25 Communications Professors You Should Know

Top 25 communications professorsLooking at research, past and present teaching engagements, awards, and published work, the editorial staff here at Communications-Major.com compiled a list of 25 communications professors that we feel embody greatness in the field of communications.

The professors we selected are much more than teachers; they are also groundbreaking journalists, community leaders, researchers, social media gurus, published authors, political advisors, Pulitzer Prize finalists and much more. Their ability to transcend traditional classroom archetypes to help shape the field of communications in an era of constantly evolving technology and new mediums for communication is at once imperative and awe inspiring.

In no particular order, we present our readers with our selection of the 25 most influential thought leaders in the field of communications today.

Dr. Patricia Aufderheide is a prominent communications professor at Washington D.C.’s American University and holds affiliate facility positions with the University’s School of International Service and History departments.

Dr. Aufderheide is renown for authoring several noteworthy works such as Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright with co-author Peter Jaszi; Communications Policy in the Public Interest; Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction; and The Daily Planet. In addition, she is an acclaimed Fulbright and John Simon fellow, a past Sundance Film Festival juror, and the recipient of several prestigious awards, including:

  • The University Film ad Video Association’s George Stoney Award
  • The Women in Film and Video’s Woman of Vision Award
  • The International Digital Media and Arts Association’s Career Achievement Award
  • The International Documentary Association’s Scholarship and Preservation Award


Dr. Karen North became a nationally recognized figure in communications by first working for Rep. Edward Markey, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance, followed by a stint in the Clinton Administration working for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Today, Dr. Karen North is not only the Director of USC Annenberg’s Digital Social Media (DSM) program; she is also the Clinical Professor of its School of Communication. Her directorial role in the DSM program is particularly impressive considering it was the world’s first master’s program tackling leaderships issues surrounding social media and online communities.


Dr. Guobin Yang is an accomplished communications professor, author, editor and scholar. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Communication and Sociology at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

So far, Dr. Yang’s has authored The Red Guard Generation and Political Activism in China, The Power of the Internet in China: Citizen Activism Online, and Dragon-Carving and the Literary Mind. His editorial credits include The Internet, Social Media, and a Changing China, Re-Envisioning the Chinese Revolution: The Politics and Poetics of Collective Memories in Reform China, China’s Contested Internet, and Communication and the Public. Dr. Yang was also a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. and a recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Writing and Research Grant.”

Dr. Lee Humphreys is a recent fellow at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research and now works as an Associate Professor at Cornell University’s Department of Communication. In the June 2016, Dr. Humphreys plans to continue impacting the global communications community by becoming the Vice Chair for the International Communication Association’s Communication & Technology Division located in Fukuoka, Japan.

Dr. Humphreys is also a literary figure and co-author of Digital Media: Transformations in Human Communication and is currently working on the book’s second edition. As a prolific academic journal contributor, she has co-authored or authored over twenty pieces since 2005. Her recent journal publications have been featured in New Media & Society, Information, Communication & Society, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, and the Journal of Communication.

Mitchell Zuckoff is a Journalism Professor at Boston University’s College of Communication, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and New York Times bestselling author. His past achievements include the Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of News Editors, the Heywood Broun Award, the Livingston Award for International Reporting, and the Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.

Zuckoff’s ongoing list of book publications include the New York Times bestseller Lost in Shangri-La, as well as Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, Choosing Naia: A Family’s Journey, and Judgment Ridge: The True Story Behind the Dartmouth Murders. Most recently, Zuckoff wrote 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller (in hardcover, ebook, paperback and combined ebook/print), and also the basis of the recent movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”

Dr. Elizabeth Hendrickson is an Assistant Professor of the School of Journalism & Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee’s College of Communication & Information (CCI) where she won the award for Faculty Teacher of the Year in 2011.

Since then, Dr. Hendrickson has been featured on WBIR-TV and BBC-TV, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and SCOOP Magazine. She has also had a collaborative piece entitled “iPerceive: Platform Priorities And Workplace Innovation In America’s Consumer Magazine Industry” published in an issue of the Official Research Journal of the International Symposium on Online Journalism. Dr. Hendrickson’s editorial experience even qualified her to serve as a one-time judge for the 2013 National Magazine Awards.

Dr. Mark Aakhus is a Professor at Rutgers University’s School of Communication & Information. His widespread presence in the academic community has led to invitations to deliver keynote speeches and presentations at other institutes of higher learning such as Penn State University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and George Mason University.

Dr. Aakhus is largely distinguished for his exemplary leadership roles in global communications research associations and serves as Chair of the International Communications Association (ICA) Language and Social Interaction Division and was a co-founding chair of the National Communication Association’s Human Communication and Technology Division. In recent years, Dr. Aakhus’ research findings have been published in issues of the Journal of Public Affairs, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Argumentation.

