Meet Myojung Chung, USF’s Newest Professor Helping Develop Health Communication for the Master of Arts in Professional Communication

Meet Myojung Chung, USF’s Newest Professor Helping Develop Health Communication for the Master of Arts in Professional Communication

By: Nikita Weber

Professor Myojung Chung teaches courses in strategic communication and is helping to develop the health communication concentration in the master of arts in professional communication program at USF.

Professor Myojung Chung began this fall semester teaching both graduate and undergraduate courses at USF. She teaches courses in strategic communication and is helping to develop the health communication concentration in the master of arts in professional communication (MAPC) program. She has over nine years of experience in both the communication and journalism fields, which she credits to shaping how she designs and teaches her courses. I had the chance to sit down with Professor Chung to discuss her background and how her personal experiences influence her teaching style today.


Q:        How did you become interested in communications and what is your academic background?

A:        Well, my background is very interdisciplinary, I originally didn’t even study communications until my master’s degree. I studied anthropology as an undergraduate at the Seoul National University, then I received my master’s degree in East Asian studies at Harvard University, and then I got doctorate in communication studies from Syracuse University. While I seemed to be all over the place in my studies, I got into communications because everything that I had studied was truly all about communication and how different cultures and people communicated, as seen in both anthropology and East Asian studies. It was fascinating working as a journalist, but I felt I needed more academic knowledge in addition to the field experience. So, I decided to go back to school and earn my doctorate in communication studies.


Q:        What work did you do before becoming a professor?

A:        Straight out of college I worked for about six months as a program coordinator for UNESCO in Korea. Back then, I planned to go to graduate school for my master’s degree so I knew I only could work for about six months in between. I came back to work at the UN headquarters another couple of months after my masters, then I worked as a PR practitioner before moving to journalism. So not only academically am I everywhere, but career wise, as well.


Q:        Do you find yourself applying any of the things you learned in your past work experiences when you teach?

A:        I think all of my past experiences come together and connect to one another, so I always bring in my personal experiences when I teach. When I talk about communication within differing cultures, I bring in my own experience from working with different people and cultures at the UN headquarters. I often bring examples from my journalism experience in the newsroom and my experience with public relations when discussing the relationship or gap between the two, as they are not as opposite as people think. All those experiences are useful in terms of teaching, and I try to incorporate my real-life experiences when discussing topics in class.


Q:        You are currently helping to develop the health communication concentration in the MAPC program at USF, could you explain what MAPC is?

A:        MAPC stands for the master of arts in professional communication program, and it has only been available at USF for two years now. MAPC is a master’s program for students who have typically worked several years in the professional workforce and who want to go back to graduate school to learn more about communications. The program is comprised of three concentrations, which include strategic communication, technical communication and the newly added health communication.


Q:        What do you enjoy most about teaching and being a professor?

A:        You know what, I think I really enjoy teaching because of the students’ positive energy. I realized that even I feel exhausted or lack energy. Once I go into a classroom I get immediate energy from the students and I feel completely different. Teaching is also the best way to learn things. You really need to know the topic inside and out to teach it, and by teaching you have the real opportunity to research and learn things thoroughly. I just love the process of thoroughly researching the concepts or things I am teaching. I think those are my favorite things about being a professor.


Faculty Feats: Professor Lawless Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

By: Crystal Wong, Junior Communication Studies Major

An Exclusive Interview with Professor Lawless, This Year’s Distinguished Teaching Award Recipient

Congratulations to our COMS Department’s very own Professor Lawless for receiving this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award. I had the exciting opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with her, and I asked her to provide some insight on how it feels to be the recipient.

Q: How does it feel to be the winner of this year’s Distinguished Teaching Award?

Professor Lawless: “It feels great. I mean, some of my classes have some emotional baggage that come with that, and it takes a lot out of a teacher to be able to navigate some difficult topics, so then to be rewarded for that feels really great, like that was for a purpose. I had one class last year where we all kind of cried together over some different topics and that can take a lot out of you, but for somebody to say that was important made a difference.”

Q: What are some ways you navigate through the emotional topics?

Professor Lawless: “Well, I actually bring it up with my students that I think that research shows a gap in the discussion of emotions in class and what could happen if we were vulnerable. I asked the students, ‘What do you feel about teacher vulnerability and a teacher being able to be emotional in class?’ This is something I think is maybe unique to my teaching style in some of my upper division classes. We start the conversation there and depending on the class, we broach different topics in different ways. There has to be some foundation made that makes us feel comfortable as a community before we can talk about systemic racism and things like that.”

Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out you received the award?

Professor Lawless: “I was driving home from yoga, and I was dropping my neighbor off at her house. It was 7 a.m. As she was getting out, I was flipping through my phone. I leaned out the door, and I was like, ‘Oh my god! Sandy! Sandy! I won!’ I was really shocked, and I couldn’t believe it. I was really excited. I was excited to tell the students who wrote me letters of recommendation. We had a moment together in class and celebrated a little bit. I was shocked, but excited.”


Q: Can you briefly go over the process of applying for the award?

