Is There an Issue With Quarantine Compliance?: A Brief Look Into Young Adult Perspectives on Quarantine

Image of crowded Pittsburgh bar

Image from: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

It is no surprise that every person, every being around the world has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and has presented an opportunity for us to come together as a worldly community in hopes to combat this crisis.


However, despite this notion of keeping society safe, there are outliers in the population that have gone against the COVID-19 mandates and operated as if there was no quarantine in place at all. The compliance could have been considered at a minimal in this selection of individuals. What is even more striking about this, is that the majority of this select group of outliers were from the younger generation. To be more specific, ages 18 to 24. During the ‘hotspot’ of COVID-19 transmission, individuals ages 18 to 24 were causing 14% of the virus’s transmission. This was the highest percentage in comparison to all other age groups. Why did these individuals consistently act out against the mandates that our public health system put in place? What kind of mindset did these individuals have to knowingly go against the safety of others? What made the young adult age bracket so susceptible to quarantine non-compliance? These questions are ones that I wish to dive into a bit further. I want to show the mental barriers that might be affecting young adults and how there might be a conflict within communication efforts and how these individuals are receiving information of quarantine compliance.


Cartoon that plays on the concept of groupthink

Image from: Patient Safe Network

One critical element to explaining the mental barriers that young adults might be encountering with quarantine non-compliance would be the theory of groupthink. Groupthink is, from Irving Janis, “a communication process that sometimes develops when members of a group begin thinking similarly, greatly reducing the probability that the group will reach an effective decision” (Janis 1982). This theory presents individuals acting as one cohesive unit and makes their group seem more invincible than they truly are. James Rose conducted a study on this exact mentality and concluded on the three major types of Groupthink that he saw in individuals. The three vary in different facets but all focus on making decisions and actions based on the group:

• Type 1, overestimation of the group (the illusion of invulnerability and belief in group’s inherent morality)

• Type 2, closed-mindedness (collective rationalization and stereotypes of out-groups)

• Type 3, pressure toward uniformity (self-censorship, illusion unanimity, direct pressure on dissenters and self-appointed mind guards) (Rose 2011)

I believe that many young adults are acting alongside this theory, specifically within type 1. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but videos such as this one show this mentality of invulnerability and acting in a manner that wants nothing but her select group to find enjoyment.


Going beyond the theory, there have been studies that have produced hard data on the very same assertion that I am making. One said the study was from a research group in Switzerland that analyzed youth and young adults and to identify low compliance rates with public health mandates at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. They administered a survey that produced data to explain what mandates were being followed or not followed within certain situations. The study revealed that with every recording of hygiene non-compliance issue was followed by another form of noncompliance such as not covering one’s mouth when sneezing usually meant they also did not wash their hands after using the restroom (Nivette 2020). In addition to this they also the noncompliance connected to respondents that had the characteristic of “antisocial potential” (Nivette 2020). “Antisocial potential” being a low acceptance of moral rules, legal cynicism, and low self-control in general. One interesting aspect of this is they were able to make a clarification and divide on what is making young adults act out in this fashion. They concluded that hygiene and social distancing behaviors are in part driven by different mechanisms (Nivette 2020). What this means is that hygiene noncompliance is committed by a different mechanical reason to social distancing or other quarantine compliance. Hygiene noncompliance was specifically committed due to a lack of information within the individual or their upbringing hindered them from the following compliance. Social distancing and other quarantine noncompliance were committed due to a rebellious/ anti-authoritative mentality where the individual did not want to be told to stay inside.

Image of young adults working with a healthcare professional

Image from: AMCHP

So, what does this say about information communication? I believe that this separation between groupthink type 1 noncompliance and hygiene noncompliance is where the issue lies. Yes, as the data and statistics show, there is a percentage of young adults that are acting on their own accord in a rebellious persona and might be impossible to change. However, there is an equal number of young adults that simply do not understand or have the resources to follow quarantine mandates. The Committee on Improving the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Young Adults describes this and the overall public health perspectives and activities that programs use to target the young adult audience. For instance, they concluded that the use of a ‘developmental perspective’ when transmitting information to young adults proved to be the most effective (Bonnie 2015). By this, they mean that socially patterned exposures (such as properly integrated media-based marketing campaigns) during sensitive life stages would shift a young adult to follow compliance. This can be correlated to quarantine compliance and how public health officials are currently addressing young adults. Maybe a greater focus on developmental perspectives would encourage more young adults to buy into quarantine mandates.


