Hiya! My name is Ava Francesca and I’m an Information and Media PhD Candidate and University Enrichment Fellow in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Michigan State University. I am under the advisement of Dr. Kjerstin Thorson.
My work centers on how rural and post-industrial community structures and collective identity shape hybrid civic storytelling networks, or how people come to share information that impacts civic life. I’m particularly interested in communities in the northern Great Lakes region that simultaneously grapple with economic changes and shifting media landscapes in the form of declining local news and inequities in digital access.
I love mixing ethnographic and computational methods to tackle these questions.
Professional Affiliations and Service
Since 2021, I have been the graduate student lab manager in the Civic Infrastructure Lab. I am also an affiliate with the Rural Computing Research Consortium, as well as a Research Fellow with the Quello Center.
Outside of Michigan State, I am an affiliate with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life. I also serve as a graduate student liaison to both the AEJMC History Division and AEJMC Communication Theory and Methods Division.
I’m a non-traditional student from a working-class, low-income background. After three attempts at community college, in two states, I earned my associate degree in 2015 from Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport, Connecticut. In 2017, I moved from Duluth, Minnesota to Chicago and was Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication’s first dual-degree student. I concurrently completed my Bachelor of Arts in Advertising (2019) and Master of Science in Global Strategic Communication (2020) while juggling between two and four jobs. (I would say that my stints as a chandler (aka candlemaker) and a chicken-sitter provided the best perks during this period).
Previous creative and activist work includes collaborating with and coordinating distribution for a feminist Zine collective; designing, producing, and managing a size-inclusive, femme vintage reproduction apparel line; and several years, on-call overnight, as a crisis hospital advocate for survivors of sexual violence.
News and Updates
October 2023: Busy (but exciting) couple of months– dissertation proposal writing in full swing, couple of fieldwork trips Up North, started my appointment for the next year as a Research Assistant on a NSF-funded project, had a publication accepted, and have a couple other manuscripts in various stages of getting out the door. Perhaps, more exciting news is that on November 2nd I will be presenting very early findings from over a year of ethnographic fieldwork alongside Jean Hardy, PhD, at the Merit Network’s Michigan Broadband Summit. (And then I will probably take a nap.)
July 2023: Outta the Bush and into the books: returned from a week of fieldwork Up North and dove right into the University of Michigan’s Digital Studies Summer Institute. Really excited to spend to spend the next two weeks learning and growing alongside an awesome group of social justice-oriented scholars and practitioners. Additionally, I will join the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life as an affiliate for the 2023-2024 academic year. In sum, lots of opportunities to connect with others doing super rad and important work.
June 2023: Had an awesome ICA in Toronto. But I guess the bigger news is that on June 1, I successfully defended my Comprehensive Exams which means I’m now a PhD Candidate 🎉 Excited to start working on my dissertation proposal and to head out into the field next week. But first, sleep.
May 2023: AEJMC acceptance came on the break day before my 4th and final Comprehensive Exam question. Heading to ICA next week – excited to see folks there
April 2023: accepted to University of Michigan’s Digital IDEAS Summer Institute with a scholarship
March 2023: abstract for ICA PolComm Grad Student Pre-Conference accepted – guess I’m going to Toronto early.
January 2023: ICA acceptance – See you in Toronto!