Skip to main content

Meet the New School of Communication Faculty

Leslie DeChurch joins the School of Communication as a professor of Communication Studies. DeChurch was previously Professor of Organizational Psychology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

DeChurch, a fellow of the American Psychological Society and the Society of Industrial & Organizational Psychology, is known for her work in two areas: multi-team systems and leadership networks. Her work on multiteam systems seeks to understand the complex dynamics of teams comprising distributed individuals connected through technology. Supported by a National Science Foundation CAREER award, DeChurch is developing a new network-based understanding of leadership as an informal influence process. Her work in both areas has been used to understand teams operating in a wide range of settings including space exploration, scientific collaboration, and humanitarian operations.

“Many of these projects on teams build on existing strengths at Northwestern,” she said. “I am fortunate to be able to continue active collaborations with Noshir Contractor (IEMS, SOC, & Kellogg) and Brian Uzzi (Kellogg) looking at team assembly and effectiveness.”

In addition, DeChurch will be starting the NU-DELTA Research Laboratory in the School of Communication to help us better understand leadership and multiteam systems or “teams of teams” in a wide array of environments.

She and Noshir Contractor are working with NASA on four large-scale projects that will enable a multicultural “team of teams” to collaborate seamlessly at extreme distances between Earth and Mars. “To understand an enable teams to go to Mars, we are studying scientific teams who operate in similarly extreme environments — the International Space Station and Antarctic research stations.”

DeChurch plans to offer new courses on teamwork and leadership at Northwestern. Her new course on “Leading Collaboration” will be a core class starting this fall in the School of Communication’s Master of Science in Communication program.

DeChurch is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award, and her research on teamwork and leadership has been continuously funded by the National Science Foundation for the past eight years with additional funding from the Army Research Institute for the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Professor DeChurch is coeditor of the book Multiteam Systems: An Organizational Form for Dynamic and Complex Environments, as well as dozens of articles in top journals including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Journal of Applied Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Journal of Management, and Leadership Quarterly.


Bonnie Martin-Harris is the Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor in the Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the School of Communication at Northwestern University.

Martin-Harris formerly served as: The Mark and Evelyn Trammell Professor of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery; the Director of the Evelyn Trammell Institute for Voice and Swallowing; and a professor in the PhD Program in Health and Rehabilitation Science, all at the Medical University of South Carolina. She earned her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern.

Her research focuses on swallowing disorders, respiration and swallowing coordination, and swallowing impairment and rehabilitation following head or neck cancer. She developed the first standardized method of swallowing assessment that has been adapted throughout the U.S. and 14 countries. She has worked with veterans recovering from oropharyngeal cancer and developed novel therapeutic interventions.

She is a fellow of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), recipient of the 2016 Admiral Albert J. Baciocco Innovation Award – Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), an Honorary Member of the MUSC Chapter of The National Academy of Inventors, the recipient of Honors from the South Carolina Speech-Language- Hearing Association (SCHA), the 2010 MUSC College of Health Professions Scholar of the Year, and an and associate member of the Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and the American Head and Neck Society. The Medical University of South Carolina named her the College of Health Professions Scholar of the Year in 2010.

“I look forward to inciting collaborative teaching and research that crosses disciplines throughout the School and University just as physiologic and cognitive systems interact toward recovery of swallowing and communication impairment,” she said. “We plan to integrate standardized clinical studies across the Northwestern campuses to optimize clinical care and health outcomes. My hope is that our clinical research laboratory will be a catalyst for student learning, innovative discovery, and serve as a resource laboratory for clinicians across the country and globe.”


Larissa Buchholz joins the School of Communication as assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies. She is a sociologist of culture whose research intersects with global and transnational sociology, inequality, and economic sociology, but is also informed by interests in theory and research methods.

Buchholz, who comes to Northwestern after a Fellowship at the Harvard Society of Fellows, expressed excitement about the Communication Studies curriculum. “It’s deliberately interdisciplinary — It has scholars with very innovative research agendas and pioneering programs,” she says.

Buchholz earned her PhD in sociology from Columbia University. She pursued her master’s at Stony Brook University after finishing her undergraduate education at Leuphana University in her native Germany. Among her many accolades, she has won a Fulbright Award, the Outstanding Dissertation Award from the American Sociological Association, a William F. Milton Award at Harvard for field work on three continents, and just recently the Junior Theorist Prize of the International Sociological Association.

In her research, Buchholz has tackled the global art market with exhaustive levels of fieldwork, interviews, and sociological research methods. She examines how value is constructed, what it means across cultural divides, and how global culture is formed. Employing qualitative as well as quantitative methods, her research spans both micro and macro levels of analysis. Her frequent and abundant travels have contributed to what she calls “reflexivity,” which entails retaining the knowledge of important cultural distinctions despite the relative ease at which we may cross borders. It’s a perspective she’d like to impart upon her Northwestern students as well. “I want to teach them to appreciate diversity,” she says, “engaging with the wider world; and to make them curious about other contemporary cultures and how to make sense of them in a common global context.”


