Recent Graduates

James Alex Bonus is an Assistant  Professor at The Ohio State University. He studies children’s use and interpretation of educational media. In the summer of 2013, he interned as a research assistant at Sesame Workshop in New York City. While there, he gathered data for his Master’s thesis, which examines how children decide what’s real and pretend in an episode about Hispanic culture, and how their decisions influence their use of that information later.  His thesis was defended in May 2014 and was published in Communication Research in October 2015. In the summer of 2015, he published a paper as first author in Computers and Human Behavior about how video games can be used to manage negative emotions. He and graduate student Alanna Peebles received a fellowship through the Fred Rogers’ Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, which funded a study exploring how touch screens can be used to aid children’s socio-emotional learning from animated cartoons. In Fall 2017, he began his faculty position in the School of Communication at The Ohio State University.

Michael T. Braun is a research specialist at the Children and Family Research Center, part of the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on child and family welfare through the lens of family communication and communication technology use. He has three degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison: a B.A. in English literature, an M.A. in Communication Arts, and a PhD in Communication Arts with a minor in Education Psychology (statistical methods). Dr. Braun’s specific research considers the role digital literacy plays in online child welfare; with his advisor Lyn Van Swol, he has also published extensively in the field of deception and hopes to continue this line of inquiry in a social work context.

Mina Choi is a lecturer at UW-Madison in the Department of Communication Arts. She received her PhD and her M.A. from University of Wisconsin – Madison. The title of her Master’s thesis was “The patterns and effects of social sharing on media and Facebook.” As part of her research, she led a paper about the relationships between narcissism and online self-presentational behaviors, especially on Facebook and online dating sites. Additionally, she worked on a project with her advisor, Catalina Toma, regarding the patterns and effects of media use between romantic partners. She has taught CA 368 (Theory and Practice of Persuasion) and CA 260 (Communication and Human Behavior).

Jon D’Angelo is a lecturer at Edgewood College. He is interested in the psychological impact of new communication technology, with an eye towards impression management and social influence in health contexts. He was lead author on “The formation of credibility impressions of physicians on Facebook and WebMD: Positivity, negativity, and non-normativity effects” which was published in Communication Research, and he was 2nd or 3rd author on papers published in Computers in Human Behavior, Psycho-Oncology, and Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. Additionally, he was 1 of 12 graduate students selected and funded from an international pool of over 100 to attend the Doctoral Workshop Developing Best Practices for Using Digital Tools to Study Human Behavior in Online Environments at Northwestern University.

Cassandra Hill is currently a faculty member the Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. She graduated from UW Madison with her PhD in Communication Arts and a minor in Education Psychology Statistical Methods. She received her M.A. from CSU-Fullerton where her research in pedagogical practices led to consultant-reviewing and the development of the online companion site materials for O’Hair and Wiemann’s (2012) basic course textbook Real Communication. Her research examines communication approaches to perception, decision-making, and empathic perspective-taking, particularly in the interpersonal persuasion processes of parental advice-giving, group deliberation, and online social networking.

Alexander Harwood completed his M.A. at UW-Madison. His master’s thesis,”Do people defend their worldview when there will be no world left to defend?”, explored terror management theory in the context of an apocalypse.

Gang Jing received his M.A. at UW-Madison. His research explored the potential discursive nature of and expression pluralism on Sina Weibo. His work was published in the Asian Journal of Communication, and he was the recipient of the 2012 Summer UW-Madison Chancellor’s Fellowship.

Miranda Kolb is a current staff member at 2G Engineering. She received her MA and PhD in the Department of Communication Arts under the mentorship of Professor Lyn Van Swol. Her research interests focus on small group communication, specifically interventions that help to improve discussion and decision making. Recent projects have been on topics such as information sharing, minority influence, and mindfulness. For her dissertation, she investigated how mindfulness interventions may help groups better pool and discuss information.

Valerie Kretz is an Assistant Professor at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. She is interested in the socializing effects of entertainment media and the advertisements that accompany it. She particularly focuses on media’s role in the cultural construction of gender, race, and relationships.

Andrew Prahlprahl-small is an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information. He asks the question: just how much do we trust computers? Specifically, how do we react when a computer gives us advice as opposed to a human? Andrew’s research primarily applies this research question to operational decision-making and human-computer relationships in organizations. His research projects, with his advisor Lyn Van Swol, includes advice scenarios in sales forecasting, hospital operations, and automated workplaces.

Gayathri Sivakumar sivakumar-smallis an Assistant Professor at Colorado State University. Her dissertation examined the effects of exposure to online health information on people’s beliefs, compliance, and trust in their doctors. She was involved in a study with Marie-Louise Mares and Laura Stephenson on children’s understandings of race and ethnicity. Additionally, she worked with Wenjie Yan at identifying the factors that influence the quality of political discussions in online sports forums.

Laura Stephenson is a community organizer who focuses on children’s media use. She received her PhD from UW-Madison and her M.A. from University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School. Her research focuses on the role of television in the home, specifically understanding parental mediation and the impact of family life stage. Her driving question is how do parents use media within the home at different stages of their child(ren)’s development to strengthen the parent-child relationship? She was involved in a project with Marie-Louise Mares, Amy Nathanson (The Ohio State University) and Nicole Martins (Indiana University) on parental conflict surrounding children’s media use. During her time at UW-Madison, she held an Advanced Opportunity Fellowship, given by the Graduate School. This competitive, merit-based fellowship is intended to increase the racial and ethnic diversity of the graduate student population at UW-Madison.


Wenjie Yan is the Associate Director for the Institute of Journalism of Social Development at Zhejiang University. She is generally interested in the interplay between media effects, psychological impact, and citizen participation. During her time at UW-Madison, she was actively involved in a number of CCR research projects on civic engagement in the contexts of U.S. and Chinese societies. Her dissertation investigated how the differences in public opinions and ideologies affect deliberative engagement via individuals’ egocentric attributions of bias to others.

Jiawen Zheng is a researcher at Nanjing University in the School of Journalism and Communication. She received her PhD from the Department of Communication Arts at UW-Madison, and she received her Master’s degree in Communication Studies from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. One line of her research interests deal with deliberative democracy, information processing, and people’s epistemic motivations. The second line of her research focuses on new media technology and its potential impacts on participation, especially in China.