As I mentioned earlier, this pandemic has been so unrelenting on everyone across the globe. I do not want this article to seem like I am placing blame on young adults in any way shape or form. I merely want to explain why these tendencies are prevalent within young adults and how health care officials might be able to go forth and properly inform them to make the correct decisions within this time of hardships.

Taking the First Step on Mars: Reality or is it Just Movie Magic

Image of Mars from space

Image from: Marcela Karner

Picture this, in the not-so-distant future, the spacecraft Ares III has just landed on the red planet of Mars allowing the crew to take the first steps on the planet’s surface. The astronauts are able to create a livable habitat for themselves as they discover the great unknown of the final frontier. While this is simply the starting plotline to the movie “The Martian”, it can very well be an event in our future. Space exploration topics have been wildly discussed around the astronautic community that offers various questions as to if it is even possible. Space colonization in particular is one that presents intrigue and controversy.

In this article, I wish to explain and explore the possibility of colonizing the planet of Mars. This is such a volatile topic that has so many considerations and possibilities that it can be hard to truly understand its possibility.  Despite this, I feel that this subject needs to be more fleshed out and explained to find the validity and possibility behind this enormous feat for mankind.

To start I wish to go over the current stigma and status on the colonization of Mars. As mentioned, this is a hot topic among professionals and the public eye. The main arguments from these two groups are:

  1. Survival of human species
  2. Exploring the potential of life on Mars to sustain humans
  3. Using space technology to positively contribute to our quality of life
  4. Developing as a species
  5. Gaining political and economic leadership

The main arguments (survival of the human species, development as a species, and political and economic leadership) are the three that I wish to expand upon as they are the primary points that astronomers feel are the most necessary towards Mars colonization.

Mars rover collected image

Image from: Clifton Chu

Survival of the Human Species:

Looking at the survival of the human species, this can be taken into numerous different directions. Do we have the technology to survive? Could we survive in a different environment compared to Earth? How will we ever get there? These are all applicable questions that, ironically, are not even comparable to the main question to if it ethically acceptable to colonize another planet? There are two main ethical considerations that come into play with populating Mars:

  1. Respect to humans
  2. Respect to Mars itself

The ethical consideration in respect to humans questions if it is appropriate to place a human on the surface of Mars. There is a complete risk of placing individuals in a position where civilization needs to be rebuilt. Thankfully, there have already been contingency plans that span every detail that a human would encounter on Mars ranging from physical barriers of agriculture, medical needs, power, and even psychological needs. Developments have already been mapped out on how to create a functioning agricultural system, medical options to fight common space ailments that astronauts have faced such as osteoporosis, solar panel inventions to allow for consistent power to structures, and programs created by the NASA Human Research Program to train individuals mentally before being sent into space.

The more pressing of the ethical considerations, respect to Mars holds a more tangible barrier to colonizing Mars. Putting a colony on Mars would taint the untouched surface. We would be putting our mark, our bodily being, our bacteria in an environment that has never encountered anything like us prior. This could be detrimental to the ecosystem already present on the planet. Microbial decontamination (an infection that is free of risk) of living on Earth is not a problem whatsoever. However, on Mars, we could infect any type of organism that is on the planet, creating the possibility of inadvertently killing the ecosystem. Sadly, this is a concern that still needs further testing as it is almost impossible to know until we have a live experiment. While this is a major deterrent to colonizing Mars, there are clear plans already in order that make it ethically acceptable to colonize the planet.

Fictionalized image of a potential colony on Mars

Image from: Wikimedia Commons

Development as a Species:

With the development as a species, there is an underlying question of to what is next for humanity regarding evolution? What is the next step to our advancement as a species? To many critics of Mars colonization, they would say mankind was meant to stay on Earth. They make the point that is no need to continue to other planets when we have a perfectly fine option here on Earth. While this is true to an extent, many space expansionists believe that colonizing Mars would thrust our species into a higher level of evolution. One of the most prominent of these expansionists is Elon Musk. He has been quoted saying that making life multi-planetary is “one of the important steps in evolution of life.” Our species has already made the jump from microbial to an organism. From living in water to land. Space is the clear succession for our development as a species.

