Journalism Professor, Department of Communication
What year did you start working at NIU? Fall 2006.
Where is your hometown, and where do you live now?
I was born in Groton, Connecticut. My family moved a lot when I was young as my father was in the Navy for more than 30 years. I grew up in Zion, IL, and now live in Sycamore, IL.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
I have a B.A. with a double major in Journalism and Speech/Interpersonal Communication from the University of Tulsa. I earned an M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Houston and a Ph.D. in Communication and Society from the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon.
Were you a first-generation college student? Yes.
What do you like about working at NIU?
There are many things I like about working at NIU. But, paramount among them is the fact that I feel I am making a difference in my student's lives. It has been extremely rewarding to work with students who have gone on to be successful journalists, media workers and scholars.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
It's very important for students to find “their people." I think they do that by showing initiative. I would encourage them to look into getting involved with various groups and organizations and being active in class. It is also vitally important for them to seek out their professors and instructors for insight and advice about coursework, careers, and life in general.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
My research in recent years has focused on how LGBTQ athletes are covered by sports journalists when they come out. I have written two books on the subject. The first looks at how former All-American football player Michael Sam and NBA veteran Jason Collins where portrayed and the second examines reporting about women athletes who come out and focuses on tennis champion Billie Jean King, along with basketball players Sheryl Swoopes and Brittney Griner. Several undergraduate and graduate students served as research and editorial assistants for both books.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
Fundamentally, I want my students to come away from my classes as better writers and reporters. I hope they gain a nuanced understanding of the important role journalism plays in our society and in that same vein, I want them to realize that as working journalists the decisions they make about how and what they write about impacts their communities. Also, even if they do not ever work as journalists, it's important for them to understand how media function because that is where we obtain much of the information that occurs outside of our immediate environment.
What is your favorite campus event?
The Journalism Awards Banquet. It's very inspiring to see our outstanding students receive recognition for their hard work. It's also great to get to meet their families and see the pride they have in their sons and daughters. It's also a great chance to laugh and have fun with colleagues and students.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
When I was a little kid I wanted to be in the roller derby. I think my parents were very happy when the sport faded in popularity and was no longer a career option by the time I was a teenager! From early on I was interested in being a journalist and by the time I graduated from college I knew I wanted to write about horse racing. I worked for the leading publication in the sport for more than a decade. Somewhere along the way I had a bit of a mini mid-life crisis and decided to apply for grad school. Getting my master's degree was a transformative experience during which I discovered my love of research and scholarship. After that, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. and a career as a professor.
Are you a member of or hold a position within a professional organization? If so, what organization? What is the purpose of that organization and how does being part of this organization benefit you in your role at NIU?
I have long been active member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) an international organization focused on journalism and mass communication scholarship and teaching. I have also recently been elected as vice president of Kappa Tau Alpha, the national honor society in journalism and mass communication. KTA is a wonderful organization that highlights and promotes academic excellence and scholarship.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I still follow horse racing very closely and really enjoy taking friends and colleagues to the track. I love seeing live music and going to the movies, as well as visiting and hanging out with friends. I read a lot and also have a very "unacademic" interest in some reality TV programs.