Dr. Jenna Abetz grew up about an hour south of Washington DC, near Fredericksburg VA. She earned her BA in History from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, and her MA in Women’s Studies from San Diego State University in San Diego, CA. To complete her Ph.D. in Communication Studies, she attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln, NE, graduating in 2013. Since joining the College of Charleston in 2014, she has taught COMM 215: Communication, Identity, & Community and COMM 336: Interpersonal Communication as well as the graduate level COMM 561: Identity and Impression Management.
Why do you choose to teach and advise in the MCOM program?
Those moments of rich discussion within and beyond class readings made my own graduate years a truly transformative experience. The graduate classroom is place where you can really question and challenge one another while engaging the reading at a higher level so I’m looking forward to being a part of creating that type of collaborative classroom.
What are your teaching and/or research interests?
My research and teaching interests are centered within interpersonal and family communication. Informed by qualitative and critical approaches to communication, my research examines the negotiation of individual and relational identity during times of transition or contestation. This work has included explorations of communication in emerging adulthood, dual-career couples, and mother-daughter relationships.
Describe a project, class or academic experience that you are currently working on.
A class project for the COMM 215 course that I’m currently teaching focuses on the intersections between communication and identity. Michelle Fine (1994) discusses the importance of “working the hyphen” between self and other. She argues that when we talk about “others” we often silence or erase their voice. In small groups, students choose a problem in their community and focus on understanding and addressing it while “working the hyphens” between communication-identity-community. In other words, they focus on the relational nature of identity and the implications of speaking for and about others. The goal of the assignment is for students to articulate how their communication has the potential to impact their community and their identity as a global citizen in meaningful and consequential ways. A current research project I’m working on focuses on emerging adulthood and the construction of Southern identity. Sociologists, critical geographers, and rhetoricians have powerfully illustrated the importance of place in the construction of self. I hope to add to this body of work by exploring how notions of place and heritage, including shame and pride, are communicated and negotiated interpersonally.
What is one piece of advice that you would give incoming or current graduate students?
Get to know your fellow graduate students and be supportive of one another – the community that you build will be an invaluable resource for you now and in the future.
What is a fun fact about you that most people do not know?
One summer when I was in college, I took a trip to Spain with my Dad. We visited Pamplona during the San Fermín festival and participated in the Running of the Bulls. Friends often think I’m joking when I tell them about this – luckily I took plenty of pictures!