Professor Lawless: “There are nominations. To submit a nomination packet, I needed to submit five letters of support. They could be from students, faculty, administrators, whomever. I needed to revisit all of my student evaluations and send all of them from the last five years, but also aggregate the scores. I made a chart where I listed all of the questions that were asked and all of the scores for each of the questions showing every class. I had to write a personal statement of what I do that’s unique and why I think I deserve the award. Also, send evidence of teaching excellence. I sent my syllabi, different activities that I think are important. I sent a publication that I did with two students that came out of my classes, and I sent a picture of this [picture frame], which is something my students gave me after a good class together. It says, ‘Thanks for being our COMS Mom’ and it has a picture of all the students in the class.”

Q: What motivated you to apply for this award?

Professor Lawless: “I felt like I had a really powerful year with my students, and it was something I wanted to write about. I wanted to see how my students felt about it, as well, by soliciting those letters. It has a cash award, so that was motivating. Also, because I am pre-tenure, awards can help point out excellence in different areas and can help my tenure evaluation.”

Q: How would you rank this accomplishment in your career?

Professor Lawless: “When I gave the acceptance speech, I said, ‘I believe that a teaching award is the highest accomplishment that one can receive.’ I don’t care if I ever get a research award. I am invested in my research, but I am most invested in my teaching, and my teaching being honored means that I have had an impact on actual people whom I can point out as tangible examples, so that means everything to me.”

Q: To my knowledge recipients of the award are invited to join the CTE Steering Committee for one year. Did you accept the invitation? If so, what do you do on the committee?

Professor Lawless: “Yes. I’m on the steering committee of the Center for Teaching Excellence. We are responsible for planning pedagogical activities on campus for staff and faculty, in addition to nominating people for the awards.”

Q: What will you look for in future candidates of this award?

Professor Lawless: “If I were to nominate somebody, I would think about the colleagues who I have been able to learn from. Maybe they’ve shared activities with me. Maybe they’ve shared a moving experience. Maybe they’ve shared readings that have helped them. Maybe there are students who talk to me about them and, so I would want to look for something that goes beyond a good teaching evaluation, but they can point to tangible examples of how they can create transformative experiences in the classroom.”

Q: Last question, what did you plan on doing with the reward money?

Professor Lawless: “I treated myself to something I wouldn’t buy, unless I won that money.I got a new personal computer, a new Mac, so that I could continue my research. It’s rose gold!”


Faculty Feats: Professor Thorson wins the Milton Dickens Award


Professor Allison Thorson with Professor Rodney Reynolds

Time for another “Faculty Feats!” Our own Professor Allison Thorson won a prestigious award at the recent meeting of the Western States Communication Association conference.

The Milton Dickens Award for Exemplary Empirical Research is given to the best research article published in Communication Reports during the past three years. Professor Thorson and her coauthors received the award for their article entitled “Quality Interactions and Family Storytelling.”

You can see a full explanation of the award. And the article about her big win in USF News.

A big congratulations to Professor Thorson on this award!


Faculty Feats: Professor Lawless at the Faculty Salon

Today’s post recognizes our own Professor Brandi Lawless who presented some of her research at a recent faculty salon. The faculty salons are hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences and are an opportunity for faculty to meet to discuss their research. There’s also hors d’oeuvres and wine, but sorry, students, they are only open to faculty members!

Professor Brandi Lawless

Professor Brandi Lawless

Professor Lawless presented her work as part of a faculty salon on gender, identity, and race. Her presentation was entitled “‘Teaching is a Labor of Love’: A Critical Thematic Analysis of Experiences of Female Immigrant Faculty.” I asked her to tell us about her research.

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Faculty Feats: Professor Ho wins service learning award!

All of you students and alums know all about service-learning, as you are/were each required to complete a service-learning course while here at USF. But did you know that if you took Ethnography of Communication from Professor Evelyn Ho, you took the course from an award-winning service-learning professor? That’s right! Professor Ho won the University Faculty Service-Learning Award this past spring!

I know students may feel that they do all of the work for a service-learning course, putting in all those hours at the nonprofit and writing papers, but it takes a lot of time and dedication from the professor of the course as well. Professor Ho won the award for her Ethnography of Communication course for her “commitment to service-learning, development of service-learning opportunities for students, connecting academic experience and public service, and demonstration of leadership in the field of service-learning.”

Award-winning professor, Evelyn Ho

Congratulations, Professor Ho, on this distinguished award! If you have fond memories of Ethnography of Communication with Professor Ho, let us know!


Speaking of… Our new faculty member, Professor Sery!

A lot happened while the blog and I were on leave, including the following: Our department hired a new faculty member! I’m pleased to introduce to you Professor Joe Sery!

I asked Professor Sery a series of questions to help introduce him to you here on the blog. Here we go…

Q: Tell us about your academic background:

Professor Sery: “I attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN for my undergraduate degree and double-majored in Communication and Philosophy. After taking a year off from academia, I entered the graduate program in Rhetoric and Communication at the University of Pittsburgh. Given my office was on the 11th floor, I always liked to think that I took rhetoric to 11 (bonus points if you get the film reference!). I earned my M.A. in 2008 and plan on defending my dissertation this winter. Throughout my PhD coursework, I was also working toward a concurrent M.A. in Philosophy. Needless to say, I have a masochistic love of reading painfully dense texts.”

