The Importance of Research and Positivity
An Interview with Dr. Dron Mandhana
Cameron Pickoski CLAS '20 & Christian D’Angelo CLAS '19
Dron Mandhana, PhD, Assistant Professor, Communication, grew up in the small town of Yavatmal, India where he first worked in the family business–selling saris–while pursuing his undergraduate degree in Electronics and Telecommunication engineering. From a young age, Dr. Mandhana developed the diverse skills he cites as an integral part of his professional career and success today, setting him apart as both a multi-faceted employee and educator.
An adaptive person, Dr. Mandhana has consistently faced change head on with his penchant positive attitude. Completing his engineering degree in 2008, Dr. Mandhana initially struggled to find a job in the field due to the recession at the time. Putting his engineering career on hold, he started teaching GRE and GMAT for the Princeton Review, India. Additionally, he began working as a Visiting Professor and taught Business Communication at a nearby college. Finding that his strengths lie in organizational communication, a topic not popularly studied in India, Dr. Mandhana came to the U.S. to pursue his master’s degree at Michigan State University. As a proud Spartan, Dr. Mandhana graduated in 2014 and went on to pursue his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Dr. Mandhana became interested in studying unplanned interactions of employees in the workplace. Planting recording devices on employees and observing the results would naturally have been frowned upon for privacy reasons, so he was challenged to find a different way. The nature of the study was unique in that it focused on spur-of-the-moment conversations that could not be replicated in an experiment. The same organic quality that made them of interest to researchers like Dr. Mandhana was exactly what made it difficult to properly observe. Faced with the challenge of studying day- to-day, unplanned employee interactions without disregarding right to privacy, Dr. Mandhana developed a mobile app that would detect when employees were in the same vicinity. The application would then prompt them to fill out a brief survey about their interaction once it detected they had distanced themselves from each other. With this app, Dr. Mandhana was able to detect 14,000 unplanned conversations and receive over 1,000 survey responses. Through this, he determined that the more unplanned conversations co-workers had, the greater their coordination and performance.
"As scholars, it is our responsibility to give back to the community"
Amidst an impressive research career, Dr. Mandhana moved into the educational sphere. He is now an assistant professor at Villanova University. He cites the faculty’s dedication to not only higher education, but also service as one of his deciding factors in coming to the school. Dr. Mandhana believes that “as scholars it is our responsibility to give back to the community,” and he sees these values reflected at Villanova. He also commented on Villanova students’ drive and ability, but also shared with us the distinct need he feels to emphasize the importance of diversity in his classroom. He believes that the small class sizes at Villanova allows him to connect more personally with each student and hopes to show them ways to interact with people that come from different places, backgrounds and experiences.
Dr. Mandhana is genuinely invested in his students’ futures. His advice for communication graduates entering the job market is: “Keep your ego on the side and enjoy the process.” Dr. Mandhana offers a fresh perspective for interviews and applications—a topic that fills most undergraduate students with dread. He advises, “Do not see them as requirements, but as something to be done with excitement and commitment.” With such a positive outlook and admirable work ethic, it is easy to see why Dr. Mandhana is already a student favorite in the Department of Communication.
Faculty Spotlight: Carolyn Davis
Megan Ruiz ‘20 CLAS & Sierra Thompson ‘21 CLAS
Cleveland Heights, Ohio native Carolyn Davis moved with her husband to the Philadelphia suburbs about 17 years ago to become deputy editorial page editor with The Philadelphia Inquirer. Many young adults may be unsure of what they want to do with their life, but this was never the case for Davis. At a young age, Davis knew that she wanted to be involved with humanitarian-relief work. When her sixth-grade teacher asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Davis responded, “a Peace Corps volunteer.” Growing up, Davis looked up to Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire, two mothers who won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to bring peace to their native Northern Ireland.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a master’s degree in International Affairs-Communication and Development from Ohio State University, Davis worked as an editorial writer and reporter in Ohio and Pennsylvania. As part of her graduate studies, Davis also received the opportunity to work in Cambodia, where she helped write a report for the United Nations on the status of women’s rights in that country.
