We serve as a resource to the media and community. We study human communication as it shapes and is shaped by relationships, institutions, technology, and culture—specifically the creation, analysis, and critique of messages ranging from face-to-face to digital media contexts.

Our main areas of expertise are: Interpersonal, Family and Health Communication and Rhetoric and Public Culture.


Our contact person is department chair Jody Koenig Kellas at 402-472-2070. You can contact experts directly, or Dr. Kellas can direct you to someone.

Allison R. Bonander, PhD, Director of Speech, Assistant Professor of Practice

Speech & Debate, Interpersonal & Family Communication

Expertise Key Words:

  • Public Speaking
  • Speech and Debate
  • Gender and Communication
  • Sex, sexual orientation, sexuality and communication
  • Sex education
  • Family communication

Contact information:

Email: allisonbonander@unl.edu

Mobile Phone: 402-690-8152

Website: http://comm.unl.edu/allison-bonander 

Allison R. Bonander (PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is the Director of UNL Speech Team. In addition to winning the 8 Big 10 Conference Titles, the UNL speech team is placed in the AFA-NST top ten schools. In 2017, Allison earned the American Forensics Association's Outstanding New Forensics Coach award. Allison has coached multiple national champions and national finalists.

Allison's research focuses on gender communication and conversations regarding sex education. Her focus is primarily family communication, gay and lesbian parenting, and communication centered in gender and sexuality. Allison's research investigates how family contexts navigate conversations about sex from a parent's perspective, the perspective of children, and various sexual orientations. Additionally, Allison is interested in understanding how gender manifests itself within cultural, social, and familial contexts.


Charles Braithwaite, PhD, Emeritus
Center for Great Plains Studies, Department of Communication Studies

Intercultural Communication

Expertise Key Words:

  • International communication
  • Nonverbal communication (gestures, silence)
  • Cultural Studies: American Indians, Pakistan, Turkey, Russia, Costa Rica
  • Interviewing

Contact information:  Dr. Chuck Braithwaite

Email: cbraithwaite2@unl.edu

Mobile Phone: 402-450-2457

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/charles-braithwaite

Dr. Chuck Braithwaite (PhD University of Washington) is a UNL Emeritus research professor. He worked in the Center for Great Plains Studies where he was the editor of the Great Plains Quarterly for 21 years. He also served as a senior lecturer in the Communication Studies Department, specializing in cultural and intercultural communication, and taught courses on interviewing, nonverbal communication, and communication in international organizations. He was named a Master Teacher by the Western States Communication Association.

Dr. Braithwaite was the founding Academic Director of the Global Classroom Project, which linked UNL classes via internet video conferencing to classrooms in Costa Rica; Japan; Oman; Pakistan; Russia; Spain; Turkey; and Yemen. His international experience includes serving as a North Vietnamese interpreter for the US Navy, and studying international business communication along the U.S./Mexican border. He has a special interest in Native American higher education, and has conducted research with the Navajo, Omaha, Santee, and HoChunk. Dr. Braithwaite has been awarded numerous grants, including a Fulbright Specialist Grant by the U. S. Department of State.


Dawn O. Braithwaite, PhD, Willa Cather Professor Emeritus

Interpersonal & Family Communication


  • Communication during relationship and family change and challenges
  • Nontraditional Families (stepfamily, post-divorce, voluntary family [fictive, chosen])
  • Family routines, traditions, and rituals
  • Privacy and communication
  • Group and team communication

Contact information: 


Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Mobile Phone: 402-540-8414

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/dawn-o-braithwaite  

Dawn O. Braithwaite (PhD, University of Minnesota) is a Willa Cather Professor of Communication Chair of the department specializing in Interpersonal & Family Communication. Her research focuses on how those in personal and family relationships communicate during times of transitions and stress. She studies how nontraditional families communicate and become a family and communicate inside and outside the family to deal with challenges such as managing privacy, conflict, changing routines and rituals, especially in stepfamily and voluntary family relationships.

