Four new tenure-track faculty join the School of Communication
Illinois State University’s School of Communication welcomes four new tenure-track faculty this semester. Each instructor brings a passion for teaching, varying interests in research, and of course, a deep love for Illinois State University. The new faculty members are highlighted in the article below.
Ashley Hall, Ph.D.
Ashley Hall is a firm believer that her students will teach her as much as she teaches them. She is currently teaching African American rhetoric and communication criticism at ISU and is on track to become a tenured professor. Hall received her Ph.D. in communication from University of Pittsburgh and her research focuses on African American rhetoric, specifically black women’s communication.
While the move from her last place in upstate New York all the way to Bloomington, Illinois, may seem like quite the shock, Hall feels comfortable being back in the Midwest since her completion of the master’s program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. While she says it is a challenge to acclimate to a new campus after being in one institution for years, she had to jump at the opportunity to share her passion in a place she felt would value it.
When asked what she enjoys the most about ISU so far, Hall said, “I love being at an institution that has equal respect and admiration for those that want to do research, teaching, as well as civic engagement and community service. I find it very rare in terms of the resources that are offered for faculty members specifically to have the opportunity to do all of those things…to get that support in a number of different things has been pretty phenomenal for me.” She has also received tremendous support from her fellow faculty members, describing the School of Communication as a family.
Looking ahead, Hall is enthusiastic about stepping into an administrative role to help revamp the African American Studies minor program. Her goal is to be able to understand what her students are dealing with outside the classroom so that when they leave ISU, they leave with a skill set that allows them to connect what they have learned to the world at large.
Byron Craig, Ph.D.
Byron Craig has come to the School of Communication at Illinois State to share his knowledge and experiences with students through the lens of race and rhetoric. With a Ph.D. in rhetoric and public culture from Indiana University-Bloomington, Craig is excited to create courses at ISU that align with his own interests and areas of study, which include how rap music and discussions around it can inform the way we talk about race and the way race works within the study of rhetoric.
Originally from Cedar Point, Ohio, Craig is adjusting well to the Bloomington-Normal area. He said that experiencing a new place where one is not sure how they fit in is exciting, but challenging; yet the most important thing is that it also informs his research and writing. “Everything that I am, I take into my teaching,” said Craig, who is an advocate for using both positive and negative experiences as teaching tools. He believes that experience informs who we are and makes us well-rounded, and “all those things, you don’t let them sour you, you let them inform and teach you and keep you moving and helping other people understand the things that can happen and then create strategies to deal with them, which is the fun part of being a rhetorician also. You’re always thinking of what strategies you use to navigate the issues that you have to deal with.”
Craig was drawn to the School of Communication on account of its progressive nature. Race and rhetoric scholars are not often sought out, but Craig expects that will change quickly, noting that, “this school has the foresight to see this growing demographic change in the United States and what our students may start looking like as they enter school… I felt like Dr. Hunt was very insightful and future-looking and that’s the kind of person I want to work with in any of my things that I’m involved in.”
As for his own future ambitions, Craig is enthusiastic about creating courses that align with his own area of research and helping students grapple with rhetoric and public discourse. “The expectation is that you’re doing research and writing and teaching and service here and those are all things that I love doing and having an opportunity to do it. So I think over the next however many years I have of life, that’s what I’ll be doing,” he said.
Craig’s goal is “to impart on students not to simply let themselves go through the University, but let the University go through them, the good and the bad.”
Andrew Ventimiglia, Ph.D.
After growing up in Rockford, Illinois, Andrew Ventimiglia has lived in New Orleans, New York, California, and Australia. Now, 20 years later, he returns to Illinois to join our tenure-track faculty in the School of Communication. Ventimiglia received his Ph.D. in cultural studies from the University of California, Davis. He wanted to have flexibility between disciplines to explore unusual topics, and this program allowed him the freedom to bring his own research questions and figure things out from there. He was able to create research that combines media, religion, and law to understand how owners of religious media use their media property to create a community and distribute ideas. Readers can read more about it in his book, Copyrighting God: Ownership of the Sacred in American Religion.
Ventimiglia is excited to be able to develop a media law class that is attuned to the contemporary issues that students will face with digital and social media. He understands that studying media is much like aiming at a moving target; everything can and will change, but he believes that is what makes it fun.
Feeling very welcomed by the faculty and students of ISU, Ventimiglia explained that, “the range of approaches and the range of programs here has allowed me to feel—even with a weird set of research interests like my own—that I could find a place here.” He has also been impressed by the diversity of his colleague’s areas of research. He also pointed out that it is a unique experience to be hired along with three other people and know that the School is invested in their research and success. “It gives you a feeling of support that I think is extremely rare for new hires,” he said, “this school recognizes how much good scholarship and research and just comradery can be built by collaboration.”
When asked what drew him to the School of Communication here at ISU, Ventimiglia praised how it is constantly thinking of ways to shape itself for the future, and he is excited to be a part of it.
Roth Smith, Ph.D.
Roth Smith is a new tenure-track assistant professor in the School of Communication. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas, where he completed his dissertation on an informal group of BMX bikers that organized to build dirt jumps in the middle of downtown Austin. His other research includes studies of innovation and disaster-related research in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Smith has been adjusting well to Illinois State and is pleased with how friendly his fellow faculty members are, saying the School of Communication “seems like a really good group of scholars who are here to support one another.” He appreciates the strong focus on both research and teaching here at ISU, and he is excited that he will be provided the resources to do both well.
Smith is especially looking forward to a smaller class size as compared to what he was teaching at the University of Texas because it will allow him to interact with students more individually.
The School of Communication is excited to welcome these new faculty members into the close-knit community of students and teachers, committed to the highest standards of academic excellence.