Admissions Ambassadors

Graduate students in the Department of Communication come from a variety of backgrounds and pursue diverse research agendas.  The profiles below provide a sense of the scholarly interests and recent achievements of the students in our program.  Each student on this page serves as ambassador for the Department of Communication and is willing to answer questions that cannot be found on the website.  Feel free to email these students with any questions you might have about the UM Department of Communication graduate program.

Becca Alt
  • Year in the Program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Rhetoric and Political Culture
  • Advisor: Dr. Michelle Murray Yang
  • Email: ralt1@umd.edu

Becca is pursuing her Ph.D. with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Political Culture, along with a graduate certificate in Critical Theory. She received her B.A. in Communication Arts and Sciences from Pennsylvania State University in 2013 and her M.A. in Communication from the University of Maryland in 2015. Her research explores rhetorical constructions of elite sport culture, and she often studies sports controversies from both critical and theoretical perspectives. She teaches COMM 200: Critical Thinking and Speaking. She is the founding Chair of the University of Maryland’s student chapter of the Rhetoric Society of America. She is pleased to talk to any students, but particularly those who are interested in Rhetorical Theory, interdisciplinary scholarship, teaching, and service.


Lauren Bender

  • Year in the program: Fifth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Rhetoric and Political Culture
  • Advisors: Dr. Shawn J. Parry-Giles 
  • Email: lrharris@umd.edu

Lauren Bender earned her B.A. from Wittenberg University with a degree in Communication and minors in Political Science and Journalism.  She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Communication with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Political Culture.  Her research interests include gender communication within political campaign rhetoric (particularly U.S. Presidential elections). Lauren has taught a variety of courses, including public speaking, gender and communication, and communication theory. She is currently teaching Comm107 Oral Communication: Principles and Practices and is a TA for Comm401: Interpreting Strategic Discourse.


Luke Capizzo

  • Year in the Program:  Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Public Relations & Strategic Communication
  • Advisor: Dr. Erich Sommefeldt
  • Email: capizzo@umd.edu

Luke Capizzo (B.A., Michigan State University) is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication on the public relations track. Luke’s research interests include financial public relations and the role of public relations in civil society. He currently teaches COMM 107: Oral Communication: Principles and Practices and serves as the co-coach of the Bateman competitive PR campaign team. For fall 2016, he is teaching a special section of COMM 107 in conjunction with the UMD Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship with a focus on group problem solving and creativity. Before coming to the University of Maryland, Luke practiced public relations with a focus on media relations in the financial services, commercial real estate, manufacturing, retail and technology industries, serving in both agency and in-house roles. He earned the APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) designation through the Public Relations Society of America in 2014 and is a 2007 graduate of Michigan State University with degrees in Professional Writing and Political Theory.


Yiwen Dai

  • Year in the Program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Communication Science & Social Cognition
  • Advisor: Dr. Dale Hampe

    Email: dyw@umd.edu

Yiwen Dai received her B.A. in Communication from Southwest Jiaotong University and M.A. in Communication from University of Maryland. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Communication with an emphasis on interpersonal communication. She is primarily interested in exploring how people initiate, maintain, and end romantic relationships through interpersonal communication. She will be happy to answer any questions regarding interpersonal communication, quantitative research methods, life as an international student, etc.


William Howell

  • Year in Program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Rhetoric & Political Culture
  • Advisor: Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles
  • Email: will.p.howell@gmail.com

William Howell graduated from Macalester College in 2008 with a B.A. in political science. Since 2008, he has spearheaded outreach and engagement efforts for political campaigns and advocacy efforts in Minnesota and Oregon. He seeks to understand how entertainment sources impact U.S. citizens' political participation, political identity, and perceptions of political issues and actors. This year, Will teaches COMM330: Argumentation and Public Policy and COMM107: Oral Communication Principles and Practices. He can answer questions about living in DC and commuting, biking, student labor organizing, and any assorted trivia you want to throw his way.


