Faculty Spotlight with Dr. Kelly Jakes

Dr. Kelly Jakes, Assistant Professor of Communication.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Dr. Kelly Jakes, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication. She joined the department in 2019 and can typically be found teaching COMM 280 and 281 (Introduction to Communication Messages) or working on her social movements research.  Dr. Jakes advises each of her students to live life to the fullest and jump in with both feet just as she has! She has quite the history of doing just that. 

Dr. Jakes received her bachelor’s degree as a double major in Music and Communication from Furman University. When asked how she decided to major in two seemingly different fields, she expressed her deep-rooted love for music and how she originally planned on becoming an opera singer. She decided to also major in communication simply as a practical backup plan. This all changed when she got into a rhetoric class taught by Dr. Sean O’Rourke, at Furman University. (Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.) She describes him as a “gifted lecturer of rhetoric” and how engrossed she was in the course and material. She credits Dr. O’Rourke for being her inspiration and encouragement to become a professor. Now most of her research is a combination of her two loves: examining the rhetorical power of music.  

Even outside of the classroom, as an undergrad, Dr. Jakes remained very involved with activities related to both majors. She sang in Furman’s flagship choir, worked with the university’s orientation staff, was a member of Kappa Delta sorority, and served as President of the Lambda Pi Eta communication fraternity. She gave a few of her tips for success, which she still uses today:  

  • Start your assignments early and give yourself time to revise each paper. 
  • Build in time on your schedule for FUN! Then your work time can be more creative.
  • Take the time to build meaningful relationships with your professors, which will also help you distinguish yourself in the classroom. 

As a fresh and proud Furman University graduate, Dr. Jakes decided to pursue a foreign job placement. She applied to a French governmental program called TAPIF, Teaching Assistant Program in France, to teach English to French middle and high school students. Not really knowing where this would lead her future, she packed her bags and headed for Confolens, a small village in France. Dr. Jakes describes the next nine months as some of the loneliest of her entire life, but also some of the most important in terms of developing skills that would help her in her future career as a professor. The job also provided her with a combined six weeks of vacation, time that allowed her to travel around France and Europe. Whether working or traveling, Dr. Jakes was able to develop both her teaching skills and her fluency in French, all while experiencing a profound journey of self-discovery. She highly recommends challenging experiences, like hers in France, to anyone looking to push themselves and discover who they really are.  

After her time in France, Dr. Jakes returned stateside and earned her masters and doctorate degrees in Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focused broadly on issues pertaining to rhetoric and culture, with special attention to social movements, resistance, and music. Dr. Jakes reflects that getting your master’s in communication is a hard decision and recognizes that students in the major struggle to decide if it is the right path for them. She advises, “Graduate school is always a good thing, but it never hurts to talk with your advisors to see if it is the best path for you.”  

It didn’t take long after Dr. Jakes joined the College of Charleston for her appreciation of the natural campus beauty to grow. She told us, “I love being on such a beautiful campus. I could be having the worst day and walk through the cistern and think, ’Gosh I get to work here? What a treat.’” She thanks her students for being amazing and helping to make her job rewarding and fun. She also compliments the Department of Communication on allowing her to be a great teacher and have substantial time for her research. “My department has been wonderful in terms of protecting my time for research and helping me to feel encouraged and supported as I pursue my goals. I really love that this school offers a great balance between teaching and research!”  

Welcome, Dr. Jakes, to your second year here! We are so glad to have you as part of the talented #cofccomm faculty!


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