COMM Speaker Series

Speaker information will appear below as it is confirmed. If you require an accommodation to participate in one of these events, please contact Adam Coley at 860-486-1042 or at least 5 days in advance of the event.

For 2023-2024, Speakers Series events will take place via WebEx at:

Upcoming Speakers Series Events

Tuesday, November 28, 12:30pm-1:45pm- Dr. Crystal Park

Title: "Spirituality, Meaning and Health" 

Our next Speaker Series guest, Dr. Crystal Park, Professor (Department of Psychological Sciences, UConn) will present on Tuesday, November 28, 12:30pm-1:45pm.

Bio: Crystal Park is Professor of Clinical Psychology at UCONN. Her research focuses on multiple aspects of coping, including the roles of religious/spiritual resources, the phenomenon of perceived stress-related growth, and the making of meaning in the context of traumatic events and life-threatening illnesses, including cancer survivorship and heart failure. Her yoga-related research focuses on the mechanisms through which yoga may affect health and wellbeing and reduce stress, particularly through its fostering of healthier emotion regulation. She is currently co-principal investigator of an NIH-funded study of mechanisms of action and of an NIH-funded research network, Mind-Body Measures and Mechanisms of Emotional Wellbeing. She maintains an active research lab of graduate and undergraduate students—The Spirituality, Meaning, and Health Lab--and directs the Health Psychology Certificate Program.

Abstract: This talk will first discuss how spirituality can be conceptualized, and then use a meaning making framework to discuss the myriad ways spirituality is related to health. Research findings from the presenter's studies, including of cancer survivors and people living with heart failure, will illustrate these linkages.

Below is the link to Dr. Park's lab:

Past Speakers Series Events

Tuesday, October 17 at 12:15-1:30pm- Dr. Michelle A. Holling

Title: “Making Friends, Making Coalition: Rhetorical Dynamics of Resilient Coalition Building in Friends of Friendship Park.”

Dr. Michelle A. Holling, California State University San Marcos - Tuesday, October 17th will present “Making Friends, Making Coalition: Rhetorical Dynamics of Resilient Coalition Building in Friends of Friendship Park.”

Bio: Dr. Holling is Professor of rhetoric at California State University San Marcos. Her scholarly, teaching, and service commitments are guided by matters of voice, marginality, and identity that anchor in a concern for and dedication to social justice. She is award-winning scholar who specializes in Chicana/o-Latina/o rhetoric with additional areas of her expertise such as race, rhetoric, and violence; testimonio and gendered violence; and women of color in academe and intersectional microaggressions. She has co-edited Race(ing) Intercultural Communication: Racial Logics in a Colorblind Era with Dr. Dreama Moon, and Latina/o Discourse in Vernacular Spaces: Somos de Una Voz? with Dr. Bernadette Calafell.

Professionally, she founded the Communication, Identities, and Difference interest group in the Western States Communication Association (WSCA). She is also past-President of WSCA and of the Organization for Research on Women and Communication. Her leadership also includes being chair of the Communication Department and director of the Ethnic Studies Program. She also serves on several journal editorial boards the Quarterly Journal of Speech, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Women’s Studies in Communication, and Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, among others. Most currently, she serves on the board of directors for the GriffinHarte Foundation, an organization committed to civil conversations in communities, research, and education.

Abstract: This presentation is about how a rhetorical ecological approach can assist scholars in studying the rhetorical dynamics of coalition building. Doing so is based on conducting rhetorical fieldwork with the grassroots community-based Friends of Friendship Park and at Friendship Park, a binational park located on the San Diego/Tijuana border. Through her research (and, her co-author Diane Keeling), Dr. Holling advances a rhetorical ecology understanding of “coalition” that is shaped by a diversity of enclaves, memories, and inventional resources.


Thursday, March 23, 2023 – Dr. John Besley

Presentation Title: Making Science Communication More Strategic


Dr. John C. Besley will share key ideas from his recently released book Strategic Science Communication (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022, with Anthony Dudo). This book seeks to help bridge the gap between science communication research and practice. For science and risk communicators, he’ll highlight the strategic value of drawing on research into behavior change and trust to help (a) identify concrete, audience-specific behavioral goals, as well as (b) specific cognitive and affective communication objectives aimed at achieving those goals. He will also discuss the importance of delaying decisions about tactics until after choices about objectives. For communication researchers, he’ll also discuss the potential value of conducting more research that either helps communicators make smarter choices, or helps communication strategists understand how communicators choose goals, objectives, and tactics.

