By Bianca De Paz

Originally from Jamaica, Dr. Kallia O. Wright recently joined the School of Communication faculty as an assistant professor and qualitative researcher specializing in intercultural health communication. More specifically, she studies communication about women’s reproductive health.

Before finding her research interest, she completed her master’s and doctoral studies at Ohio University. Today, her research focuses on Black maternal health experiences and communicative experiences regarding endometriosis.

Dr. Wright says she is thrilled to be a part of the School of Communication and is teaching two courses – Communication Theory (COS 220) and Intercultural Communication (COS 545).

Here’s a look at Dr. Wright’s research and her journey to UM:

Can you tell me about your research and what led you to your field?

As a graduate student, my areas of specialization were intercultural communication and health communication. Specifically, I looked at how culture impacts how we communicate and perceive our health. Over the years, I have started looking at Black women’s health. The research that started me on this process was looking at how Jamaican women spoke about endometriosis. I interviewed a few Jamaican women to ask how they communicated with others about endometriosis, and then in more recent years, I’ve been looking at Black women’s maternal health. For instance, you’ll see in the news how Black women are almost three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related illnesses than white women. Last year, I interviewed Black women who gave birth in the United States in 2019 and 2020, and that’s where my research is now focused.

How did you first become interested in your research areas?

I did my master’s and doctoral studies at Ohio University, and I believe that’s when those questions began. Back in Jamaica, I did my undergraduate and specialized in Television production. I either wanted to be in front or behind the camera. When I did my master’s, I specialized in public relations and thought I was going to work back in the industry. Then I did this one class – Diffusion of Innovations and it talked about health-related stuff and I thought, wow this is really interesting to me.

What are your goals as a professor and researcher?

As a teacher, I’m hoping that students will develop a better appreciation and understanding of communication through the courses. They’ll see how communication is important when you’re talking to someone from a different culture and be more aware that there’s a lot more to culture to understand than just language. As a researcher, I’m hoping that I can make my mark as someone who’s asking questions about health as it is experienced by a marginalized group. I’m hoping that in 10 years, people will look back at the research that I’ve published and see me as an expert in asking and investigating questions about communication regarding Black women’s health.

What class do you enjoy teaching the most?

My favorite class to teach is Intercultural Communication – I’m from a different culture, and I enjoy talking to students about how I perceive things differently than others. But at the same time, I enjoy both classes because the conversations are quite lively. In general, students are willing to give examples and challenge concepts that are taught.

Which publication are you most proud of?

I just received an acceptance for a manuscript on the Black woman’s maternal health, which will be published by the Journal of Applied Communication Research in 2022. However, one of my proudest publications is from my dissertation, where I funded a lot of the research and interviewed people with family members with Type 2 diabetes. Although, it was such a challenging experience for me, I’m really pleased that it got published not in a communication journal but in the Journal for Learning through the Arts.

What is your biggest piece of advice for students?

Be willing to explore as many fields as you possibly can and recognize that you will grow.