Lauren Hunter

  • Year in Program: Third year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Rhetoric and Political Culture
  • Advisor: Dr. Shawn J. Parry-Giles
  • Email: lhunter@umd.edu

Lauren Hunter graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2012 with a B.A. in Spanish and a B.S. in Communication Studies. She taught two years of high school Spanish before entering the Ph.D. program in Fall 2014. Lauren focuses her studies on rhetorics of citizenship rights and public policy, particularly how they manifest in adoption rhetoric. Lauren also has a passionate interest in Abraham Lincoln. Lauren teaches COMM107: Oral Communication, Principles & Practices.


http://www.comm.umd.edu/sites/comm.umd.edu/files/Iles_2.jpgIrina Iles
  • Year in Program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Communication Science
  • Advisor: Dr. Xiaoli Nan
  • Email: iirina@umd.edu

Irina Iles (M.A., University of Maryland) is a doctoral candidate specializing in the development and application of communication and psychological theories to health contexts. Using quantitative research methods, her research program seeks to understand how individuals react, both cognitively and emotionally, to messages that attempt to raise awareness about a health issue or that promote behavior change. Irina is also interested in potential unintended consequences that health communications may have at the individual and societal level. Her research has been published or is forthcoming in outlets such as Health Communication, Journal of Health Psychology, American Journal of Health Behavior, Health Education, Journal of Risk Research, and others. She has earned top paper awards in health communication at various conferences and has received the 2016-2017 All S.T.A.R fellowship from the UMD Graduate School. Irina has worked on several grant-funded projects and has been an ORISE research fellow with the Food and Drug Administration Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. She is happy to share her academic experience with you, but also her stories and “Aha!” moments about being an international student in the United States.


Jung Kyu (Rhys) Lim

  • Year in Program: Second year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Public Relations & Strategic Communication
  • Advisor: Dr. Brooke Fisher Liu
  • Email: jk.rhys.lim@gmail.com

Jung Kyu (Rhys) Lim is pursuing his Ph.D. in Communication, with a focus on strategic communication and public relations. His research interests include issues/ risk/ crisis management and traditional and new media. His research also utilizes mixed methods including quantitative, qualitative, and computational methods. He earned his B.A. degree in Advertising and Public Relations, with minors in Business Administration and Theatre Design, from Chung-Ang University, South Korea. Prior to joining the department, he had work experience at the advertising agency HS Ad as well as the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller.


http://www.comm.umd.edu/sites/comm.umd.edu/files/MaR.jpgRong Ma

  • Year in Program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research Emphasis: Communication Science & Social Cognition
  • Advisor: Drs. Anita Atwell Seate & Edward L. Fink
  • Email: rmah@umd.edu
Rong Ma is a fourth year Ph.D. student who studies intergroup/intercultural communication. She uses quantitative methods to study the effects of social identities on interpersonal and mediated communication. Her research projects have covered topics such as gender differences in language use, intercultural communication apprehension, and social identity construction in media sport. She has been a TA for COMM400 (Research Methods) and instructor for COMM107 (Oral Communication). She is now teaching COMM382 (Intercultural Communication).

http://www.comm.umd.edu/sites/comm.umd.edu/files/MaZ_0.jpgZexin (Marsha) Ma

  • Year in program: Fourth year Ph.D.
  • Research emphasis: Communication Science & Social Cognition
  • Advisor: Dr. Xiaoli Nan
  • Email: marshama@umd.edu

Zexin (Marsha) Ma earned her B.A. in Communication from the Communication University of China (2013). She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Communication with an emphasis in persuasion and social influence, using a quantitative approach. Marsha’s work focuses on health communication, particularly on the role of narrative persuasion in influencing people’s health beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. She has participated in several projects in the context of mental illness stigma reduction and smoking cessation. She would love to talk about her academic life, as well as the “secret” to work-life balance. She would also like to chat about cooking, since she is a fan of yummy food.