The presentation will draw on Dr. Besley’s extensive research into understanding how scientists think about science communication, as well as efforts to outline how social science theory might be used to help scientists think more strategically about their communication choices. This work involves surveys of more than 30K scientists, interviews with more than 150 scientists and other actors from across the scientific community, and participation in a range of projects aimed at improving science communication training and strategic thinking.


Dr. Besley is among the most cited and published science communication/public engagement scholars in the world with more than 100 peer reviewed articles and other reports, as well as funding from a range of governmental (NSF, USDA, etc.) and foundation sources (Kavli, Rita Allen, Chan/Zuckerberg, etc.). He earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University (2006) , is the associate editor for risk communication for the journal Risk Analysis, and is on the editorial boards of Science Communication, Environmental Communication, Public Understanding of Science, the Journal of Science Communication, and the Journal of Risk Research.



Thursday, March 2, 2023 – Dr. Francisco R. Ortega

Presentation Title: Reducing Stress using Forest Bathing in VR


Forest bathing is practice of sensory immersion in a nature environment for stress relief and mental resource restoration. Forest bathing offers many positive effects that can help people’s mental health; however, many people who are in the most need of stress reduction benefits do not have access to nature, such as people in hospitals, nursing homes, and large cities. Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to increase accessibility to the benefits of nature by delivering immersive nature simulations that provide similar benefits. To create an effective virtual nature environment (VNE), research needs to be conducted on the components of a nature environment that make forest bathing effective. Additionally, a key issue with creating VNE’s is making them deployable on accessible, everyday VR headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. This talk will discuss the results from an initial experiment showing the potential of biomass, or living green nature, as an essential component for restorative effect. The talk will also cover a follow up experiment on the importance of biomass realism, or the fidelity of the plant life, on restorative effects, as less complex assets may be more feasible for deploying on everyday VR devices.


Francisco R. Ortega is an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University (CSU) and Director of the Natural User Interaction lab (NUILAB). Dr. Ortega earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science (CS) in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and 3D User Interfaces (3DUI) from Florida International University (FIU) from Dr. Naphtali Rishe and Dr. Armando Barreto. He also held the position of Post-Doc and Visiting Assistant Professor position at Florida International University between February 2015 and July 2018. Broadly speaking, his research has focused on multimodal and unimodal interaction (gesture-centric), which includes gesture recognition and elicitation (e.g., a form of participatory design). His main research area focuses on improving user interaction by (a) multimodal elicitation, (b) developing interactive techniques, and (c) improving augmented reality visualization techniques. The primary domains for interaction include immersive analytics, assembly, Navy use cases, and collaborative environments using augmented reality headsets. His research has resulted in over 76 peer-reviewed publications, including books, journals, conferences, workshops, and magazine articles, in venues such as IEEE TVCG, ACM PACMHCI, ACM ISS, ACM SUI, and IEEE 3DUI, among others. He is the first author of Interaction Design for 3D User Interfaces: The World of Modern Input Devices for Research, Applications, and Game Development book by CRC Press.  Dr. Ortega has experience with multiple projects awarded by the government. For example, Dr. Ortega was a co-PI for the DARPA Communicating with Computers project. He is currently a PI for a 3-year effort for ONR titled Perceptual/Cognitive Aspects of Augmented Reality: Experimental Research and a Computational Model. He recently was awarded a new ONR grant titled Assessing Cognitive Load and Managing Extraneous Load to Optimize Training. He has also been funded by the National Science Foundation and sub awardee for an ONR project from Virtual Reality Rehab. Since his initial tenure-track appointment at CSU from August 2018 to August 2022, Dr. Ortega has brought over 3.3 million dollars in external funding (2.8 million dollars as principal investigator.) Recently, Dr. Ortega has been recommended for funding of the NSF CAREER starting in 2023. Finally, Dr. Ortega is committed to diversity and inclusion, and his mission is to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in CS. 

