June 2, 2023

Rao Speaks at Virginia Professional Communicators Conference

Anand Rao speaking about generative AI at the VPC Conference

Professor of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao gave a guest presentation at the Virginia Professional Communicators Conference held in Fredericksburg on Friday, May 5, 2023. The title of his talk was “ChatGPT and Communication: How Generative AI Will Transform Our Field.” He discussed recent developments in generative AI, how GAI could be used by communication professionals, and some concerns about how GAI could be misused.

Johnson-Young Presents on Birth Trauma Communication

Assistant Professor of Communication Elizabeth Johnson-Young

Associate Professor of Communication Elizabeth Johnson-Young

Associate Professor of Communication Elizabeth Johnson-Young presented her paper, “Birth, Trauma, and Communicating Maternal Health” at the annual conference of the Eastern Communication Association in Baltimore, Maryland. The paper was presented during a panel hosted by the Health Communication division focused on maternal and reproductive health. The paper focused on birth choices, experiences, and perceptions of traumatic or challenging birth experiences. Maternal and postpartum health is a topic of importance in the United States, given increasing maternal mortality rates (MacDorman, Declercg, Cabral, & Morton, 2016), recognition of factors involved in postpartum depression and anxiety, and increasing rates of inductions and cesarean births (c-sections) despite the risks that come with them (Betran et al., 2018; Sandall et al., 2018). Birth trauma and psychological responses to birth trauma most often refer to situations in which the mother’s or child’s life is put at risk (i.e. NIH, 2013); however, a simple search on social and popular media reveals a host of other experiences women may have that they define as traumatic, the consequences of which can impact their mental health, who they trust when it comes to their maternal healthcare, and future decisions regarding birth. The project addressed the research question: What communication choices and strategies do women use after a negative birth experience? Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews of women who personally define their birth experience as difficult or traumatic, the paper discussed the potential consequences of listening, language, and support.


Assistant Professor of Communication Adria Goldman, and Professor of Communication and Communication and Digital Studies Department Chair Anand Rao also presented at the conference on March 30, 2023. Their panel, Collaborative Team-Based and Experiential Learning as a Path to Student Innovation in Communication, which included Johnson-Young, explored examples and lessons from team-based collaborative learning experiences from multiple institutions. During the interactive discussion, panel members brought expertise from their classrooms and roles in their school that demonstrated purposeful collaborative learning. In each of the cases, a focus on student engagement with one another and the outside community was key, as students learned to situate themselves as communication scholars and practitioners. UMW presenters shared examples and ideas from Visual Rhetoric, Senior Seminar in Digital Rhetoric, and Small Group Communication. Panel members from other institutes presented projects from courses such as Public Relations and Game Design.


Rao Publishes Book on Chat GPT

Professor of Communication Anand Rao co-authored and co-edited a new book, Chat(GPT): Navigating the Impact of Generative AI Technologies on Educational Theory and Practice, with a host of other authors and three other editors. The book, in which educators discuss ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence tools, was published by Pedagogy Ventures and is listed as the No. 1 new release in Curricula and in the Top 10 for Educational Professional Development. It includes 38 chapters and essays, 14 appendixes and more than 600 pages. The authors’ goal is to help prepare educators for fall 2023 as AI is most likely to continue to disrupt and transform education at all levels. Read more.

Professors Turn to ChatGPT to Teach Students a Lesson (The Wall Street Journal)

Rao Referenced in ‘Wall Street Journal’ Discussion of ChatGPT

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao contributed to a Wall Street Journal article on ChatGPT titled “Professors Turn to ChatGPT to Teach Students a Lesson; The powerful paper-writing chatbot presents an educational challenge: Ban it or build on it?” published on Jan. 25, 2023. Rao discussed the impact the generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, will have on knowledge production. Read more.

The article also was published in Elite News“It really seems to change the nature of knowledge production itself,” Rao said. Read more.

Rao also contributed to a webinar titled “Generative AI and ChatGPT: The Short and Long-Term Impacts on Education” on Wednesday, Jan. 18. His presentation focused on higher education and included discussion of how ChatGPT could be used by students to cheat, but also opportunities for use of ChatGPT in the classroom to support the student writing process. He also outlined broader concerns about generative AI, including algorithmic bias and AI’s use of other artist’s creative work. Discover information about the webinar, including a soon-to-be-released recording.

Professors Turn To ChatGPT To Teach Students A Lesson (Elite News)

Rao Named to Richmond Forum Board of Directors

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor of Communication Anand Rao joined the Board of Directors of the Richmond Forum this summer and will serve a three-year term to support the work of The Forum and its Speech and Debate Initiative. Rao, who serves as chair of UMW’s Department of Communication and Digital Studies, has presented at dozens of national and international academic conferences, and regularly serves as a consultant and workshop leader for academic programs in the United States. He has more than 25 years of experience with speech and debate at the high school and college level and served as a consultant on a documentary about the National Debate Tournament.

The Richmond Forum is the largest nonprofit lecture series in America and produces five programs each year. The biggest and most influential names in the world have taken the stage at The Richmond Forum, including past U.S. presidents, sitting heads of state and leaders from the sciences, arts, business and more. In 2018, the Richmond Forum created the Speech and Debate Initiative with the goal of having high-performing speech and debate activities in every public middle and high school in the Richmond region by 2025, the 250th anniversary of Patrick Henry’s historic speech. National Speech & Debate Association Executive Director Scott Wunn recognized the importance of this initiative, stating “the Richmond Forum has the potential to spark a national trend in which independent nonprofits work closely with local school districts, statewide organizations and the NSDA to strengthen speech and debate in their communities.”