Without necessary resources, it’s hard to develop anything substantial. It goes without saying that resource acquisition would be necessary for the development of a Mars colony. As mentioned, colonizing Mars would progress our species to the next steps of evolution; however, this won’t even be feasible if we don’t have the proper resources to fully reach that point. Thankfully, there have been plans to get the proper resources delivered allowing for humans to truly develop within a Mars colony. NASA JPL and Minor Planet Center have already evaluated a mining strategy using the surrounding asteroids around Mars that would be able to supplement the precious resources that we use here on Earth. While further exploration and developments would need to be made to adapt resource management that we use on Earth, this is a promising step showing that development can happen.

Now to address the true resource that needs to be prominent for our species to develop properly on Mars. Water. While it has not been observed on the surface of the planet, sources of water have been recorded to be located underneath its surface. It has already been discovered that underneath the surface of Mars, there are collections of sub-surface lakes plentiful with water. This shows more than just a finite amount, but there is the possibility for precipitation to formulate on the planet. Of course, these lakes would need to be excavated and artificially reproduced; however, it is there and it is accessible. This is a critical point that adds validity to how we can survive as a colony. It shows that humanity would be able to develop properly and be able to reach that higher level of evolution that we are destined to reach. Development as a species is absolutely necessary to take into account when determining the validity of colonizing Mars. With the plans already in motion and the further experiments that are in the works, it is only a matter of time before this becomes reality.

Spacecraft taking off from Kennedy Space Center

Image from: NASA

Political and Economic Leadership:

Finally, I want to touch on the political and economic leadership argument. If we do create a colony on Mars, there will be countless logistical details that absolutely need to be addressed for society to thrive. Just because we colonize Mars does not mean that there is no order. Currently, there is only one globally agreed document titled the Outer Space Treaty that does govern international cooperation within space. This treaty is the first space law that goes over the exploration of space and how said exploration should benefit the interests of all countries. Even more important, it makes a prominent assertion that the Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. These are all great starting points for space exploration, but it does not quite go over the colonization of a planet. Colonizing Mars would require an expansion to this treaty marking prominent points of consistent peace, possibilities of economic growth, and respect to the planet.

There is an old saying about the United States that it is a “melting pot” of various individuals from a variety of backgrounds. If mankind were to colonize Mars, it would be the most diverse melting pot ever envisioned. Different countries would be sending individuals to the planet’s surface and create colonies in respect to said countries. This creates an issue as to the possibility of war or confrontations occurring between colonies. The Braun-Tsiolkovsky and Clarke-Sagan paradigms tackle this issue of security and war within the context of interstellar exploration. By this, these paradigms encounter the problem with security in keeping Mars’ colonies safe and the possibilities of wars breaking out on the planet’s surface. They bring up the realization that if we have already weaponized Earth, this is bound to happen to Mars unless we, as humans, work as a collective unit (or have on hegemonic power of all countries rather than split up powers). These paradigms would need to be further expanded upon when creating a tangible law system so peace and collectivity can flourish among all individuals. A Mars colony would be more than just an ulterior destination to live, it is a shelter that we can rely on if Earth ever becomes compromised. When starting a new civilization, these factors come into play and are crucial to truly achieving a haven for mankind.

One Giant Leap for Mankind:

Mars has been a constant question within the astrological community as to if it is practical to eventually live on this planet. As shown, many arguments are present questioning the validity of this notion. So many logistical barriers are in place that could prevent civilization from ever being placed on the surface of Mars. Despite this, there are clear plans that make the survival of the human species possible and ethically acceptable. Just as important, our species would be able to properly develop and evolve to a greater level through plentiful resource allocation. Finally, with adequate planning and understanding, society would be able to formulate and thrive beyond any expectations. These arguments surrounding creating a colony on Mars might be intimidating to face, but as I have laid out, they can be addressed properly leaving only implementation left to conquer.

The opportunity to experience and observe the unknown of space is right in front of us, and all we need to do is take that step towards unveiling the mysteries of our solar system. Colonizing Mars is a bold and dangerous feat. However, the opportunity to show what else our galaxy has to offer to makes up for this danger as it would project our society into a position of higher learning. Neil Armstrong famously said, “one step from a man, one giant leap for mankind”. We have a chance to go beyond this leap; this can turn into a complete ascension to the future projecting us further than ever imaged all from one step on the surface of Mars.

