Jeff WalkerJefferson Walker, Ph.D., Lead Academic Writing and Communication Instructor in the Professional Development Program. (Photo by Phillip Michael LeBlanc)Meet Jefferson Walker, Ph.D., who joined the Graduate School as Lead Academic Writing and Communication Instructor in the Professional Development Program in August 2016. 

Graduate School: What is your role in the UAB Graduate School?

Dr. Walker: I’m excited to be joining the Professional Development Program as the Lead Instructor for Academic Writing and Communication. In this role, I’ll be focused on helping the Graduate School’s students and fellows develop the oral and written communication skills they need to succeed throughout their careers—from completing dissertations, to entering the job market, and beyond.

GS: Where have you worked before coming to UAB and what did you do there?

JW: Most recently, I served as Assistant Professor and Coordinator for the Department of Communication and Media Studies at Louisiana Tech University. I have also worked at the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa), and the University of Montevallo. At each of these institutions, I had the privilege of conducting research and teaching courses alongside talented and supportive communities of students, faculty, and staff.

I have developed and taught a variety of courses on topics such as critical decision making, professional communication, public speaking, research methods, and social change. While my teaching interests are wide-ranging, my research is more narrowly focused on political rhetoric, southern culture, and public memory. Last December, I published my first book, King Returns to Washington: Explorations of Memory, Rhetoric, and Politics in the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, which examines the intersections between those research areas.

GS: What is your educational background?

JW: I hold degrees from the University of Alabama (PhD, Communication and Information Sciences; MA, Communication Studies) and the University of Montevallo (BS, History and Communication Studies).  

GS: What do you hope to add to your job over the next three years? 

JW: I’m glad to have taken this position at a time when the Professional Development Program is growing with new course offerings and certificate programs. As I consider the ways that I will contribute to the program’s growth, my first and foremost goal is to meet the needs of our students, fellows, and the larger UAB community. On that note, over the coming weeks and months, I want to hear from as many constituents as possible on what new directions they would like the Professional Development Program to take.

As I look ahead to the next three years, I am also reflecting on the ways that I can contribute to the Graduate School’s newly adopted mission of “inspiring minds today to transform tomorrow.” I’m determined to develop courses that are both inspirational and transformative, and I am currently in the early stages of creating new offerings related to communication and diversity, ethical leadership, and civic engagement.

GS: What do you want UAB graduate students to know about you and your courses?

JW: To those who are just beginning their first semester of coursework, to those who are working on theses and dissertations, to those who are entering the job market, and to everyone in-between, I want UAB’s graduate students to know that I empathize with what they are going through. I know how difficult and time consuming graduate school can be. All of my offerings—from the “Accelerate Your Dissertation” series to the “Presenting Effectively” workshop—are designed to help students in very practical ways.

GS: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

JW: I am a huge musical theatre fan—I love attending and sometimes directing and performing in productions. I most recently co-directed Once Upon a Mattress for Brick by Brick Arts, a local non-profit arts organization that I founded in 2010. Like all musical fans, I’m currently obsessed with Hamilton.

Aside from theatre, I enjoy attending Barons games and drinking the occasional margarita at Rojo. I also love spending time with my friends and family.

GS: How can students reach you if they have questions for you?

JW: I love to hear questions, comments, and suggestions from students. The easiest way to reach me is through email—