Brent Hecht joins Northwestern University this fall as an assistant professor in the School of Communication, with a courtesy appointment in the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in the McCormick School of Engineering.

Formerly an assistant professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Minnesota, Hecht explores the intersection of human–computer interaction, geography, and big data. Hecht received a PhD in computer science from Northwestern University, a master’s degree in Geography from UC Santa Barbara, and dual bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science and Geography from Macalester College.

“Northwestern is shaping up to be one of the best places to do human-computer interaction (HCI) research and education in the world, with HCI being one of the largest computing disciplines. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to our growing success in this area,” Hecht says.

Hecht has been a keynote and featured speaker at a number of events worldwide and has won awards for his research at top-tier publication venues in human-computer interaction and geography. He collaborated with Google Research, Xerox PARC, and Microsoft Research, and his work has been featured by The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, NPR, ABC News, Time Magazine, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bild, El País, Le Monde, and various other international TV, radio, and Internet outlets.


Kimberly Pusateri will join the faculty as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Northwestern University in fall 2016.

Pusateri earned her PhD in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her dissertation is titled “It Was Part of the Water We Were Moving In, the Air We Were Breathing: Parent and Adult Child Communication Across a Mother’s Breast Cancer Trajectory” and it involved in-depth interviews with adults who had a parent diagnosed with breast cancer.

Pusateri’s research focuses on interpersonal communication with an emphasis on family relationships and health. She has recently published in The Journal of Family Communication, The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, and Argumentation and Advocacy. Pusateri has also presented her research at numerous national and international communication conferences.

Starting this fall, Pusateri will teach courses focused on health communication in the Master of Science in Health Communication program and in the undergraduate Health Communication module. Her teaching philosophy stresses engaging students through application, collaboration, and caring. Pusateri says: “My goal is to provide students with the passion and confidence to become great learners. With this in mind, my courses are designed to help students explain their skills and strengths, and therefore achieve both personal and professional goals.”


Randall Iden will join the faculty in the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Communication at Northwestern University as a lecturer this fall.

Iden will be working in the Master of Science in Communication (MSC) program teaching courses in strategic communication and advising students on capstone projects.  Iden completed the MSC program in 2002 before obtaining a PhD in Rhetoric and Public Culture at Northwestern.  He has taught in the MSC program and the School for Professional Studies at Northwestern University.  In addition, he has taught courses at Lake Forest College and Loyola University on both a full and part time basis.  Iden says he is delighted to be returning to Northwestern full time.

“The MSC program has been a part of my life, as a student and as an instructor, for more than 18 years,” Iden says. “I am very excited to be joining a strong program that has been a unique part of the School of Communication and the first program of its kind in the country.”

Iden also holds a JD from the University of Pennsylvania.


Laura Karvelis Vygantas, MS, CCC-SLP, will be joining the faculty at the Roxelyn and Richard Pepper Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders as a lecturer and clinical speech-language pathologist.

Formerly an instructor at Rush University in Chicago, Vygantas holds an MS in Speech-Language Pathology from Rush as well. Vygantas is also a proud alumna of Northwestern University, where she received her BS in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Vygantas has worked as a clinical speech-language pathologist in both the acute care and outpatient settings in the medical center at Rush. Her clinical focus includes areas of dysphagia, neurogenic communication disorders and voice.  She also has taught various classes for Rush’s speech-language pathology program, focusing mostly on clinical education topics, such as student training in the acute care setting.

“I am looking forward to becoming part of the wonderful clinical and academic team at Northwestern, and hope to bring a new and unique perspective to my position,” Vygantas says. “I hope to make a positive impact not only with my patients, but with students as well!”


Oscar-nominated filmmaker J. Christian Jensen joins the Department of Radio/Television/Film this fall as a full-time lecturer in the MFA in Documentary Media program.

Jensen’s film White Earth, which follows three children and an immigrant mother as they brave a cruel winter in the oil fields of America’s Northern Plains, received a 2015 Academy Award nomination in the documentary short subject category. It screened around the world and won over a dozen jury awards. Jensen has also edited a number of films including the critically acclaimed Netflix Original non-fiction series Last Chance U.

Jensen believes storytelling can be a powerful force to bridge gaps between opposing beliefs and ideas, and he seeks out intimate, human stories that provide insight into larger social movements and institutions. He hopes to bring this perspective to the students at Northwestern.

“I’m thrilled to be a part of the program and I look forward to helping students nurture their personal voice as artists and storytellers,” Jensen says. “I hope my classroom can be a safe space where experimentation can flourish within creative constraints.”