“I feel fortunate to be able to help people who find themselves in the most difficult of circumstances.”
As a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer, she wrote a series titled “The Hidden Home Front,” which discussed the difficulties of military families before and during deployment. “I was braced for the challenges of being away from my husband and daughter,” Davis explained, as part of her preparation for deployments to Jordan, Bangladesh, and other countries, after familiarizing herself with the difficulties that deployed families experience. She spent six months in Bangladesh last year working for the World Health Organization on the Rohingya refugee crisis.
As her daughter finishes her senior year of high school and prepares for college, Davis decided to return to Villanova to teach her second semester of Humanitarian Journalism. Davis wants to be in Philadelphia through her daughter’s graduation. For now, her focus is set on helping students at Villanova. Her work as a humanitarian has contributed to her teaching methods. The class is focused on practice as Davis invites humanitarian journalists and humanitarian communication experts from around the world to speak to the class via Skype. She uses a more pragmatic teaching style, bringing in lessons and experiences to make the class as interactive as possible.
Davis defines a humanitarian as “someone who works for the well-being of those in crisis.” She thoroughly enjoys teachingat Villanova and hopes to continue helping students who are interested in humanitarian-relief work to reach their goals. As far as Bangladesh and as close as Villanova, teaching and her work in helping refugees and others communicate in humanitarian relief fulfill her sixth-grade dream day by day.
Reaching a Consensus
Katarina Mayers ‘11 CLAS shares how work in political communication made her a successful communicator.
Molly Reff ’19 CLAS & Julia Shelley ’21 CLAS
Even over the phone, the enthusiastic spirit of Katarina Mayers ’11 CLAS is apparent. An interview originally focused on her professional experiences after Villanova quickly grew into a conversation with an alumna whose work ethic and passionare contagious. Speaking before an acappella performance, she reflected on organizations she was once involved in at Villanova, such as singing with her former acappella group, Nothing But Treble, and giving tours as a member of Blue Key Society.
Mayers’ work in politics and communication, however, is nothing short of impressive. Her previous titles include presidential political appointee in the Obama Administration, deputy press secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce and press secretary and director of digital media for the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.
The interesting part? “I don’t consider myself a political person,” says Mayers. “I’m trained as a facts person and then confirming those facts with three or four sources.” Mayers graduated as a communication major specializing in journalism in 2011. After working in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and even Chile, she earned her master’s degree in urban policy and management from Columbia University in 2018.
“There are multiple ways of communicating, and listening is such a huge part of my work to be a successful communicator.”
Her work in the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment included digital media, journalism, advertising and newer concepts like virtual reality. She found her work with the Obama Administration translated well to the mayor’s office, utilizing skills she learned at Villanova, including writing concisely and adapting communication methods for different audiences.
On Jan. 1, 2019, Former Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin asked Mayers to join her at the Office of the Census for New York City, a new office with the mission of counting every New Yorker as part of the national Census 2020. As the office and position continue to develop, Mayers has found herself at the forefront, lining up interviews, drafting speeches and joining Menin at the decision-making table. Mayers will likely continue in a lead communications role to increase awareness of the 2020 census.
In an environment as hectic and fast-paced as political communication, Mayers credits Villanova for its emphasis on listening and examining situations from differing perspectives. She believes that those who take the time to listen, work together and get a message across are the most successful communicators.
Mayers fondly remembers her multicultural leadership class at Villanova with Terry Nance, associate vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion, as having challenged her to think from someone else’s perspective and understand how differences among people are advantageous. This has been helpful to Mayers, who has collaborated with faith leaders, political leaders and state officials.
From a singer and tour guide studying communication at Villanova to a woman spearheading new campaigns in urban politics, Mayers manages a busy schedule with grace and ease. Her passion for her work and outside activities, including that upcoming acappella performance, reinforces Villanova’s role in forming well-rounded, successful and driven individuals.
