Barry McNamara  |   Published September 20, 2016

Scotlight on new faculty

When communication spoke, Monmouth’s Hawthorne listened
  • New faculty member Josh Hawthorne’s interest in politics dovetails nicely with communication and provides for timely analysis of this year’s presidential election.
One of Monmouth College’s new faculty members arrived on campus thanks in large part to an experience he had in nearby Galesburg.

After completing his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois, Josh Hawthorne served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer in Galesburg. There, he worked with the Prairie State Legal Service, helping provide legal aid to poverty-stricken individuals.

At the time, Hawthorne was on the fence between pursuing a career in law and going to graduate school in communication.

“My VISTA service gave me enough experience with law that I knew that I didn’t want to be involved in it moving forward,” he said.

That led Hawthorne to the University of Missouri, where he spent the next five years completing his master’s and doctoral degrees in communication.

“I learned that I really liked teaching, and I was also able to conduct research,” he said.

Hawthorne’s dissertation explored how different types of communication activities shape attitudes toward politics and related outcomes, such as voting or political violence. During the 2012 election cycle, he researched the relationship between social media and debate viewing, something he will keep an eye on during the College’s debate viewing gatherings, which begin Sept. 26 in the Pattee Auditorium of the Center for Science and Business.

Communication wasn’t Hawthorne’s first discipline of choice at Illinois – he intended to major in computer science.

“How we communicate really spoke to me,” he said. “I had experience with public speaking, helping our high school win a very big grant. At Illinois, a lot of the ideas we talked about in communication were ideas I had been thinking about a lot.”

One such idea was the importance that American society places on holidays. His study helped him learn more about how people create the importance of holidays through the opportunity “to celebrate what we’ve built together.”

The technical term for that is “social constructionism,” a communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world that form the basis for shared assumptions about reality.

Hawthorne’s interest in politics dovetails nicely with communication, and he’s used the current presidential campaign to teach concepts such as “earned media” and “agenda setting” to two public relations classes he’s teaching this semester. One of them, “Media and Public Relations Writing,” is also on his list of spring teaching assignments, and he will also teach the introductory communication studies course during both semesters. In the spring, he will work with students to secure internships.

“I’m excited to be teaching again and interacting with students,” Hawthorne said. “I’m also looking forward to discovering research opportunities in communications to get our students further engaged.”

Hawthorne is married to another new Monmouth faculty member, Hayley Hawthorne, who is also in the communication studies department. The couple has a 21-month-old son, Cole.
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