Q: Give us a brief explanation of your dissertation and research interests.

Professor Sery: “My dissertation is (tentatively) titled “Models of Judgment: Rhetoric and the Public Philosophy of Law.” It addresses the ways in which jurisprudence both shapes and is shaped by public discourse, and the ways that one construction of language and reality is tested against another. Examining prominent public philosophers of law – Richard Posner, Martha Nussbaum, Cass Sunstein, and Ronald Dworkin – I argue that each scholar rhetorically crafts an ideal model of judgment to embody their respective philosophies.  (For example, Posner utilizes the “economic judge” whereas Nussbaum promotes the “literary judge.”) By framing law and judgment in particular ways, these philosophers are able to guide public conceptions of justice and the expectations we place on judges.

Beyond my dissertation, I have a broad range of research interests, including American public address, philosophical pragmatism, freedom of speech, and the rhetoric of inquiry (science, medicine, economics, etc.). I will present two papers at the upcoming NCA National Convention: one on the role pharmaceutical companies play in rhetorically “branding” disease and another on the rhetoric of overturning Supreme Court precedent. I also have an article on protest that will be published in March. Needless to say, I have a masochistic love of writing, too.”

Q: What classes have you taught?

Professor Sery: “Before coming to the University of San Francisco, I taught several courses including Public Speaking, Communication Process (similar to USF’s Communication and Everyday Life), Rhetorical Process (similar to USF’s Rhetoric and the Public Sphere), Interpersonal Communication, Freedom of Speech, and a number of Discussion courses that focused on deliberative democracy and contemporary challenges to social justice. I am also an accomplished mime and taught at the Sorbonne’s esteemed Le Centre de Shhhhh for one very quiet summer. Sadly, I had a falling out with the Chair of the school after a heated disagreement regarding the proper way one becomes trapped in an invisible box. We haven’t spoken since. Well, we never spoke beforehand either, but that was out of professional courtesy rather than mutual animosity.”

New faculty member Professor Joe Sery

Q: How did you become interested in rhetoric and in being a professor?

Professor Sery: “After taking a course on the great issues in philosophy, I knew I wanted to become an academic (and I was in that class by accident! – how serendipitous, or, as I like to say, seryndipitous). As an undergraduate, I spent most of my time focused on philosophy, but the more I read, the more I began to feel that it was too detached from how real people live their lives. We can only question our existence for so long, right? I turned toward rhetoric because it felt like the place where the philosophical rubber hits the realistic road. During graduate school, I came to realize that I adore teaching undergraduate students and I could not imagine doing anything else with my life. Something truly magical happens when a young student is exposed to a new idea or a new way of seeing the world. My time as an undergraduate was life altering and I hope to provide that opportunity for USF students, even if my role is small.”

Q: What are your first impressions of USF, the Communication Studies Department, and San Francisco?

Professor Sery: “I have been immensely impressed by the warm welcome that I have received from the University’s faculty, staff, and students. The scholars throughout the University have an unwavering passion for teaching and their research projects continue to fascinate me. USF has cultivated an impressive atmosphere of intellectual rigor and joyful conviviality, a rare blend that I find inspiring. The Communication Studies Department has only reinforced such inspiration. They have been exceptionally kind and helpful throughout my transition into this new and exciting position. After spending six years in Pittsburgh, I was nervous about starting anew, but the Communication Studies faculty welcomed me as one of their own. I am surrounded by caring and enthusiastic colleagues and I couldn’t be happier.

Although I haven’t had as much time to explore San Francisco as I would like, the few places I have visited have been lovely. I had the good fortune to attend the symphony a couple of times before classes started and I sampled a handful of wonderful restaurants (if anyone has any recommendations, I would love to hear them). As someone who grew up in a town that doesn’t have a stoplight, city life continues to dazzle and, at times, confuse me.  I just need to remember to bring a jacket everywhere.”

Q: What are a few things that you like to do outside of school?

Professor Sery: “I enjoy taking my dog, Indiana (full name: Dr. Indiana Bones, Professor of Barkeology), for long walks around my neighborhood and for romps in the surrounding dog parks. If we’re not out and about, I’m likely reading on my patio (latest reads: Quantum: Einstein, Bohr, and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality by Manjit Kumar, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and The Political Brain by Drew Westen… I highly recommend all of them) or training for a marathon (California International Marathon is coming up in December!). I’m also an adept pie baker and I make the finest apple pie this side of the Mississippi.”

I can already attest that Professor Sery is an excellent baker, as he brought cookies in last week. Wait, what am I doing? I mean, I am still doubtful about how good of a baker he is, and I definitely need to eat more of his baked goods before I render an opinion.

Please join me in welcoming Professor Sery to our department! He is teaching Rhetoric and the Public Sphere this semester and will be teaching Rhetorical History of the US next semester.