My primary research area examines civic media production (media created with the intent of civic participation) to facilitate self-empowerment, agency and civic engagement within historically marginalized populations. This focus has threaded through my master’s thesis, doctoral dissertation, and most recently through an initiative entitled the Salem Civic Media Project. Implemented through a collaboration with the Salem Public School District, this project brought Salem State University and Salem Public School District students together to create digital multimodal narratives (e.g., AR, VR, websites, videos, digital comics, etc.) to address civic and social issues within the Salem community. This research uses a mixed-methods (participant-observation, semi-structured interviews, and pre-test/post-test) and critical theoretical approach to better understand how civic media processes engage youth in civic practices and shape how they understand themselves as agents of change within their community. Through this project, I have also examined how the convergence of media literacy, civic education and experiential learning can help higher education students apply their media literacy education in a real world context that builds their understanding of themselves as engaged community members. This area of research has been presented at the National Communication Association, the Boston Civic Media annual conference, the Northeast Media Literacy Conference, and the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement annual meeting. This area of research has received grant funding from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the National Communication Association, the Council on Teaching and Learning, and Salem State University.
My second research area focuses on centering equity in community-based collaborations through a framework we call Critically Engaged Civic Learning (CECL). CECL is structured upon six guiding principles, power dynamics, social justice, community, civic learning objectives, reflexivity, and sustainability, which connect to outcomes needed to cultivate engaged citizens in the 21st century. This research moves beyond the traditional service-learning model through the use of a cloverleaf model where all constituents involved in an initiative have an equitable authority, responsibility, and voice to create social change for the betterment of their community. This area of research has been published in the Michigan Journal of Community Service-Learning and presented at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement annual meeting, AAC&U’s annual meeting, and the Eastern Sociological Society annual meeting. This research is supported by the Salem State University Center for Civic Engagement.
I am a founding member of the New England Equity & Engagement Consortium. Through this consortium, we have secured two Massachusetts Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) grants ($100,00 and $132,000 respectively) with work primarily concentrating on anti-racist community engagement. The first grant, received in 2019-2020, focused on diversifying the professoriate by promoting awareness and support for the more inclusive criteria for tenure and promotion now stated in the Massachusetts State College Association union contract. The second grant, received in 2021, focused on understanding the effects of community-engaged teaching on minoritized students and ensuring community-engaged teaching moves beyond “service-learning” frameworks that reify racist practices and have negative impact on students and communities of color. Since the completion of the grant work, current research projects through this consortium include an edited volume entitled, Anti-racist Community Engagement: Principles and Practices, contracted to be published through Stylus, and an initiative focusing on the necessity of centering equity in community engagement practices. My contributions through this consortium have been presented at the International Association for Research on Service-Learning & Community Engagement virtual gathering, AAC&U annual meeting, and Campus Compact conference.
An ongoing area of research interest focuses on political communication and social movements. A recent publication in R. Lutrell, L. Xiao, & J. Glass (Eds.), American Democracy: Influence, Activism, and Misinformation in the Social Era, entitled, “Fake News, Reality Apathy and the Erosion of Trust and Authenticity in American Politics” examined how fake news has influenced modern American politics and the potential influence of fake news on the 2020 U.S. presidential election. This study explored the factors contributing to the proliferation and effectiveness of fake news through strategies like online influencers, algorithmic authority, the creation of echo chambers, and the use of microtargeting. To address the potential for reality apathy and stave off disinterest in news and political engagement, this study proposed effective strategies for fake news literacy through a media literacy case study that moves students from a place of critical apathy toward a sense of civic agency and political engagement. Another recent publication in G.W. Richardson (Ed.), Social Media and Politics: A New Way to Participate in the Political Process, entitled, “Structures of Dissent: Social Media, Resistance Journalism, and the Mobilization of Poverty Activism” was also presented at the Western Communication Association annual conference. This study investigated spaces of dissension and the negotiation of political power through civic media for dissent, with a focus on how poverty experts produce and disseminate experiential knowledge through community media organizations. This research used discourse analysis, critical ethnography and a critical theoretical approach to examine how social media platforms create a space for dissension, allowing for the negotiation of political power and cultivating a richer understanding of the power and potential of digital media technologies for democratization and an engaged citizenry. This research found that social media are but a few pieces of a larger democratic mosaic that serve to galvanize dissent through the sharing and distribution of emotionally strong and disturbing images, videos, and words. They work to mobilize the solidarity of social justice issues and spread of necessary identificational, locational, and tactical information members need to put their body on the line for the movement. Lastly, social media help bridge the digital divide by disseminating the experiential knowledge of poverty experts, those who live the experience of poverty in the United States on a daily basis, to highlight contradictions in dominant poverty discourse and challenge systemic oppression.