Dr. Drew Margolin is an Assistant Professor at Cornell University’s Department of Communication. His passion for the exploratory research of social media’s influence on public discourse has made him a voice at conference proceedings for the 22nd International World Wide Web Conference as well as the 8th and 9th International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media.

Dr. Margolin is considered a communications field expert in computational social science, social networks, and text mining. Since 2014, his collaborative work efforts have been showcased in several relevant publications including Communication Research, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Communication and Society, PLOS One, and EPJ Data Science.

Dr. Colleen Colaner is an Assistant Professor of Interpersonal and Family Communication at the University of Missouri’s Department of Communication. She is also the founder and co-director of the Institute of Family Diversity and Communication and works on the editorial board of Journal of Family Communication and Western Journal of Communication.

Dr. Colaner continues to earn professional recognition by receiving awards from the Research Council, Arts and Science Alumni Organization Faculty Incentive Grant, the Richard Wallace Alumni Fund, the National Communication Association, and the Central States Communication Association. Her most recent literary contributions have been published in Communication Research, Adoption Quarterly, and Communication Monographs.

Dr. Jason Shepard is a Journalism Professor and Chair of the Communications Department at the California State University- Fullerton where he won the Leadership Award in 2015 for his role in securing the department’s reaccreditation with the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC).

Dr. Shepard’s extensive experience in journalism and scholarly research has leant itself to more than fifty presentations and publications. Examples of his most recent works include Major Principles of Media Law and Privileging the Press: Confidential Sources, Journalism Ethics and the First Amendment. His peer-respected critiques and research on media law has also been cited in the Journal of Median Law & Ethics, Nexus Journal of Law and Policy, and the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.

Dr. Dawn Gilpin is an Associate Professor at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is also a fifteen-year veteran of organizational communication and public relations and former presidential fellow at Temple University in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Gilpin remains a leader in the communications industry and current member of the National Communication Association, the Academy of Management, and the International Communication Association. Her scholarly works have appeared in Emergence: Complexity & Organization (E:CO), Oxford University Press, Public Relations Review, and Studies in Communication Sciences.


Dr. Daradirek “Gee” Ekachai is an Associate Professor and chair of Strategic Communication at Marquette University’s Diederich College of Communication where she has earned the Dean’s Excellence Award in Service and the Dean’s Excellence Award in Teaching. She is also a three-time recipient of grants from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Ekachai stays engaged in the ever-changing landscape of the communications field through her affiliation with the Public Relations Society of America and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Her literary achievements have been highlighted in several publications including Public Relations Journal, Journal of Advertising Education, and New Media and Public Relations (2nd Edition).

Dr. Kenna Griffin is an assistant professor in Oklahoma City University’s Mass Communications department where she teaches writing, media law, media ethics, social media marketing, journalism and public relations. In addition to serving as OCU’s director of student publications, Dr Griffin is also advisor for the university’s hardcopy student newspaper, The Campus, and the student media website, MediaOCU.

Dr. Griffin is a board member of College Media Advisers (CMA) and Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), and still finds time to serve as the soul creative force behind ProfKRG, which she created with the goal of fostering dialogue between journalists, students and educators. Dr. Griffin is an active supporter of the Dart Foundation for Journalism and Trauma, and has researched the phenomena of PTSD and emotional trauma among journalists that cover war and other tragic events.

Wanda Garner Cash is a senior clinical professor and the Associate Director of the University of Texas at Austin’s School of Journalism where she teaches reporting courses to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Cash is renowned in academic circles, not only for becoming the first fellow to the S. Griffin Singer Professorship, but also for her induction into the Texas Intercollegiate Press Hall of Fame. She also earned the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors’ Jack Douglas Award. Her continuing commitment to promoting journalism and open government policy also got her published in The Texas Tribune.


Dr. Robert F. Stevenson is Professor of Journalism for Lander University’s Department of Mass Communication & Theater. As an esteemed professor, he staged several presentations on social media, online communications, and democracy for such groups as Business Network International, Toastmasters, Emerald City Rotary Club, and the Peace Conference.

Dr. Stevenson is a strong creative force in South Carolina where he has contributed compositions, video production, and advertisement services to media outlets like XLR Lander Radio and WLG-TV, and to projects like Greenwood’s events calendar campaign, film festivals, and short film competitions.


Dr. Neil Alperstein in an Academic Director for Loyola University’s Master of Arts in Emerging Media program, which is Loyola’s first program to be made available online.

During his nearly thirty years at Loyola University, Dr. Alperstein’s work has expanded beyond the classroom and into major periodicals. His most recent publications have appeared in Health Marketing Quarterly, Social Media Today, Medium, The Baltimore Sun, Routledge, and The Journal of Social Media in Society.


Dr. Joshua Pasek is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan, and is highly regarded for his expertise in political communication, public opinion, survey research and design, and new and emerging media.