Shining a Light on Ethiopian Healthcare
Student Highlight: Matthew Whiting '19 CLAS
Majai Dumas ‘20 CLAS, Julian Hislop ‘20 CLAS & Frank Messina ‘19 CLAS
Many things have changed for senior Matthew Whiting ‘19 CLAS since he first enrolled at Villanova University. After starting off in the College of Nursing, Matthew decided to transfer to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to major in Communication.
Initially, Matthew questioned the switch. He continued to struggle to find his fit within the department. Fortunately, he found his calling in Media Production. Professor Hezekiah Lewis convinced Matthew to take the Social Justice Documentary Film course the following year. Co-listed with the Center for Peace and Justice Education, the course allows students an outlet to spotlight a contemporary social justice issue using hands-on media production training. Speaking on the class, Matthew recounts, “Luckily, our professor, Hezekiah Lewis, created a welcoming space for all of his students. It really shows in the makeup of the class and the work that we’ve done together.”
As co-president of VuPride, Villanova’s LGBTQ+ and ally organization, Matthew is familiar with the struggles of underrepresented communities and looked to use this course as a method to highlight some of their challenges. Without any previous film experience outside of his school workload, Matthew joined the 16-person team working on the documentary Carrying Tomorrow. As the film’s multimedia producer, Matthew oversaw the documentary’s marketing and promotion.
Matthew also organized production tasks and a charity event to raise awareness for the project. Set in the northeast Amhara Region of Ethiopia, the film investigates worldwide access to maternal surgical care. The film’s subject was first introduced to Lewis by Jhpiego, an international non-profit health organization in response to their safe surgery initiatives. After receiving Executive Producer Lewis’ approval, the specifics of the documentary were left to the documentary team. Under the tagline “Where a woman lives shouldn’t determine if she lives,” the team chose to cover two mothers from rural Dangila, Ethiopia.
Thanks to efforts made by Safe Surgery 2020, both Firnus and Gojam were brought to the local Dangila Hospital in hopes of receiving proper maternal care during childbirth.
The documentary is set to premiere in Philadelphia on April 26. The documentary team is currently planning a showing on campus and another potential showing at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. The team is also finalizing efforts to make donations to the Dongola Hospital.
To learn more about Matthew and the “Carrying Tomorrow” documentary, visit the student production team and the documentary Instagram accounts @cagedbirdfilms and @carryingtomorrow respectively.
Building a Balance
Adjunct journalism professor, Michael Bradley, shares his Villanova journey
Madeline Wahlgren CLAS ‘20 & Casey Lee CLAS ‘19
Freelance writer, radio personality, and sports fanatic, Michael Bradley found his way back home to the Main Line after graduating from The University of Michigan. Bradley has a strong passion for journalism and building connections with students making him a strong fit for his position as an adjunct professor in the Department of Communication as well as the faculty advisor for The Villanovan, Villanova’s student-run newspaper.
Following graduation from the Haverford School, Bradley moved to Ann Arbor in pursuit of a degree in economics from The University of Michigan. Upon realizing that his passion did not lie in economics, Bradley changed his major to history and graduated in 1983.
After graduating, Bradley returned home to the Main Line where he now works as a freelance writer and at Villanova University. At Villanova, Bradley has taught Sports Journalism, Introduction to Journalism, Multimedia Journalism, and Business and Professional Communication. Teaching both Introduction to Journalism and upper level journalism courses allows for one of the most rewarding aspects of Bradley’s career as an adjunct professor. Bradley said: “The part that makes [teaching] rewarding is that every one of the Sports Journalism students that I have, we have 19 in the class [currently], every one of them but one has taken a class with me before. So, I get to know them further, both as students but also as people and that makes it more enjoyable for me as a professor.”
