The Annenberg School Welcomes 17 New Doctoral Students

Learn about where they've lived, their previous work experience, and what they study.

By Ashton Yount

This semester, the Annenberg School for Communication welcomed 17 new doctoral students. One of the largest classes in recent years, this group of students includes animal lovers, musicians, cooking and baking enthusiasts, writers, and outdoor adventurers.  

Many of the students cite traveling as a hobby, and some of them have even had the opportunity to live in interesting places all around the world. Originally hailing from Spain, Mia Jovanova, who studies neuroscience and health communication, has also lived in Macedonia. Interested in journalistic practice and comparative global communication, Florence Madenga grew up in Zimbabwe and has lived in France and Tanzania. Mary E. Andrews, who has lived in Kenya and Belgium, came to Annenberg to study health communication and social neuroscience. Focused on online political behavior and political socialization through social media, Tyler Leigh has lived in Spain, Norway, and France.

Nine of the new students arrive to Annenberg having already earned a master’s degree. Staci L. Jones, who studies critical race theory and performativity, received her graduate degree in Communication from the University of Cincinnati. Interested in discursive race and class formation and social welfare, Arlene Fernández holds a master’s in social work from Penn’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Andrew Wirzburger has a graduate degree in media studies from Syracuse University, and he studies political consent and dissent and corporate speech. Focusing her studies on entertainment and social justice and advocacy communication, Kelly Diaz earned a master’s degree in international affairs from Penn State University.

The new students bring a variety of interesting work experience with them to Annenberg. Antoine Haywood, who studies community media and the history of media institutions, most recently worked at PhillyCAM as the Membership and Outreach Director. Focused on international political communication, Lizzie Martin has held several positions within the U.S. State Department. Roopa Vasudevan, who is interested in the intersection of art, archive, and technology and practices as a visual artist, has worked in a variety of positions at MTV Networks and most recently taught in NYU Shanghai’s Interactive Media Arts program. Studying digital culture and social media, Isabelle Langrock has worked on the operations team at Girls Who Code. Alex Tolkin studies online political discourse and social networks, and he previously worked as a data scientist at Locus Analytics.

Research is an integral part of the completion of a doctoral degree, and the new students are no strangers to interesting and rigorous research. Interested in health communication and persuasion, Emma Jesch worked as a research associate and lab manager at Cornell University’s health communication lab. Jeanna Sybert, who focuses on critical journalism studies and popular culture, conducted research for her undergraduate thesis on the American perception of the Syrian Civil War. Studying health and health research disparities, Ava Kikut worked on a genetic study on glaucoma in African-Americans. Brendan Mahoney, who studies critical theory and quantitative methods and microeconomics, worked as a research assistant at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln on a National Science Foundation project.

Welcome, new students!