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Hawthornes discover unicorn at Monmouth College

Barry McNamara
Professor Hayley Hawthorne
Hayley Hawthorne and her husband, Josh, found “a unicorn” at Monmouth College, where both are first-year professors in the College’s communication studies program.

“Josh and I found a place for both of us that we like,” Hawthorne said. “That’s very rare – almost unheard of” for married couples who are professors.

The opportunity to work with students and faculty from all disciplines was a major selling point of Monmouth College. Hawthorne said she keeps in touch with a small “academic community” of scholars outside of Monmouth who are interested in policy debate. But “something we have here,” she said, “is that the whole college is an academic community.”

“There’s something to be said for the opportunity to go to college that I was given in California, but (the university setting) is just so large. That’s something I like about here. There are much smaller class sizes, as well as the opportunity to work with students throughout their entire academic careers.”

Hawthorne has not wasted any time getting involved in campus life and the larger community beyond the College.

Late last year, Hawthorne organized a diaper drive for Jamieson Community Center to help the region’s needy families. The Hawthornes’ inspiration for the drive was their young son, Cole.

“Josh and I originally started this effort in 2015 around our son’s first birthday because we want to build a tradition around his birthday of giving back to the community, and we look forward to his involvement in this tradition as he gets older,” Hawthorne said. “We decided on facilitating diaper drives because there are many families in need, and at the time of the drive (in Monmouth), the Jamieson Center told me that they didn’t have a steady supply of diapers.”

Last semester’s drive collected more 2,000 diapers, as well as monetary donations, toilet paper and baby wipes.

Also last fall, Hawthorne helped host presidential debate watch parties for the campus community. In addition to being well-attended, the watch parties also led to robust post-debate discussions among students. The events exemplified Hawthorne’s commitment to promoting media literacy among Monmouth students.

“It’s always good to provide civic-engagement opportunities,” she said. “I hope the students who attended really got something out if it.”

Hawthorne said that everyone benefits from media literacy.

“Media literacy is a core component of communication,” she said. “We have an obligation to study that. How as faculty members can we teach it better? Even non-communication scholars need to improve their media literacy to be better citizens of a democratic society.”

The Hawthornes came to Monmouth from Columbia, Mo., where Hayley served as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Missouri. She received her doctorate in communication studies there, as well as a graduate minor in women’s and gender studies.

Hawthorne earned her master’s degree in communications at San Francisco State University and her bachelor’s degree in political science at San Diego State University.

Hawthorne has always known that she would work in an academic setting. Her mother is a teacher, and she says that education is her “calling” as well.

“That’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Hawthorne, who was raised in the East Bay area of San Francisco. “I’ve always wanted to work with students about subjects I care about. Teachers made a big impact on me, and I want to be that person for a student.”

Communication studies is a “vast” discipline, said Hawthorne, who focuses on issues relating to political communication, gender and sexuality studies and critical studies/theory. The options within those interests are also wide-ranging. Hawthorne said “there is infinite room to research the 2016 presidential election” – among them, the role of social media, media in general, political systems and gender issues.

Which path might she choose to pursue?

“I’m still marinating,” she replied.