Recording link:



Tuesday, November 29, 2022 – Dr. Alexandra Paxton

Presentation Title: Context-sensitive, time-varying, and emergent: Interpersonal communication as a complex dynamical system

Most of us intuitively recognize the flow and connectedness of social interaction, but that fundamental reality can be overlooked in scholarly research. In my talk, I will discuss the view of interpersonal communication as a complex dynamical system. Dynamical systems theory provides an avenue for scholars to embrace the messy reality of communication, both theoretically and analytically. By viewing communication as a complex dynamical system, we can quantify the ways in which communication changes according to context (including goals, physical spaces, and relationships) and over time (and across timescales), along with the emergent properties of the communication system (including the ties between communicating individuals' behavior, cognition, and emotion). To illustrate this idea, I will present a series of studies in dynamical systems perspective in real-world and experimental settings.

Link to recorded presentation (internal access only)

Dr Paxton's work focuses on improving our understanding of communication and interaction with a data-rich and complex-systems approach, particularly in how context changes behavior. Her research interests include: Communication and social interaction as a complex dynamical system (including movement, language, attention, and emotion), data-rich and dynamics-focused research methods and analyses, naturally occurring datasets and “big data” for psychological theory-building, and ethics of human-derived data.


Tuesday, October 25, 2022 – Hilary Kraus, MSI

Presentation Title: A Brief Introduction to Citation Managers

Hilary Kraus, MSI is the Research Services Librarian at the University of Connecticut, and the subject specialist for Psychological Sciences and Kinesiology.  She has served as a health science and science librarian at Loyola University Chicago, DePaul University, and most recently as Nursing & Health Librarian at UMass Dartmouth.  Hilary holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MSI from the University of Michigan.  A Chicago native, she relocated to New England in 2008.  In her spare time, she is an avid reader and crafter.


Areas of Expertise

  • Information literacy instruction
  • Citation management
  • Video tutorial creation
  • Locating research instruments


Tuesday, April 12, 2022 – Dr. Hyunjin Kang

Presentation Title: "Human vs. Machine Agency in Human-AI interaction"

The increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing how we interact and communicate with everyday technologies. Current smart technologies capable of producing information and directly communicating with users are deployed for various communication contexts. Indeed, the rise of machine agency is a notable fundamental change that AI has brought to our experience with communication technology. However, fulfilling autonomy is one of the basic needs for humans, suggesting that the rise of machine agency leads to an essential agency tension among the users; the key sources of such psychological tensions are the loss of agency and privacy. Dr. Kang discusses how users negotiate agency when interacting with AI-based technology, and the impacts of AI vs. human agency on the persuasiveness of the technology and users’ privacy management decisions. The presentation will include research findings and implications from recently completed studies in IoT and algorithm-based social media (i.e., TikTok) contexts using both quantitative and qualitative approaches.


Hyunjin Kang (PhD, Penn State University) is an Assistant Professor in the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. Her research focuses on the psychological effects of interactive communication technologies on communication processes and user behaviors. Her work has been published in many communication and HCI journals, including New Media and Society, Media Psychology, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, and Computers in Human Behaviors. She is a recipient (PI) of Meta (Facebook) Research award. Her research project on social media users’ expectations and experiences with digital privacy will be funded by Meta Research.



Tuesday, April 5, 2022 – Dr. John Crowley

Associate Professor
University of Delaware
237 Pearson Hall
Newark, DE 19716

My research, teaching, and service focus on understanding how to help individuals, especially those within marginalized or historically underrepresented communities build resilience to cope with the stress associated with difficult and discriminatory life experiences. My research has focused on disclosure, forgiveness, and social support. Examination of the reciprocal relationships between interpersonal communication and biology, however, is the foundation of all of my work. I am a member of a small cohort of communication scholars working to pioneer the study of the physiology of interpersonal communication, particularly in the use of biosocial models to understand the effects of coping for recipients of hurtful and discriminatory communication (both covert and overt), and am actively training graduate students in the use of these methods.

My work has appeared in flagship communication journals (e.g., Human Communication Research, Communication Monographs) and in top journals specializing in health (e.g., Health Communication) and relationships (e.g., Personal Relationships). I am also the 2020 recipient of the Early Career Award from the interpersonal communication division of the National Communication Association.

Our current research projects are funded by both the Villanova University's Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) from the National Institute of Health (NIH). Lastly, I am the proud recipient of the Center for the Study of Diversity at the University of Delaware's 2020 Faculty Diversity Fellowship grant.

Check out this website - - for updates on current research and for access to my CV.

