?
Chuck Dzubin. I’d like to learn about how he visioned the Institute for Teaching Effectiveness.
Who at UCF would you like to thank for your success?
The faculty in the Nicholson School of Communication for creating a great, collegial environment;
Bob Chandler, Director of NSC, for developing innovative ways to promote faculty research and grant seeking;
Cynthia Young, Assoc. Dean College of Sciences, for firmly supporting my research program.
Name and describe a teacher or researcher from your past who truly inspired you and why.
I’m going to go outside of my field on this one and name Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame. Smith is a leading scholar in sociology of religion, and known for his contributions to sociological theory and critical realism. He is the recipient of over $17 million in grant funding and a lifetime achievement award from the American Sociological Association. He is also a Christian who has consistently integrated his faith perspective into his scholarship for over 30 years. In the process he has challenged some major conceptual underpinnings of his field, but he’s done it civilly and insightfully. I don’t know Dr. Smith, but he’s an aspirational model for me.
What undergraduate or graduate class/program/experience inspired you the most and why?
Writing my doctoral dissertation. When I started my doctoral program I viewed research as a hoop to drag myself through in order to get my degree and go back to teaching. I had a great doctoral mentor, though (Don Rubin at UGA), and by the time I graduated I had become enamored of research and writing.
What is your favorite restaurant or food?
As I write this I’m on sabbatical in Uganda, so my favorite restaurant at the moment is Java House at The Villages shopping center in Kampala. Mind you, Ugandan food is easy for an American to like, but sometimes you want a taste of home, and Java House has American style dishes. In addition to their cappuccinos, their carrot cake is lovely.
What is your favorite movie, book or music?
The Chronicles of Narnia (the books, not the movies) by C.S. Lewis. Lewis wrote everything from cultural critiques to theology to science fiction, but it’s his children’s books I appreciate most. I ran into the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in a school library when I was around fifth grade, and I’ve reread them many times since. They have taught me in a deep, personal way about the love and goodness of God.
What is your favorite vacation destination?
Kenya. But obviously I don’t get there often. Otherwise Birmingham, Alabama, where my extended family lives.