The Upper Limit to the Speed of Sound

Military jet rapidly acceleratingImage from: Pixabay

A recent study has emerged unveiling the absolute speed of a wave traveling through solids to be 22.4 km per second (22.4 miles per second). The researching physicists concluded that when combining the constant of fine structure and the proton to electron mass ratio in one singular equation, a new dimensionless constant is formed representing the upper bound for the speed of sound. Throughout this piece, I plan on breaking down the complex algorithms and jargon to make it more approachable to read. In addition, I want to shed light on how the physical sciences can correlate to the realm of communication by intertwining the two and showing how with equations such as this, it can be communicated to other disciplines. This is a dramatic breakthrough in the physics world and needs to be understood as it could impact the future of how we understand our natural world.

To start, the overall focus of this study was to come up with an equation that can be used to find the upper bound for the speed of sound. In other words, they found the maximum possible speed that sound can travel through solids and liquids. Initially, Einstein’s theory of special relativity calculated that a wave could travel at peak velocity at 300,000 km per second (186,000 miles per second). However, this is the velocity traveling through the air and not solids or liquids (which drastically reduces the speed of a sound wave). Up until now, this cap of speed was simply not able to be calculated. This finding allows physicists to understand more about how waves interact with the world. It can be as practical as waves hitting a building’s structure or waves impacting other planets such as gas giants like Jupiter. As mentioned, this is a complex equation that needs to be broken down into sections in order to understand. To start, knowledge of a simple wave must be known.

Within the realm of physics, a wave is the displacement of particles that move in a path like waves seen in water. Waves can be broken down into three main categories: mechanical, electromagnetic, and matter (see image below for physical example). The two that are critical to understanding this new study are mechanical and electromagnetic. Mechanical waves require an oscillation of matter to transfer energy in a wave pattern. These can be experienced in the form of waves in the ocean or soundwaves. The only caveat to this type of wave is the oscillation of matter acting as a medium; mediums being a way to carry the wave onward such as the air with sound waves. Electromagnetic waves contrast mechanical as they do not require a medium and instead move through a vacuum (a space devoid of matter).  As mentioned, these two types of waves are needed to understand the process of finding the upper bound for the speed of sound. To start this study, two main constants need to be present.

Sound wave examplesImage from: Wikimedia Commons

The two constants that are needed for this study are the constant of fine structure and the proton to electron mass ratio. The constant of fine structure is used to explain the strength of the electromagnetic force and offers a way to compare how electrons (negative charge particle) and photons (light particle) interact. The actual value of this constant is surprisingly simple as 1/137. This is important to the equation as the relationship between matter and light (the purpose of this constant) is needed to multiply with the proton to electron ratio. The proton to electron ratio is simply the mass of a proton compared to the mass of an electron. It is a common constant that is seen throughout various equations. By this constant, the ratio of mass is 1,836.153. In the found equation, this constant was used to multiply against the constant of fine structure. Kostya Trachenko, physicists who worked on this ratio, was quoted saying, “If you change these constants by a few percent, then the proton might not be stable anymore, and you might not even have the processes in stars resulting in the synthesis of heavy elements”.  Thankfully in this equation, the ratio is not changed at all. Now that the different parts of the equation have been explained, the discovered equation can be explained.

So, the equation the physicists came up with is a combination of all the parts described earlier. Their research unveiled this equation:

Created equation on the upper limit to the speed of soundEquation from: Science Advances

First and foremost, the equation’s structure comes from an alteration to Einstein’s theory of special relativity. Now each symbol represents a constant/number:

Vu = upper bound for the speed of sound

C = speed of light

α = constant of fine structure

(me/2mp) = proton to electron ratio

As mentioned earlier, the constant of fine structure is multiplied by the proton to electron ratio (this portion is up to the ½ as that is part of Einstein’s theory of special relativity). These two multiplied constants offer the constant for the upper bound for the speed of sound, Vu. With this, there is no set-in-stone unit to this equation as Vu depends on the type of matter the sound wave is traveling. Thus, there is a range for the upper bound for the speed of sound which comes out to .6 to 2.4 km per second. On a side note, the constant for the upper bound for the speed of sound is over the speed of light, C, as the speed of sound coincides with the speed of light. For example, lightning is always seen before heard.

