Nine Graduate Students Earn PhD

From top left, clockwise: Drs. Ahn, Holmaas, Nassiri, Xu, Mertens, and McClain.

The Department of Communication Arts is proud to celebrate the cohort of graduate students who recently defended their doctoral dissertations. Over the past four months, nine scholars earned their doctorate in the department. Each did so following years of concerted effort. To earn a PhD in Communication Arts, one must first successfully complete a master’s degree, PhD coursework, preliminary exams, long periods of self-guided research and writing, and an oral defense before their dissertation committee. These students also received distinction as educators, working as teaching assistants and lecturers during this time.

This cohort includes students from each of the graduate program’s four areas of study: Communication Science; Film; Media & Cultural Studies; and Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture. The newly minted doctors, and their dissertation titles, are listed below.

In May, Dr. Paul Ahn defended a dissertation entitled “The Freedom to Explore Creative Ideas and Cognitive Dissonance under Major Reasoning Norms: An fNIRS study.” Professor Lyn Van Swol, of Communication Science, advised the dissertation. Dr. Ahn will be teaching at Dartmouth College this fall.

Dr. Luke Holmaas defended a dissertation entitled “The Best Gag in the Picture: Gag-Based Comedy’s Adaptability in Blockbuster-Era Hollywood Cinema,” under the supervision of Film Professor Jeff Smith.

Dr. Hamidreza Nassiri also defended a dissertation under Prof. Smith’s supervision, entitled “Iranian Cinema in the Digital Era: The Implications of Digital Technologies on Local and Global Power Relations in Film and Media Industries.” Dr. Nassiri will resume teaching at Fordham University in the fall.

In June, Dr. Liam Randall defended a dissertation entitled “The Temporality of Carceral Education: Race, Disability, and Progress at Madison Metropolitan School District.” Professor Jenell Johnson, of Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture, advised the dissertation. Dr. Randall will start as an Assistant Professor of Communication at North Central Michigan College this fall.

Dr. AnneMarie McClain defended a dissertation entitled, “U.S. Black Parents’ Preferences and Choices of Media to Support Their Children.” Professor Louise Mares, of Communication Science, supervised the dissertation. Dr. McClain will commence a Visiting Assistant Professor position at Williams College this fall.

Dr. Jacob Mertens defended a dissertation entitled “Gaming the System – Digital Revisionism and the Video Game Console Industry,” under the supervision of Media & Cultural Studies Professor Jeremy Morris. Dr. Mertens will serve as Assistant Professor in Communication Studies at Manchester University this fall.

In August, Dr. Yizhou (Joe) Xu defended a dissertation entitled “Involution Nation: Passion, Place and Precarity in the Chinese Mobile Tech Industry.” Prof. Morris supervised the dissertation. Dr. Xu will start a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan’s Digital Studies Institute this fall.

Dr. Susan Noh defended a dissertation entitled “Global Media Streams: Cosmopolitan Streaming Platforms and the Contemporary Ecosystem of Anime Distribution,” also under Prof. Morris’s supervision. Dr. Noh will start as an Assistant Professor in Communication/Film and Media Studies at Oglethorpe University this fall.

Dr. JJ Bersch defended a dissertation entitled “Pack Your Product’s Bags, It’s Going Hollywood: Explaining the Mainstream Emergence of Cinematic Product Placement in the 1980s.” Prof. Smith supervised the dissertation. This fall, Dr. Bersch will resume a research position on the film podcast Blank Check with Griffin and David.

Congratulations, Doctors!