Communication Arts Welcomes New Interim Chair


Dr. Maria Elena Villar was appointed Interim Chair of the Department of Communication Arts to serve through June 30, 2016. In addition to her current duties as Chair of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, Dr. Villar will lead the transition of integrating the Department of Communication Arts and the Department of Advertising and Public Relations into a single new department.

Dr. Villar is an Associate Professor and teaches courses in communication theory, research methods, multicultural communication, and advanced seminars in strategic communications. She holds a doctorate in communication and a master’s in public health from the University of Miami, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University. Her research focuses on culturally competent communication for social and behavioral change, and on strategic communication for diverse audiences.  In her career as a researcher, Dr. Villar has focused on diverse topics that range from culture and communication, social determinants of health, domestic and sexual violence prevention, stigma related to HIV, mental health and drug abuse, and communication for social change.   She helped found the student-run faculty supervised strategic communication agency, BOLD, and has taken groups of students on summer abroad programs to Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain.  She has been an invited lecturer for graduate programs at Universidad de Sevilla in Spain, Universidad del Norte in Colombia and Universidad Americana in Nicaragua.

She has dozens of publications based on her research including peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, a book chapter and many  conference presentations, and several technical reports.  Her work has been published in Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Sex Education, Health and Mass Communication, Howard Journal of Communication, Journal of Product and Brand Management, American Journal of Media Psychology, Pediatrics, and Journal of Pediatrics, as well as other scholarly journals.  She has presented papers and lectures at national and international refereed conferences, including the National Communication Association, International Communication Association, Public Relations Society of America, Association for Educators in Mass Communication, Institute for Public Relations, World Congress on Communications for Development, Latin American Studies Association, Global Health and Innovation Summit at Yale University, and the CDC National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media.


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