Over the course of his career, Christian has worked in a variety of roles and on diverse projects including work for broadcast outlets such as National Geographic and PBS FRONTLINE, independent films, and short commissioned work for the web. Jensen comes to Northwestern from Stanford University.


Bonnie Metzgar joins the faculty at the School of Communication. Metzgar, who was named the Interim Artistic Director of American Theater in 2015, is a playwright, director, dramaturg and producer. She worked as the artistic director of About Face Theatre from 2008 to 2013, where she directed The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell, The Homosexuals by Philip Dawkins, Pony by Sylvan Oswald, Stupid Kids by John C. Russell, and The Young Ladies Of by Taylor Mac.

Metzgar was named the Carl Djerassi Fellow in Playwriting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison from 2013 to 2014.

She was also a finalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Festival for her 2014 play, You Lost Me. 

Metzgar also earned a National Endowment for the Arts commission to write a new piece on transgender Civil War soldier Albert Cashier with composer Tamara Roberts for About Face Theatre.


Meaghan Quane will be joining the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders clinical faculty and will work on evidence-based diagnostic and treatment for children.
Quane, a bilingual speech-language pathologist who worked in early intervention and in the schools for grades Kindergarten through sixth grade, comes to Northwestern from the Sinai Health System and Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital.

She was also an in-home early intervention speech-language pathologist in the Chicago area for five years, where she provided services for children up to age three who had delayed speech and/or language development. She’s spent her career helping families understand proper techniques for improving children’s communication skills on a daily basis.

“My goal at Northwestern University is to provide exceptional, evidence-based diagnostic and treatment for pediatric clients and develop the clinical skills of graduate students via direct supervision and instruction,” Quane says. “I hope to further develop a pediatric fluency program to help children who stutter become more effective communicators.”


Susanna Vargas joins the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders this fall as a clinical instructor. She earned her Ph.D. in Speech-Language Pathology from Indiana University, where she worked as a clinical assistant professor in the MA in Speech and Hearing Sciences program.

She trained graduate clinicians interested in providing speech-language pathology services to Latino children and their families and taught course work about bilingual Spanish‐English language development and disorders. Her scholarly interests are directed at contributing to the growing body of information regarding best practices for assessment and service provision to dual language learners from multicultural backgrounds.

“I’m looking forward to using my background to help patients and students at Northwestern better understand how to work with dual language learners,” Vargas says.


Ágnes Horvát is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies who has been working at the Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems (NICO). She joined the faculty in the winter quarter of the 2015-16 academic year. Her postdoctoral research spans the areas of collective intelligence, crowdfunding, and the creative industries. Horvát’s work focuses on developing theory and methods for the study of complex networks at the intersection of computer science, physics, and social phenomena. Her interdisciplinary approach seeks to understand the behavior of connected crowds by building on techniques from network science, machine learning, statistics, and exploratory visualization. Before joining the School of Communication she was a post-doctoral researcher at NICO. She has taught such topics as network analysis, algorithms, and data structures at Heidelberg University in Germany.  Horvát has been the recipient of many fellowships and academic excellence awards.


Calum Walter joins the Department of Radio/Television/ Film as a lecturer. He is a filmmaker, artist, and sound designer who previously held the position of cinematography specialist within the School of Communication. He has a BFA from the University of Colorado where he studied filmmaking with an emphasis on sound, and later received a MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He continues to do sound design and recording for his own films, and has collaborated with numerous artists as cinematographer, sound recordist and designer. His work has screened widely at places including New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, FIC Valdivia, Ann Arbor Film Festival, the Klub Katarakt Experimental Music Festival, Images Festival, and the Big Ears Music Festival.


Benjamin Hilb is a lecturer and academic advisor in the Department of Theatre.  His interests include Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, race and reception in theatre history and criticism, adaptation and intermedial studies, sexuality studies, and religion in performance. He is the author of articles in Literature/Film Quarterly, Shakespeare Bulletin, and Interdisciplinary Literary Studies; and of a short piece on teaching global Shakespeare in The Pocket Instructor: Literature (Princeton UP). As an advisor, Ben is invested in helping students’ use the Northwestern resources and curriculum to explore, identify, and develop their unique talents and passions.  He enjoys partnering with students to set and achieve meaningful goals as they forge their own paths through the School of Communication.


Mindy Kobara-Mates joins the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders this fall as a clinical instructor and lecturer. She specializes in the speech and aural habilitation of children with hearing loss using Auditory-Verbal methods, articulation disorders, childhood apraxia of speech, and parent coaching. She received both her master’s and doctoral degrees from Northwestern and her bachelor’s degree from University of Washington.


Karen Kinderman joins the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders this fall as a clinical instructor and lecturer. Karen’s primary clinical interests lie in the areas of acquired neurogenic disorders of cognitive communication, language, and dysphagia. She received her master’s degree from Northwestern and her bachelor’s from Sonoma State University.