Now how does this have anything to do with communication you might be asking? Well this equation can tie into other disciplines such as architecture or astronomy. Within the realm of architecture, architects can use the equation to study how waves effect buildings. This is critical in areas such as in California where seismic waves from earthquakes constantly effect building foundations. The equation can aid these architects to determine the proper strength/resistance these buildings need to stay in tact. In astronomy, astrologists can use the equation to determine how certain gaseous planets function.

An image of JupiterImage from: Wikimedia Commons

In one test, they concluded that further research can be continued on waves passing through other planets. One main example they displayed is how waves could react with gaseous planets such as Jupiter. In the study, the constant worked with the density and pressure of gasses found on the planet, specifically atomic hydrogen. This allowed the astrologists to get a deeper understanding of the planet and unveil more characteristics that were previously left to the unknown.

This equation is a massive breakthrough for more than just physicists. It is a breakthrough that can span over countless disciplines. It allows for further investigation to occur within the physical world on Earth and the cosmic world of space. This only begs the question as to what can be discovered next and how far this constant can take us in understanding the natural world as we know it.

Conquering the Correlating Crises of COVID-19 and Climate Control

Skyline of an factory pollution.

Image from: The European Wilderness Society

This piece is a proposed assertion of combining efforts to eliminate issues within America and presents a call to action in the possibility of cohesion within the spectrums of public health and environmental engineers.

At a time where crises are ransacking the United States, it can seem overwhelming what situation to conquer first. A widespread pandemic is halting life as we know it, natural disasters are tearing apart our structures, and racial tensions splitting apart once a unified nation, it is truly a time where these situations are making it seem like there no solution in sight.

Despite this, there is a glimmer of hope where there is an opportunity to tackle two birds with one stone. What I mean by this is that the situations of climate control and COVID-19 can be worked on simultaneously.

Over the past few months, the COVID-19 virus has infected 11,355,175 individuals across the U.S. and has taken the lives of 251,812 of that total. What is even more striking is that individuals living in areas where air pollution is a major problem, there is a drastic jump in the death rate of infected individuals. A recent Harvard study concluded that the “COVID-19 mortality rate ratios per 1 μg/m3 increase in PM2.5 and 95% CI using daily cumulative COVID-19 death counts”. Technical jargon aside, this study determined that excessive exposure to polluted air drastically increased the number of deaths in infected individuals.

Not only that, rapidly developing natural disasters such as the west coast wildfires are forcing people out of their homes and taking them out of an environment where social distancing was taking place. A New England medical journal even observed this behavior firsthand as cooling centers that were protecting those evacuated from the wildfires ended up contaminating those same people with the COVID-19 virus as they were all placed into one, densely populated, center.

Environmental engineers surveying the land.Image from: Wikimedia Commons

So how can both problems of COVID-19 and climate control be solved simultaneously? I feel that the proper allocation of healthcare professionals and environmental engineers needs to be put in place as well as having the two groups of experts work together to implement corresponding policies. It is absolutely possible and absolutely necessary that this action takes place as it will place our great country in a position to once again succeed and flourish.

Firstly, having the proper allocation of healthcare and environmental engineers would put these two issues at the forefront of priorities. Obviously, healthcare professionals are on the front lines every day tackling this disease. With this, environmental engineers need to be marked as prevalent and placed at a higher degree. You can go onto any news site and see constant updates on every facet of the virus. Meanwhile, environmental engineers are left with rare updates on any form of climate control information. They need to be more prevalent and readily available for us as the populace to see.

In addition to this allocation, I feel that these two groups need to find a way to work together to conquer the same goal. As mentioned earlier, there are direct correlations between COVID-19 and climate control. Both can find a way to shape environmental and health policies that are in place today. For instance, deforestation policies could be developed with the aid of healthcare professionals as the devastation to biodiversity is one of the major leading causes of climate change as well as the infectious disease spread from loss of slow animal migrations. Having healthcare professionals included in this research and policy development could be a way to both solve climate control and the COVID-19 spread.

Landscape view of a city.Image from: Pixy

Going off the idea of having healthcare professionals and environmental engineers working together, I feel that they would also be able to resolve the everlasting issue of air pollution. Specifically, with greenhouse gas emissions, environmental engineers can put a plan into action with the guiding support of healthcare professionals. One such plan that is currently in place is called Cap and Trade. This policy focuses on created a cap for businesses and households on the number of greenhouse gasses that their ventures. This is more of an economic plan but is being worked to reward those who use cleaner energy sources to solve the emission crisis. Healthcare professionals would be an excellent addition to this policy as they can add input on the proper emission level that would stop disease respiratory infections via air pollution.