Rao has regularly contributed to Richmond area debate student workshops and this August was an invited speaker for The Forum’s inaugural coaches workshop training 25 new speech and debate coaches in the region.

UMW Presents Top Faculty Awards

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews earned the Grellet C. Simpson Award, the University of Mary Washington’s most prestigious honor for excellence in undergraduate teaching, established in 1972 and presented to a senior faculty member.

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

Professor of Religion Mary Beth Mathews

She was one of several professors honored at the fall semester’s opening faculty meeting. Most awards generally are presented at Commencement; this year, limited attendance at graduation ceremonies deferred some presentations.

As the most recent recipient of the award, Mathews was praised for her “spellbinding” lectures. She “challenges a broad community of students to think critically and reflect, both in and beyond the classroom,” said Associate Professor of Linguistics Janie Lee, chair of UMW’s Sabbaticals, Fellowships and Faculty Awards committee.

Mathews, who has taught at Mary Washington for 21 years, is a leading scholar of American – particularly African-American – and European religious history. She has led the charge to create UMW’s interdisciplinary African American studies minor and will serve as the program’s first director, beginning this year.

Described by Lee as a “pioneer in digital pedagogy and distance learning,” Mathews has team-taught a digital course, Divided Houses: Secession and Separatists Movements, and taught the Race & Revolution and Religion & Social Movements in the U.S. First -Year Seminars.

Professor of Communication Anand Rao received the J. Christopher “Topher” Bill Award for his contributions to the University and involvement and leadership in the greater community. Since 2003, this honor has been presented annually to a full-time member of the teaching faculty who has served at UMW for at least seven years and has a significant record of service accomplishments.

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Rao’s “university and college service alone fills more than a page of his CV,” Lee said. In his 19 years at Mary Washington, he has held critical leadership roles on and off campus, serving twice as University Faculty Council chair and leading the Faculty Senate of Virginia. Rao also launched UMW’s Communication and Digital Studies major and department, which he currently chairs.

During the pandemic, Rao participated in the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 Education Response and Recovery work group and co-facilitated UMW’s popular COVID-19 in Context and Life After COVID courses.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Science Pamela Grothe ’06 received the UMW Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, given annually to an exceptional faculty member who has served the University for at least two years but no more than five.

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Pamela Grothe

Grothe returned a decade after her graduation to serve as a professor at her alma mater, where she has excelled in the areas of teaching, research and service. She “truly goes above and beyond,” Lee said, citing Grothe’s willingness to mentor students, manage her department’s social media accounts, serve on various university committees, and engage with current and prospective students, as well as alumni.

In addition, Grothe has developed a new study abroad course for students and secured a Virtual Library of Virginia grant to teach courses with Open Access Resources, Lee said, all while managing a heavy teaching load.

Among faculty who received awards during Commencement week earlier this year were Professor of Mathematics Janusz Konieczny, who earned the Waple Faculty Professional Achievement Award; and Professor of Marketing Kashef Majid, recipient of the Mary W. Pinschmidt Award, annually presented by the graduating class. Professor of Biological Science Andrew Dolby received the inaugural Board of Visitors Faculty Leadership Award.

UMW Offers Free Course to All: ‘Life After COVID’

Building on the enthusiastic response to last year’s COVID-19 in Context course, the University of Mary Washington is offering another free, open-to-all series in June. Life After COVID, delivered to homes, backyards and porches via Zoom and YouTube, will run Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 1 to July 1.

Life After COVID artwork featuring a man on a ladder leaning on a coronavirus cell, looking through a telescope. “We view opportunities such as the Life After COVID course as part of our mission as a public liberal arts and sciences institution,” said UMW College of Arts and Sciences Dean Keith Mellinger, who is co-facilitating the course with Assistant Dean Betsy Lewis and Communication and Digital Studies Chair Anand Rao.

UMW’s largest course ever, last year’s COVID-19 in Context event reached nearly 2,000 participants in 39 states, plus Washington, D.C., and countries across the globe, including Canada, England, France, Switzerland, Japan and Ghana. Like its predecessor, the course this summer will bring together current and incoming students, alumni, parents, community members, faculty and staff to explore timely COVID-related topics, Rao said. “It’s a big tent for academic discussion, which is the best model of what higher education can provide in today’s world.” Read more.

Rao Interviewed About Gandhi’s Influence on James Farmer

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies Anand Rao

The legacy of Mahatma Gandhi goes well beyond the Indian Freedom Struggle. He has influenced countless movements and struggles for freedom and democracy around the world, decolonization struggles, including the civil rights movement within the United States.

The Metta Center for Nonviolence interviewed P. Anand Rao (Professor of Communication, Chair of the Department of Communication and Digital Studies) to discuss Gandhi’s influence on Dr. James Farmer and the American Civil Rights Movement. The interview is part of the Metta Center’s podcast, “Nonviolence Radio,” and the interview was conducted by UMW alum Stephanie Van Hook. The interview can be found at: https://mettacenter.org/ppr/gandhis-influence-on-dr-james-farmer/