I am currently associate professor in the Media and Communication Department at Salem State University where I teach and develop courses in media studies, public relations, and political communication. I served as the faculty fellow for the SSU Center for Civic Engagement for four years, responsible for civic engagement research, faculty and staff professional development, and building and maintaining relationships with community organizations. I continue to collaborate with the Center on initiatives like our equity-based replacement for service-learning, Critically-Engaged Civic Learning (CECL) and the New England Equity and Engagement Consortium.
My research primarily focuses on civic and community engagement in a variety of areas: civic media, political participation, higher education, and local communities, to name a few. In the area of civic media, my research has examined how community members can tap into their own sense of power and become agents of change through civic media production and how civic media can serve as a catalyst to engage community members in civic engagement processes. In the area of political activism and engagement, my research has examined the importance of fake news literacy due to the rise in reality apathy and erosion of trust in American politics, and the use of dissent for negotiation of political power and social change. In the area of higher education, my research has focused on the creation of an equity-based framework, CECL, that de-centers students and places all stakeholders (community members, community organizations, students, and faculty and civic engagement professionals) on an equitable axis that acknowledges that all stakeholders have a role and responsibility in creating sustainable change in the community. This framework also de-centers the university as the “ivory tower” of knowledge creation and instead engages in the co-creation of knowledge with stakeholders to address community-identified and driven issues.
Recent grants I have received have focused on anti-racist community-engaged practices in higher education and developing DiscoTechs, or Discovering Technology events, in communities. Two grants received from the MA Department of Higher Education ($232,000 total over two years) have focused on community-engaged approaches to diversifying the professoriate in higher education and working with faculty and staff to incorporate anti-racist community-engaged practices across the university. DiscoTechs were modeled after the idea developed at MIT and worked with local community organizations in Salem, MA to bring together a variety of community members, from IT experts to Minecraft masters, where community members share their technology knowledge with each other and learn from each other. DiscoTechs are a great way for university institutions, local governments and community organizations to collaborate to meet community-identified needs. This work was funded by two grants, a Salem State University Strategic Planning Grant ($2,500) and a National Communication Association Advancing the Discipline grant ($3,000).
In addition to my university experience, I also have nearly 20 years of public relations experience working as a public relations consultant, public relations specialist, and technical writer for federal, state, and local governments. I began my career as an intern for the CA Department of General Services, then worked for 17 years as a community relations expert for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and have spent more recent years collaborating with and serving as a consultant for local government entities, like the Salem Public Schools. While working for USACE, public relations outreach efforts I coordinated targeted communities where previous Department of Defense activities resulted in environmental contamination hazards. Thanks in part to these community outreach campaigns, I was able to help assuage community fears and rebuild relationships between the communities and the Army Corps. In result, I received several awards and accolades for these community relations initiatives, including national recognition from the Pentagon and Department of Justice.