Thursday, March 3, 2022 – Dr. Charisse L’Pree


The Cycle of Human Psychology and Communication Technologies

The relationship between communication technologies – or the tools that we use to communicate – and our psychology is inseparable. We come to understand ourselves through the way we communicate. Although these conversations are commonplace with respect to older communication technologies (e.g., written language, printing press), it is often dismissed when discussing more modern technologies, like consumer-market cameras, cable television, and video gaming. This talk will focus on how these technologies have fostered novel ways of communicating, interpersonally and intrapersonal, to better understand – and possible predict – the future of communication and human psychology.

Associate Professor of  Syracuse University.

Charisse L’Pree Corsbie-Massay is an Associate Professor of Communications at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. She holds BS degrees in Brain and Cognitive Science and Comparative Media Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an MA degree from the School of Cinematic Arts and a PhD in Social Psychology from University of Southern California. Charisse investigates how users think about themselves and others via media. Her work includes articles in Psychological Inquiry and AIDS and Behavior, as well as book chapters addressing serious games, race and gender methodology, and media use among marginalized populations. Her most recent book, Twentieth Century Media and the American Psyche (Routledge, 2021), describes how our relationships with media emulate interpersonal relationships through their ability to replicate intimacy, regularity, and reciprocity. At Syracuse University, she teaches classes on communication and diversity to professional media students, specifically how do media affect our understanding of different social categories and how do the social categories of media producers affect the media with which we all engage. Charisse was also awarded Teacher of the Year from the graduating class of 2017. Her upcoming book, Diversity and Satire: Laughing at Processes of Marginalization, is currently in press with Wiley.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021 – Dr. Stephen Stifano

head and shoulders photo of Steve Stifano



Multimedia Stimulus Design: Thinking Methodologically and Creatively 

Researchers often create multimedia stimuli to examine the behavior of individuals - but the quality, realism, and context of these stimuli can sometimes be lacking.  As a consequence, results hinging on a poor stimulus can lead researchers to make flawed conclusions with little real-world relevance.  In this talk, Dr. Stephen Stifano (Associate Professor in-Residence, Communication) will discuss important considerations when designing multimedia stimuli from both methodological and design perspectives.  Using examples from numerous stimuli he has created for a range of researchers, Dr. Stifano will discuss his process and priorities when designing a multimedia stimulus, and provide some tips for researchers to strengthen the stimuli they use in their own experiments.

Associate Professor in-Residence and Director of Undergraduate Studies
UConn Department of Communication

Steve Stifano is an Associate Professor in-Residence at the University of Connecticut. He is an academic with a quantitative research background who also works as a designer, event producer, and independent filmmaker. His research considers the role of emotion in the creation and consumption of narrative media. Recently, he has been examining how emotional education can be used to improve the narratives of texting-and-driving and safer sex public service announcements. In addition, Dr. Stifano provides training for the department’s teaching assistants, lectures for and coordinates the introductory communication course, and has led the effort to revive digital media production courses in the department. For more information, see

Thursday, November 4, 2021 – Dr. Bernadette Gailliard


Follow Your Heart: Translating Organizational Communication Research into DEI Practice.

There continue to be calls for communication researchers to translate their scholarship into practice, yet there are few spaces that discuss the pathways available to scholars seeking to do this with their work. This talk will discuss insights and lessons learned as Dr. Gailliard navigates her career path from researcher to university administrator and entrepreneur. It will highlight critical decision points as well as potential opportunities for faculty and graduate students alike to blend academic pursuits with public practice.

Senior Program Administrator for Rutgers University's Faculty Excellence Program

Associate Faculty Member of the Department of Communication

Bernadette M. Gailliard, PhD is a scholar and research consultant whose work examines the experiences of underrepresented groups within organizations, focusing on identity issues and career socialization. Her current work examines the experiences of faculty of color in higher education. Dr. Gailliard uses this scholarship to inform her role as Director of Racial Equity and Early Career Support at Rutgers University where she has five years of experience developing and delivering professional development and evidence-based diversity trainings for professionals both inside and outside of the academy.

As a consultant, Dr. Gailliard designs and leads high-level research projects to assess program and organizational impact across diverse constituencies. She also supports organizational leaders with the development and implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. This work both informs and is informed by her research and teaching in Intercultural Communication and Organizational Communication at Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

Dr. Gailliard holds both Doctorate and Masters degrees in Organizational Communication from the University of California Santa Barbara and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from American University. Her published research can be found in Management Communication Quarterly, Annals of the International Communication Association (formerly Communication Yearbook), and Human Relations.


