Faculty research spotlight: Elizabeth Wilhoit, Communication
Elizabeth Wilhoit is an assistant professor of communication in the School of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts. She received her bachelor’s degree from Wheaton College and her master’s and doctorate degrees from Purdue University. Her research focuses on three areas within organizational communication. First, she studies the role of non-humans and materiality in organizations, asking questions about how aspects of organizations like space, technology, and transportation make a difference in the ontology of organizations. Second, she explores issues of organizing and the question of what is an organization through studying groups like bicycle commuters. Third, her research considers gendered careers and organizations, seeking to understand how women gain agency at work. Wilhoit's research has been published in outlets including Organization Studies, Communication Yearbook, Gender, Work & Organization, Field Methods, Journal of Organizational Change Management, Journal of Communication and Religion, Language Under Discussion, and The International Encyclopedia of Organizational Communication. Wilhoit has received multiple awards and recognitions including being a Lilly Graduate Fellow, a Monroe Scholar, an Andrews Fellow, a recipient of the Redding Scholarship, and several top paper awards from national and regional conferences.
Here, in an interview with Jaylin Goodwin (who is a graduate student who works for the office of communication and marketing in the College of Liberal Arts), Wilhoit talks about her background, her upcoming publications, and what she likes to do in her free time.
JG: Would you tell us about yourself, please?
EW: I’m originally from the Chicago suburbs. I went to school in Illinois and Indiana, so Alabama is the furthest I’ve lived away from home in the US. However, I love to travel and was able to spend extended periods of time in Switzerland and France during my undergrad. While I was getting my PhD, I spent a semester studying and doing research at the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) in Denmark. I also had the chance to teach at CBS for a semester before joining the faculty at Auburn. In my free time I like to run, play board games, garden, and cook.
JG: How did you become interested in communication?
EW: I found my field in an unusual way. When I started college, I was interested in film production. I started as a radio/TV/film major at another school and then transferred to Wheaton in my sophomore year. I was out of the country when the enrollment paperwork came for Wheaton, and I told my mom to fill it out for me. I told her to put my major as undecided, since Wheaton didn’t have an RTVF major. Instead, she chose communication for me because she thought I would get better advising if I had a major. When I showed up at Wheaton, my communication advisor suggested that I take at least one communication class to see what it was like and I was hooked from the first course.
JG: What has been the most rewarding or enjoyable part of your position here?
EW: I’ve really enjoyed the students at Auburn. My undergraduate classes involve projects and assignments that require students to apply what they’re learning outside of the classroom, and I have been very impressed with how willing my students have been to take risks and challenge themselves in these assignments.
JG: What is your favorite thing about living in Auburn?
EW: I love the community in Auburn. There’s a wonderful mix of people who have lived in Auburn their whole lives and people who have moved to Auburn from all over the world to work at the university. Being involved in AORTA (Auburn Opelika Running and Track Association), attending Trinity Lutheran Church, playing board games with Auburn Board Gamers, sitting on the advisory board for the AU Community Garden, and going to Sundilla concerts have been some of my favorite ways to meet people and engage with the Auburn community.
JG: What is your best piece of advice for students pursuing a career in communication?
EW: You develop a lot of in-demand skills while majoring in communication! Students often feel like their strong oral and written communication skills, experience working in groups, leadership on class projects and campus organizations, and critical thinking skills are not valuable to employers, but they are. There are a lot of doors open to communication graduates with these skills and students need to keep that in mind and think about how they can sell these traits to employers.
JG: Are you currently working on any specific research pieces, or have any upcoming publications that you would like to tell us about?
EW: In the spring, I will be collecting data for two new projects that I’m excited about. They are both a part of my ongoing study of workspaces. First, I will be doing a project on people who work from home. One of the things that will make that data collection unique is that I will conduct the interviews in people’s homes and have participants draw maps of their space and give me a tour as part of the interview. Second, physical workspaces are increasingly important as a tool for companies to recruit younger employees. I’m planning a project that will involve college students creating Pinterest boards about their ideal workspace followed by focus groups based on what the students pinned. I’m hoping to better understand what students are looking for in a workspace and how they got those ideas.
Written by Jaylin Goodwin, graduate student in the School of Communication and Journalism.
Last Updated: February 27, 2018