Ph.D., University of Georgia (2018-Present)

I study interpersonal (e.g., communication in close relationships like family, friends, and romantic partners) and health communication (e.g., how communication impacts health and how we discuss health). I also contribute to the Athens Science Observer and serve as a board member of the Athens Science Cafe

I’ve worked as the lab manager for Dr. Jiaying Liu’s CHARM Lab. The lab was recently awarded a 5-year, nearly one-million-dollar grant from the NIH to investigate nicotine addiction in young adults.

Jess in PPE for fMRI study.
All geared up before an fMRI scan for a vaping project.

Instructor, West Virginia Wesleyan College (2015-Present)

Jess with student at graduation.
One of my first students to graduate.

Since 2015, I have worked as an instructor and advisor for students in communication studies, media studies, and public relations at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Mentorship is big for me. I had great mentors throughout my academic career, and I think it’s important to be that mentor for my students, especially when they are first-generation like me.

I have course prepped and taught almost 20 classes both in-person and online. Some examples of the classes I have taught include:

  • research methods
  • public relations principles
  • organizational communication
  • interpersonal communication
  • public speaking
  • internships/career prep

M.A., West Virginia University (2013-2014)

Communication studies is a broad discipline ranging from public address to communication within close relationships. It would be nearly impossible to be an expert in all these areas! My 13-month master’s program was a survey of the field of communication where I did a deep dive into the theories and research in various field-related topics. Some of my favorite classes included: media entertainment (effects of social media, video games, educational TV, etc. on audiences), “mass personal” communication (the role of technologies like smartphones, social media, and even TV play in relationships), intergroup communication (how people interact with one another based on group identities), and instructional communication (research about how to best communicate with students).

My team and I developed a health campaign about consent in a health campaigns class titled, A** for It.

Jess at conference with MA cohort.
Me and my cohort volunteering at a conference.

I collaborated with a few other graduate students to apply the framing theory to news coverage of the chemical attack in Syria in the summer of 2013. The paper, Framing analysis of Syria’s 8/21/13 use of chemical weapons, is published in the Ohio Communication Journal.

B.A., West Virginia Wesleyan College (2009-2013)

Jess at conference with advisor and co-author.
Me, my advisor, Dr. Thweatt, and co-author, Andy Kall.

I have always loved trying to figure people out so I majored in communication studies with a minor in psychology. I was a training director and DJ for the school radio station, and a writer for the school newspaper.

In my senior year, I co-authored a paper titled, Effect of vocalics on the perception of argumentativeness and verbal aggression. Our results coincided with other research which has found that how you say something (e.g., your tone of voice) can change how others perceive a negative message. This paper was presented at the ACA-UNCA Undergraduate Research Symposium (2013).

My undergraduate career was funded through the service-based Bonner Scholarship Program. I learned valuable skills in community engagement and community-school partnerships that she carries into her work today. Some examples of the projects she worked on include:

  • Youth program leader
  • NOLA flood relief
  • After-school tutor (K-12)
  • Fairtrade markets
  • Food bank donation events
  • Forest restoration