Tell us a bit about your background, where you’re from and your career path prior to Belmont.
I grew up in Defiance, Ohio, and graduated with 63 people in a town where truly everybody knows your name. I went to a small but mighty K-12 public school with high-ranking academic achievements, several state championship titles, and renowned music and theater programs. Everyone participated in nearly all activities because the school was so small. It was such a collaborative and encouraging experience, and it really formed who I am and how I like to work in interdisciplinary teams to this day.
I originally planned to major in theater and music in college, but one of my mentors suggested journalism after watching my passion for writing, filming and editing grow throughout my high school career (I started my own production company in high school making videos for special events around town).
Throughout college, I interned in radio and TV. I landed my first full-time job answering phones and working the overnight shift at ABC News in Washington, D.C. I was a researcher and associate producer throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and during the 2004 presidential election. At 26 years old, I was covering the White House and flying around the world on Air Force One. Some of my first international reporting experiences included trips to China, Ukraine and Russia as Russian forces began invading the country of Georgia. I reported on the conflict in the middle of the night with little sleep for days on end. I also covered the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and I was embedded on the campaign trail with then-Senator Obama and Senator McCain as they ran for president.
I left D.C. when love (my husband) led me to Los Angeles where I landed a job helping launch Oprah’s television network. My husband and I later moved to New York City where I worked with Katie Couric. We made our final move to Nashville 10 years ago, and I worked with Anderson Cooper before coming to Belmont full time in 2019.
What first inspired your interest in teaching and in your subject area?
My parents are both retired teachers and became professors after 30+ years working in K-12 and education leadership/administration. I always wanted to teach, but it was hard with the long hours working in media. I was invited as a guest speaker at Belmont in 2014, and the media studies team recruited me to become an adjunct shortly after. After teaching my first class in 2016, I never looked back.
You’ve been pulling double duty, teaching full-time while pursuing your doctorate. Share a bit about that journey and the specific areas you’ve been researching.
I graduated with my doctorate from Clemson University in August 2023. My research is centered around social media and artificial intelligence. I’ve written extensively about disinformation, polarization and the politics of identity online, as well as human attention spans on social media. I also focus on how media can help bring people together and help heal divisions. My 20+ year career led me to these research areas.
What courses are you teaching this semester?
This semester, I’m teaching a podcasting class, which I created after starting my own podcast in 2019. I also teach media ethics and arts, entertainment & culture reporting. Each class creates media projects, which I encourage students to publish. This semester, the arts, entertainment & culture reporting class is creating special projects focusing on the immigrant community in Nashville. We are partnering with an honors class led by Professors John Gonas and Mary Ellen Pethel, highlighting the work of community leaders and families at The Branch, a non-profit organization in Antioch helping immigrants and others in need.
What have been highlights of your time at Belmont to date?
The study abroad courses are unforgettable experiences. I’m also so proud of all my students’ work creating podcasts and documentaries from the ground up. There is nothing better than seeing students stretch themselves and open themselves up to other cultures and new experiences. My heart also bursts with joy when students I meet as freshmen graduate and land incredible jobs at places like NBC News/ABC News, on film sets, in Big Tech, and at non-profits that are doing important work around the community and the world.
What’s happening next with the Exit 207 documentary?
The Exit 207 documentary has been nominated in three international film festivals and won a top award at a separate international film festival this summer. The documentary will air on Nashville Public Television (NPT) after the film festivals wrap. Additionally, NPT, Belmont, Fisk University and the Nashville Black Market are hosting a FREE event for the community Sept. 26 from 5-8 p.m. There will be a DJ, Black-owned business pop-up markets and food trucks, as well as screenings of “Exit 207: The Soul of Nashville.” The cast and crew will be at the event to autograph posters. Belmont, along with other Nashville universities and sponsors, will have tents with fun giveaways.
Additionally, the documentary is nominated in the International Black Film Festival, the Los Angeles Student Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival. Audiences can see “Exit 207” at each of these events as well (screening times are posted on the linked websites).
You are also a Fellow of the Data Collaborative. What is your interest in that work and how does it inform your teaching?
Part of my Ph.D. is in data storytelling and information design. Data allows people to better understand the “need” and the “why,” which we saw firsthand when producing big projects like the documentary. Exploring Nashville’s housing data and laying out the numbers in the film painted a broader picture for people to understand what is happening in our community and how we can come together to try to ensure everyone feels at home in Nashville.
Tell us a bit about your family and what you like to do for fun.
I have two daughters, three dogs, and a husband who helps manage the chaos and keep it all fun! We often let loose by having dance parties at home, watching movies, musicals, and football on the big screen, and going for walks and bike rides. My girls also play sports, so we are full time cheerleaders most weekends. My parents and two siblings also live close by, so we bounce around from house to house and have a lot of cousin and family time.