His valuable research and opinions on the effects of new media on public and political behaviors have been captured in articles published by Political Psychology, Public Opinion Quarterly, Communication Research, Journal of Communication, International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Mass Communication and Society, and the Journal of Information Technology and Politics.


Dr. Robert F. Potter is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Institute for Communication Research at Indiana University in Bloomington. He also works on the editorial boards of Communication Methods and Measures, Media Psychology, and the Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications.

Dr. Potter is the co-author of the research volume Psychophysiological Measurement and Meaning: Cognitive and Emotional Responses to Media, and has published various other works in influential journals including Communication Monographs, Media Psychology, Communication Research, and the Journal of Media Psychology.


Mike Johansson is the Senior Lecturer in Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is a two-time fellowship winner to the Poynter Institute and was also a University of California-Berkley Digital Journalism Fellow.

Johansson continues to stay active in the communications arena by maintaining membership at the Social Media Club of Rochester and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). In 2014, he was named among the “Top 15 Most Influential Marketing Professors on Twitter” by Stukent, an internet marketing courseware provider for professors of higher learning.


Dr. Marcus Messner is an Associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture where he received a Community Engagement Award for Teaching. The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) also presented him with the first-place award in its national Best Practices in Teaching Competition.

During his dynamic career in communications, Dr. Messner has published over thirty articles in leading communications journals like Journalism Studies, Public Relations Journal, and Mass Communication & Society. His opinions and forward-thinking ideas on social media issues have also been featured in USA Today, Associated Press, National Public Radio, and CNN Headline News.

Dr. Daxton “Chip” Stewart is an Associate Dean and Associate Professor at Texas Christian University’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication. He also works as an editor for Community Journalism and was granted the AEJMC’s Law & Policy Division Top Faculty Paper Award.

Dr. Stewart’s research emphasis on media law and communication technology has spawned several significant publications in American Journalism, Communication Law and Policy, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, among many other journals. He also submitted material used in the book, Social Media and the Law: A Guidebook for Communication Students and Professionals.

Dr. Jocelyn Degroot is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Communication Studies at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville where she was a recipient of the Teaching Distinction Award. DeGroot also serves on the Social Media Policy Task Force of the Faculty Senate.

Dr. DeGroot’s research focuses on the complexities of communication as it relates to death and dying as well as computer-mediated communication. Her work has been published in Communication Teacher, Omega: Journal of Death and Dying, Communication Research, and Death Studies. DeGroot also won four Top Paper awards during annual conferences hosted by the National Communication Association.

Dr. Amber Hinsley is an Assistant Professor for Saint Louis University’s Department of Communication. She was selected to serve on the AEJMC’s Future of News Audience Engagement Committee and is also an officer for the Media Management, Economics and Entrepreneurship Division.

Dr. Hinsley’s major research interests revolve around media management, social media, and newsroom psychology. She continues to provide communications insights through publications in International Symposium on Online Journalism, Computers and Human Behavior, Journalism, Media Report to Women, Journalism Studies, and Newspaper Research Journal.


Dr. Kay L. Colley is the Chair and Associate Professor of Mass Communication at Texas Wesleyan University where she earned the Earl Brown Distinguished Faculty Member Award.

Dr. Colley is a Society of Professional Journalist Diversity Fellow, a Scripps Howard Social Media Grant Fellow, and a Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Fellow. The AEJMC also previously named Colley Small Programs Interest Group Teacher of the Year. Her work has been featured in the Southwestern Mass Communication Journal.


Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch is a Professor at Wichita State University’s Elliot School of Communication while also serving as the Kansas Health Foundation Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communication.

Dr. Ballard-Reisch has received high honors, earning the Kansas Public Health Association’s Virginia Lockhart Health Education Award, the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language and Gender’s Feminist Teacher-Mentor Award, and Wichita State University’s Excellence in Community Research Award. She is also the new editor of the academic journal Woman and Language.




Of course, there is no metric for determining greatness; so although there is nothing scientific about how we selected the professors who would make this list, we did follow a general methodology that considered awards these professors received and how they have contributed, and continue to contribute to the field of communications through research, published work, teaching engagements, and thought leadership:

Thought Leadership – Whether in academia or industry, the advancement of communications relies on innovative thought and the boldness to express new and challenging ideas. Each professor that made our list has pioneered new ways of thinking as it relates to the perspectives, methods and mediums through which we communicate.

Research – Many of these professors have secured research grants for their schools or otherwise contributed important research to the field of communications that has been published in respected journals.

Published Work – Whether pioneering research and contributing to textbooks and professional journals, or writing books that deal with the most pressing issues in modern communications, the professors that made our list have all been published.

Awards – As published authors, innovative thinkers and engaged teachers, it is no surprise that these professors have received many honors for their thoughtful contributions to education, journalism and the broader field of communications.