Michael A. Cacciatore (PhD) graduated from the Department of Life Sciences Communication during the summer of 2013. While finishing up his doctoral degree he accepted a tenure-track assistant professor position at the University of Georgia (UGA). Having just completed his first semester in Athens, he reflects on his time in LSC, including how his graduate education contributes to his new job as assistant professor of advertising and public relations.
The shift from graduate student to assistant professor can be a nerve-wracking experience. Thankfully, I had my time in LSC to lean on as I made the transition to faculty member. I was hired as a tenure-track assistant professor with a research emphasis in “risk public relations.” The position is affiliated with the university’s Center for Health and Risk Communication. Given the Center’s emphasis, I cannot think of a program that could have better prepared me for my current position than LSC. Each day I find myself using the knowledge and skills I acquired in LSC in the research problems I pursue surrounding issues of health and risk. Courses like Risk Communication, Strategic Communication, Research Methodology, and Public Opinion of the Life Sciences have proved pivotal as I collaborate with faculty and students in the study of risk and health communication.
My time in LSC has also shaped the teacher that I have become. I was very fortunate to serve as a teaching assistant and lecturer for several graduate and undergraduate courses offered in LSC. I currently teach research methodology and I often find myself adapting assignments and lecture materials from those courses I took or taught in graduate school. And it’s not just coursework that I draw from when teaching. When creating my lecture materials, I often find myself reflecting on the research meetings I had with LSC faculty members and graduate students. LSC has a strong tradition of faculty- and student-run research groups that were instrumental in increasing both my appreciation for and understanding of research and research methodology. My time in these groups has prepared me to anticipate the types of concerns I can expect from students in my own research methods course. As a result, I am better able to adapt my lecture materials to clarify topics and maximize both student interest and involvement.
Despite now living in Georgia, I still speak with many of the faculty in LSC. It’s especially helpful to know that I have the expertise of these faculty members to lean on even after graduate school, and as I learn to navigate life in academia. The readiness of LSC faculty members to respond to my questions via phone or email has been truly remarkable. It serves to illustrate the closeness of the LSC family – a family I am proud say I am part of. Their input has proved invaluable during my first semester on the job and I am truly grateful for all they have done and for my time in the program. I know I would not be in the position I am without this program and its dedicated faculty, staff and students!