Rob Asen Receives Kellett Mid-Career Award

Communication Arts Professor Rob Asen has received a Kellett Mid-Career Faculty Researcher Award from the Graduate School Research Committee at UW-Madison.

The Kellett Award is one which fosters research with a flexible research fund provided by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. It is “intended to recognize and support mid-career faculty, seven to twenty years past their first promotion to a tenured position… [and] was created to provide needed support and encouragement to faculty at a critical stage of their careers.”

From 2009-2011, Professor Asen led the REDD Project, which tracked the the deliberation and decision-making in three Wisconsin school districts: Beloit, Elmbrook, and West Bend. To conduct the field work, he worked with Deb Gurke, who is an alumna of Comm Arts and Educational Policy Studies, and is now the Director of Research and Development for Milwaukee public schools. The large scope of the project also required work from key grad students including Pam Conners, Elsa Gumm, Michelle Murray Yang, and Ryan Solomon, as well as about twenty-five undergraduate research assistants. 

Recently, Professor Asen solo authored a book that is a culmination of the REDD Project. The manuscript is nearly complete and will go out to a publisher in the coming weeks. The book is about school board deliberations, and looks at them as sites of “local deliberation, democratic engagement, and policy-making.”

While national deliberations on public policy, mostly on the congressional level, were the focus of his earlier research, Professor Asen’s recent research clearly turns its focus to the local. He is interested in how decisions on social policy are made at the local level, which he says “is something rhetorical scholars traditionally have not done.” His previous work studying national deliberations allows him to better discern unique traits and differences in local deliberations, where “people who are not full-time politicians, who have nine-to-five jobs and families and other things—how these people are involved in their communities in terms of making some of these decisions [on policy].” This type of involved research is exactly what the Kellett Mid-Career Award is intended to support.

The Department of Communication Arts congratulates Professor Asen on this high honor, and looks forward to seeing the expanded research that stems from it.