Thursday, April 8, 2021 – COMM COVID-19 Panel – recording available

Questions from quarantine and lessons in lockdown: Examining the COVID-19 pandemic from a communication perspective

The panel will feature three projects that received funding from InCHIP last spring.  Please join us for the following:

My president, but not my governor: Understanding perceptions of blame during the COVID-19 outbreak in Connecticut
Christine Gilbert, Kenneth Lachlan, and Stephen Stifano
Presented by: Christine Gilbert

Exploring the effects of social isolation, relational quality, and communication on couples’ relational and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic
Amanda Denes, Talea Cornelius, Katrina Webber, Chelsea Guest, Julia A. Ellis, and Amy A. Gorin
Presented by: Chelsea Guest

Unmasking racial disparities amidst dual pandemics: Examining social identity threat and emotion within the health belief model to understand mask-wearing intentions among Black, Latinx, and Asian individuals in the U.S.
Katrina Webber, Sara Stifano, Stephen Stifano, and Shardé Davis
Presented by: Katrina Webber

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 – Dr. Meryl Alper – recording available

Critical Media Access Studies: Examining the Benefits and Limits of Accessibility in Mediated Spaces

Dr. Meryl Alper
Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Northeastern University

The benefits of “accessible” media and technology for people with disabilities are rarely questioned, nor considered within broader critical/cultural frameworks. In this talk, based on an article recently published in the International Journal of Communication, I make a contribution to the field of communication by proposing critical media access studies to further define a growing area of inquiry into contested notions of mediated access, drawing on work from disability media studies and critical access studies in architectural design. My proposal for critical media access studies is furthered through a case study of physical spaces designed for media engagement for young people (e.g., gaming arcades, movie theaters) that provide “autism-friendly” programming. Qualitative analysis of interviews and observations with autistic children and their families, as well as participant observation in such sites, reveals ideological assumptions, frictions, and contradictions underpinning cultural accessibility. Critical media access studies can offer communication scholars valuable theoretical and conceptual tools for deconstructing power, visibility, and marginality in mediated space.

Meryl Alper is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University, where she researches the social and cultural implications of communication technologies, with a focus on disability and digital media, children and families’ technology use, and mobile communication. Dr. Alper is the author of Digital Youth with Disabilities (MIT Press, 2014) and Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality (MIT Press, 2017), which was awarded a 2018 PROSE Award Honorable Mention from the Association of American Publishers and the 2018 Outstanding Publication in the Sociology of Disability Award from the American Sociological Association. In her research and teaching, Dr. Alper draws on over 15 years of professional experience in educational children’s media as a researcher, strategist, and consultant with Sesame Workshop, PBS KIDS, Nickelodeon, and Disney. Prior to joining the faculty at Northeastern, Dr. Alper earned her doctoral and master’s degrees from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and History from Northwestern University, as well as a certificate in Early Childhood Education from UCLA.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 – Dr. Stacie Powers

phot of Dr. Stacie Powers12:30-1:45 p.m.

It’s All Connected: Using Your PhD in the Field of Program Evaluation

Dr. Stacie Powers, REVA Group

A solid background in research methods can take you places you never imagined. In this talk I will describe the field of program evaluation, how I stumbled into it (and how you can be more strategic!), and some of the surprising and rewarding connections between what I do now and what I did in my time at UConn.

Stacie R. Powers, PhD, is the founder and CEO of REVA Group, an independent firm specializing in program evaluation. She has worked in this field since 2013, primarily with clients in education, healthcare, and the arts. She has led evaluations for Cleveland Play House, Women’s Sports Foundation, Girls Inc. of New York City, Atlantic Philanthropies, Up2Us Sports, and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, among many others.

Stacie received a PhD in Communication from the University of Connecticut in 2009. Prior to becoming an evaluator, she held a variety of other research-related roles for over 20 years—from reference librarian to university writing coach to assistant professor—each offering a valuable perspective on teaching others how to address complex, real-world data challenges. Through these varied experiences, Stacie developed an approach to communicating about research that is both evidence-based and human-centered. She regularly presents at the American Evaluation Association conference and is frequently invited to speak about evaluation to professionals supporting the nonprofit sector.

photo of speaker Dr. Kory Floyd
Dr. Kory Floyd, guest of the Speaker Series in 2015