Back to News

New Faculty Focus: Kate Christy

She brings to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication a focus on health communication and how clear messaging can benefit individuals and communities.

by Katie Vaughn September 27, 2018

Kate Christy

Title: Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication 

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Educational background:

I received my bachelor’s degree in communication and English writing at the University of Pittsburgh, completed my master’s degree in communication at Purdue, and my PhD in communication at Ohio State University. 

Professional background:

Before joining the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I worked as a post-doc under the supervision of Dr. Jakob Jensen at the University of Utah, where we studied the use of emerging technologies for improving skin cancer screening education. 

How did you get into your field of research?

Message effects in general have always been interesting to me, and I got into health communication specifically because it’s an area that allows for applied research, which was attractive to me. 

What attracted you to UW-Madison?

Honestly, it was a combination of the prestige of the university and the collegiality of the people I met here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is an excellent institution for both students and faculty, and I was very excited to be offered a position here. Everyone in my department was (and continues to be!) welcoming and encouraging. It’s just a great environment. 

What was your first visit to campus like?

It was very exciting! I got to talk with a broad range of folks, both within my department and within the broader college. Everyone I talked to was so enthusiastic about their work. Even just walking down the street, you could feel that UW-Madison was a vibrant, thriving community. 

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?

I really hope that any student that takes a class with me comes out of it with the understanding that all information is situated within a context, and that that context can and does inform how information should be interpreted. Including the things I tell them!

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.

A lot of my research focuses on how we can better communicate health information to the general public, with a focus on preventative behaviors. There’s so much health information out there that it can be overwhelming. By focusing on the best ways to clearly and concisely communicate health information, we can help encourage better health on both an individual and community level. 

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?

Contrary to popular belief, the War of the Worlds radio play didn’t cause widespread hysteria. There were some people who misinterpreted the broadcast as a news report, but most of them simply called either the police or their local news outlets to determine the veracity of the broadcast. So while the image of people panicking in the streets and weeping in churches is certainly more entertaining, the reality is that the impact of the incident was largely exaggerated. 

Hobbies/other interests:

I enjoy leisure reading, cross stitch and knitting and spending time with my dog, Max.