In addition to teaching courses in journalism, Bradley is the faculty advisor for The Villanovan. As advisor for The Villanovan, Bradley works to find a balance between representing the University and letting the student editors have freedom to produce the best product they can. When asked, Bradley said, “I have to represent the University, but at the same time I have to let the students feel like they have the autonomy to put out the best product they can. The way to do that is to build relationships with them so that I can have some conversations that might be a little difficult and it doesn’t seem like I am saying to them, wagging a finger at them, saying ‘don’t do this’ or ‘don’t do that.’” Bradley explained that being able to sit down with students allows him to develop strong relationships with them. This allows for more natural conversation about content and helps the students to find a balance between complying to University standards while maintaining journalistic freedom.
“I like the students, I like the perspectives they bring, I like the Communication department, it’s got a very good collegial feel among faculty and that’s very helpful.”
In addition to teaching at Villanova, Bradley has taught at St. Joseph’s University and Neumann University. While he worked at all three universities for some time, Bradley now teaches exclusively at Villanova. Bradley said this is largely in part due to the culture at Villanova. “I like the students, I like the perspectives they bring, I like the Commu- nication department, it’s got a very good collegial feel among faculty and that’s very helpful. As an adjunct, often times you come in you teach your class you come home, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome and part of the staff and faculty by this group which makes it more rewarding for me,” Bradley said. In addition to his work at Villanova, Bradley has written 32 books and is a host on 97.5 FM The Fanatic, Philadelphia’s sports radio station.
Graduate Studies In Communication
Student Highlight: Taylor Lindenmuth
Maggie Hronicek '19 CLAS, Tom Conboy '20 CLAS & Sean O’Connor '19 CLAS
Villanova’s five-year Communication program aims to fit many graduate classes into a student’s senior year in order to complete a master’s degree just one year post-grad—certainly a rigorous schedule. Taylor Lindenmuth '19 CLAS is a student in the program. While most college seniors are taking the final required classes for their degrees, Taylor has found herself in a mixture of undergraduate and graduate classes. The first required graduate class is the Communication Perspectives class, which serves as an intro to graduate studies. The class, as Taylor describes, is designed to “shake you up” and prepare master’s students for the challenging course load ahead. Yet, Taylor seems rock- solid under all the pressure, and she gives much of the credit to the Communication Department faculty.
Taylor considers herself “a product of the Villanova Communication Department”, and expresses that one of her favorite aspects of the BA/MA program is being able to achieve her master’s degree with the same department and faculty she has formed close relationships with over the years. Taylor says the idea that “Communication is constitutive of reality” is heavily emphasized in the department. She has come to realize that this is an important belief unique to Villanova Communication.
Having already taken graduate classes with her cohort, Taylor enjoys the sense of knowing everyone around her well. When most of her friends graduate, she won’t have to “start over” in terms of getting to know her peers. Graduate courses are made up of individuals who vary in age, experience, careers paths, and interests, which makes for an interesting dynamic. Taylor advises students considering the five-year program to be mindful of course requirements. She says that while BA/MA students do not have to take classes such as Senior Project, courses like Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods must be taken junior year. There are also many undergraduate requirements that do not count toward the graduate education, so it is important to know what these are and make sure you are on track. She also explains that potential BA/MA students should consider how doing the five-year program may affect their undergrad GPA—graduate program classes count for both undergraduate and graduate credits and GPAs. This is important to keep in mind when considering the program as well as when figuring out your schedule senior year.
Taylor took two graduate classes her first semester senior year, but cautions that this is generally not recommended, and can be a little overwhelming. However, she says that the busy course load was worth it because she was able to take an Organizational Communication graduate course with one of her favorite professors, Amy Way. Taylor maintains that her relationships with the faculty in the Communication department have been driving forces in her success as a student, and she recommends that students look to faculty for guidance as they navigate their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Most college students do not know what they want to do after graduation. In fact, even the students that think they know will likely find themselves on a completely different path than the one on which they began. It may be comforting to hear driven BA/MA student Taylor Lindenmuth say, “I’m still not sure.” However, Taylor cites the relationships she has formed at Villanova as fundamental to her success.