Dr. Braithwaite is the author of over 125 articles, chapters and five books. She received the National Communication Association's Brommel Award for Outstanding Scholarship/Service in Family Communication and the UNL College of Arts & Sciences Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Achievement in the Social Sciences. She was named the Distinguished Scholar of the Western States Communication Association in 2014.Dr. Braithwaite was President of the 8,000-member National Communication Association in 2010 and is a Senior Research Fellow of the Council on Contemporary Families.


Kathy Castle. PhD, Director of Undergraduate Education, Associate Professor of Practice

Business and Professional Communication, Interpersonal, Family, and Health Communication

Expertise Key Words:

  • Business and Professional Communication
  • Public speaking
  • Family Communication in Illness
  • Communication in Chronic Illness
  • Communication in Conflict
  • Leadership Communication

Contact information:

Email: kcastle4@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Mobile Phone: 402-217-2198

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/kathy-castle

Kathy Castle (PhD., University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is the Director of Business and Professional Communication. This innovative flipped course educates approximately 1500 students each year with a focus on helping students become proficient in interpersonal communication, small group communication, and organizational communication competencies in the business environment. This course also teaches students how to organize, research, and present business presentations and Professor Castle has expertise in all these areas.

Kathy's research is focused primarily on communication in the context of chronic illness. Specifically, Kathy is interested in understanding how the way we talk in families, with friends, and with medical providers shapes how we understand, experience, and navigate chronic illness. Additionally, Kathy is interested in and beginning research in understanding dialogic approaches to conflict and conflict management.


Aaron Duncan, PhD Director of Speech & Debate, Associate Professor of Practice

Speech & Debate, Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise Key Words:

  • Public speaking
  • Speech and debate
  • Political Communication and elections
  • Popular culture and television
  • Gambling

Contact information:

Email: aduncan3@unl.edu

Mobile Phone: 402-450-7830

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/aaron-duncan 

Aaron Duncan (PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is the Director of the UNL Speech & Debate program which regularly places in the top ten in the nation out of over 100 college and universities at the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (AFA-NEIT) and has won the Big Ten tournament since Nebraska entered the conference.  He has coached multiple national champions, dozens of state champions, and worked with the E. N. Thompson Forum on debate events while at UNL. 

Aaron’s research specializes in political communication and cultural studies. His focus is political communication, gambling, media interpretations of political events, and popular culture.  He has published articles related to the growth of gambling in America, the changing nature of the American dream, the role of popular television shows in shaping public discourse, and the importance of video games in popular culture.


Kristen Hoerl, PhD, Associate Professor

Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise Key Words:

  • Film and television criticism
  • Activism
  • Civil Rights, Feminism, Anti-Vietnam War movements
  • The 1960s in popular culture

Contact information:

Email: khoerl2@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Mobile Phone: 512-796-3510

Website: http://comm.unl.edu/kristen-hoerl 

Kristen Hoerl (PhD, The University of Texas at Austin) is an Associate Professor of Communication specializing in Rhetoric and Public Culture. She teaches courses in social movements, gender and women's studies, argumentation and media studies. Her research focuses on how movies, television, and news reports portray public controversies, political violence and dissent. She is particularly interested in understanding what lessons popular culture provides us about civic engagement and social justice movements.

Dr. Kristen Hoerl has published essays in several book chapters and in a variety of journals including The Quarterly Journal of Speech, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, and Communication, Culture, and Critique. Her 2018 book, The Bad Sixties: Hollywood Memories of the Counterculture, Antiwar, and Black Power Movements explores how television and film have portrayed 1960s era protest movements in ways that buttressed conservative politics after 1980. She is the past editor of the national, scholarly peer-reviewed journal Women's Studies in Communication.


