About Me

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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 .

Research Interests

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.

Pre-PhD Program

I’m a non-traditional student from a 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.


When I’m is not studying, my interests include volunteering as a public history and industrial heritage tour guide(think “grains and trains”), social activism, rail-fanning, biking, alternative print media, sewing, and photography.

I really enjoy tinkering around with computers and programming languages when I’m not using them for work. If given the chance, I will heavily proselytize R while trying to convince you to convert to a Zotero-Rmarkdown/Quarto notetaking workflow and to turn that old MacBook into a dedicated Linux machine (sorry in advance).

I also spend a lot of time in what I call “The Retirement Community” which consists of 2 sassy geriatric cats, nicknamed “The Grandparents”, and the botanic garden in my house.