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New Faculty Spotlight: Nicole O’Donnell, public relations

Jul 31, 2018

Posted in: News

By Marcus Messner, Ph.D., Associate Director

Nicole O’Donnell, Ph.D., assistant professor, public relations 

Nicole O’Donnell, Ph.D., is one of our newest professors in the public relations sequence. She will begin teaching classes this fall.

Welcome to the Robertson School! Tell us a little bit about where you are from and where you worked, or studied, previously? 

My professional background is in campaign management. I often design messages for non-profit organizations and advocacy campaigns. I recently worked with the Inland Northwest Healthy Youth Collaborative to create messages for a campaign that introduced sexual health education into middle schools, high schools, and youth detention centers in Washington state. Other organizations I have worked with include Prime Group, Green Planet Films, the American Diabetes Association, the Moscow Food Co-op, and Kade and Vos.  

I am from Cleveland, Ohio. I have a B.A. in public relations from Wright State University (named after the Wright brothers), an M.A. in media studies from Central Michigan University, and a Ph.D. in communication from Washington State University.

What is your teaching philosophy? Which classes will you be teaching this upcoming semester?

I will be teaching Public Relations Strategy (MASC 337) this fall. When teaching, I aim to promote critical thinking and creative problem solving. I believe that the classroom is a space where students can learn new skills and explore their strengths and weaknesses. In line with the university’s “Make it Real” initiative, I often include service-learning components in my PR classes. I think that students enhance their creative problem solving skills and gain a greater understanding of industry challenges when they work with real clients.

How do you keep current in this ever-changing media environment?

I am lucky to have a strong network of colleagues, friends, and students to keep me in the loop. To learn about new software and computer programs, I attend professional workshops and I follow various technical blogs and Twitter feeds. I listen to NPR daily, and the MIT Technology Review is my favorite print source for new media updates.

Which area do you focus on in your scholarship?

My research focuses on effective message design for health and environmental campaigns. Advocacy campaigns often promote the adoption of healthy behaviors (e.g. eating more fruits and vegetables) or the reduction of harmful behaviors (e.g. quitting smoking). My program of research is specifically interested in how design strategies differ based on whether a message targets an addictive behavior, non-addictive behavior, one-time behavior, maintained behavior, or the refusal, cessation, or adoption of a behavior.

Tell us something personal about yourself. What hobbies and interests do you have outside of the classroom?

I love hiking, camping, and spending time outdoors. I am excited to explore the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah National Park. My husband is a freshwater ecologist so we often spend our weekends boating and kayaking. I also enjoy cooking and entertaining family and friends. I like to experiment with different breads, handmade pasta, and pastry recipes.