Casey Kelly, PhD, Associate Professor

Rhetoric & Public Culture

Expertise Key Words:

  • Masculinity
  • Sexuality and Pop Culture
  • American Indian Studies
  • Film and Television Studies
  • Food Culture

Contact information:

Email: ckelly11@unl.edu

Phone: 612-670-9406

Website: https://comm.unl.edu/casey-kelly 

Dr. Casey Ryan Kelly, Associate Professor, studies at intersection between rhetoric and cultural studies and explores a range of cultural proxy wars concerning gender, race, and nationalism, including food and globalization, masculinity, sexuality and film, pop culture and racism, and American Indian self-determination. He is author of Abstinence Cinema: Virginity and the Rhetoric of Sexual Purity in Contemporary Film (Rutgers University Press, 2016), Food Television and Other in an Age of Globalization (Lexington, 2017) and co-editor of Decolonizing Native American Rhetoric (Peter Lang). His research has appeared in the Quarterly Journal of SpeechText and Performance QuarterlyCommunication and Critical/Cultural Studies, among others. Kelly is the 2017 recipient of National Communication Association’s Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division’s Early Career Award and the 2015 NCA Critical/Cultural Studies Division's New Investigator Award.


Justin Ward Kirk, PhD Associate Director of Speech & Debate, Assistant Professor of Practice

Speech and Debate, Rhetoric and Public Culture

Expertise Key Words:

  • Public Speaking
  • Speech and Debate
  • Rhetorical analysis
  • Presidential rhetoric
  • Argumentation
  • Civic engagement

Contact information:

Email: jkirk11@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2069

Mobile Phone: 214-724-3916

Website: http://comm.unl.edu/justin-kirk

Justin W. Kirk (PhD, University of Kansas) is the Associate Director of UNL Speech & Debate, serving as the Director of Debate. Justin’s research focuses on the intersections of ideological commitment, public policy, and the rhetorical presidency. Specifically, he is concerned with the impact of ideological and partisan commitment in shaping how citizens view public policy debates. His dissertation research examined three major eulogies delivered by President Obama in the wake of mass shootings across the United States. Justin has coached intercollegiate debate since 2004 for the University of Texas-Dallas, the University of Kansas and Pepperdine University.


Jody Koenig Kellas, PhD, Professor and Chair

Interpersonal, Family, and Health Communication


  • Storytelling and narrative sense-making in relationships and families (the links between storytelling and health)
  • Individual, relational, and interactional well-being
  • Communication in the context of health and illness (e.g., cancer)
  • The dark side of interpersonal and family communication and relationships

Contact information:

Email: jkellas2@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Mobile Phone: 402-570-9063

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/jody-koenig-kellas 

Jody Koenig Kellas (PhD, University of Washington) is Willa Cather Professor and Department Chair of Communication Studies specializing in Interpersonal, Family & Health Communication. She is founder of the research lab Narrative Nebraska and author of Communicated Narrative Sense-making theory (Koenig Kellas, 2022, 2018), and co-creator of the Communicated Sense-making model (Koenig Kellas & Kranstuber Horstman, 2015). Dr. Koenig Kellas examines the links between storytelling and health, including how the content (retrospective) and process (interactional) of storytelling help to explain and are explained by individual, relational, and interactional health. Her work in Narrative Nebraska involves observational, self-report, and experimental mixed methods, and she and her colleagues design interventions (i.e., translational storytelling workshops) designed to improve the health and well-being of participants.

Dr. Koenig Kellas has published her research in Communication Monographs, Human Communication Research, The Journal of Social and Personal RelationshipsThe Journal of Family Communication. and many other outlets and books. She has been the Chair of the Family Communication Division of the National Communication Association and she has won many awards for her scholarship and teaching.


Kathleen J. Krone, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Organizational Communication


  • Organizing Social Change
  • Cultural Approach to Organizational Change
  • Communication and Conflict Management

Contact information: 

Email:  kkrone1@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Home Phone: 402-489-8491

Website(s): comm.unl.edu/kathy-krone  

Kathleen J. Krone (PhD The University of Texas-Austin), a Professor of Communication Studies specializing in of Organizational Communication. She has studied the use of upward influence tactics in organizations, patterns of influence in leader-member relationships, and the experience and expression of emotion in the workplace. She also has studied managerial conflict in Sino-American joint ventures, stakeholder turning points in community consensus building, and leadership and organizing processes in transnational feminist networks.  

Dr. Krone has published over 50 articles and book chapters in outlets such as Management Communication Quarterly, the Journal of Applied Communication Research, and the Handbook of Communication Science. She has served as Forum Editor for the journal Management Communication Quarterly and is a is a past Chair of the Organizational Communication Division of the National Communication Association.


Ronald Lee, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Rhetoric & Public Culture


  • Politics
  • Poverty
  • Public discourse
  • Race
  • Religion

Contact information: 

Email: rlee1@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Home Phone: 402-484-8332

Mobile Phone: 402-540-0260

Website(s):  comm.unl.edu/ronald-lee 

Ronald Lee (PhD, University of Iowa) is a Professor of Communication Studies specializing in Rhetoric & Public Culture. He has been on the faculty at UNL since 1991. He publishes work dealing with contemporary American political discourse.  His research projects have dealt with the rhetorical construction of presidential legacies, the discourses of poverty, the mythical use of American place in national politics, the evolving standards of journalistic coverage of religion, and the use of race in post-civil-rights era political discourse. 


Angela Palmer-Wackerly, PhD, Assistant Professor

Health, Interpersonal, & Intergroup Communication


  • Patient well-being and social support
  • Family treatment decision-making
  • Illness identity, self-disclosure, and stigma
  • Rural health equity
  • Community engagement research

Contact information:

Email: apalmer-wackerly2@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Mobile Phone: 614-561-9215

Website(s):  http://comm.unl.edu/angela-palmer-wackerly  

Angela Palmer-Wackerly (PhD, The Ohio State University) is an Assistant Professor specializing in health communication. She examines the ways in which interpersonal and intergroup communication processes can be used to improve health and well-being in sensitive health contexts and underserved communities. Specifically, her research explores identity, social support, and family decision-making during chronic illness. She uses mixed methods and community-based participatory research (CBPR) principles to seek interdisciplinary solutions to community-defined problems, such as support gaps during patients’ cancer and infertility treatment decision-making. Her studies have investigated self-disclosure, support, risk, literacy, culture, and illness identity in cancer, infertility, and HIV.

Dr. Angela Palmer-Wackerly has published her work in journals, such as Health Communication, The American Journal of Community Psychology, and Journal of Language and Social Psychology. She is currently serving as the secretary of the Intergroup Communication Interest Group of the International Communication Association.

Jordan Soliz, PhD,  Professor

Intergroup and Family Communication


  • Communicating across difference
  • Changing bias and prejudice through interactions
  • Multiethnic-racial families and relationships
  • Racial and ethnic identity
  • Interfaith families and relationships

Contact information: 

Email:  jsoliz2@unl.edu

Work Phone: 402-472-2070

Website(s):  comm.unl.edu/jordan-soliz

Dr. Soliz studies communication and intergroup processes primarily in family and personal relationships. Current projects focus on communication in multiethnic-racial families and interfaith families with a goal toward understanding communicative dynamics associated with individual well-being and relational-family solidarity. He also investigates outcomes of intergroup contact and intergroup dialogue that minimize negative outgroup attitudes (e.g., racism, ageism) and socialization processes that lead to secure self-concept and/or buffer effects of discrimination. In addition to various edited volumes, his work has been published in Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Identity: An International Journal of Theory and ResearchCommunication Monographs, Communication Quarterly, Communication Research, Journal of Family Communication, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Journal of Language and Social Psychology. Dr. Soliz is the past editor of the Journal of Family Communication and past Chair of the Intergroup Communication Interest Group of the International Communication Association.  Dr. Soliz is the current course director for COMM 311: Intercultural and Intergroup Communication.