The COVID-19 disease and constant natural issues have placed the United States in a stagnant position where it seems like no progress is being made to better our country. I feel that if our healthcare professionals and environmental engineers can come together and operate as a unit, these two issues can be finally resolved. Unifying the professionals and allowing them to communicate on their developments within our country would in return, finally unify this country in moving forward to excel and prosper better than we were before this crisis.

Reclaiming Her Life: How a Tragic Loss Sparked an Inner Purpose to Combat Teen Drug Abuse

Reclaiming My Life book cover.

Early in my young adult life, I had encountered a tragic event that an average teenager should never have to face. A tragic event that no one should ever have to face. At the young age of 18, my beloved cousin Robert had passed away from a drug overdose. There is not a word in the English dictionary that could have expressed the grief and sorrow that my family felt and I could not emphasize enough that no person should ever have to experience that kind of pain. With that pain; however, a glimmer of hope did surface.

In this post, I want to highlight a hero that emerged from Rob’s passing, my Aunt, Tammy Lofink. She was faced with the worst fear that any parent could have, and even worse, the lingering grief and suffering that became a permanent mark on her life. Despite this, Tammy was able to use her grief as motivation. She found purpose in becoming an activist for teen drug addiction and planned on making it a goal in her life to combat this crisis.

In 2015, one year after the passing of Rob, Tammy formed the organization Rising Above Addiction. This is a nonprofit organization based in Carroll County, Maryland. Their primary goal is to focus on the community by hosting countless charity events that bring people together, educate them on the dangers of drug abuse, and raise money to help those in need. Over the years, they have hosted events such as softball games, barbeques, Running and Riding for Recovery, golf tournaments, and the event that kicked off this organization, sky diving events. With each event, a tighter bond connects each community member. More importantly, it presents an opportunity for inclusion for those struggling with drug addiction.

Rising Above Addiction Organization Logo

This organization brings those individuals together and lets them know that they are not alone in their battles. Tammy quotes on this inclusion as she states in her book, “we recognize that when someone is under the influence of drugs, they are not always capable of making the decision to get help. The goal is that after detox, individuals make the decision to stay in treatment. My mission and my vision are to make treatment available to all who are ready”. That mission and vision only continued to grow as she has gone on to open two sober homes (Reclaiming My Life and Keeping My Serenity). In these sober homes, “a group of men or a group of women share a same-gender house in hopes of re-entry into the community as productive members”. These homes offer a chance at rehabilitation and a chance to achieve a normal life that the evils of drugs had taken away.

As I have consistently mentioned throughout this post, she has also written a book that has truly forwarded her movement on combating drug addiction. Tammy Lofink, with Sylvia Blair editing, wrote the book Reclaiming My Life. This book presents a captivating journey that my Aunt has taken through life, especially when detailing Robert and his constant battle with drug abuse. She does not hold back as each page, each word holds such an impactful meaning of love. I want to specifically point out how she connects herself to Robert throughout the book. It offers a great parallel between individuals, adding to her struggle in trying to save him and highlighting Rob as this overarching angel that has guided her throughout her countless efforts to make sure no parent ever has to go through what she did. With the goal in mind to find inner peace in her tragedy and to help others find comfort in their situations regarding addiction, she was able to communicate her story and offering a chance for others to get the help they need with addiction.

Whether it was through her words on paper or her actions assembling an organization that allows those a second chance, Tammy was able to make the difference and I feel has solidified herself as a hero in every sense of the word. When I envision effective communication methods, my Aunt ultimately displayed this in the face of adversity. Her words have been able to start a movement in Maryland by helping those who truly need it. Even more commendable, she was able to bring light to Rob and his passing. Her book, her organization, the countless lives she was able to save by giving them a second chance in the fight against drug addiction, everything was for him and in his spirit.

I am blessed to be able to have such a strong and dedicated member of my family. Even more, I am extremely grateful for having the chance to write about and pass along her accomplishments. In concluding this post, I felt it would be fitting to speak in the words of my Aunt, the way I feel she would end it just like she does in her book:

“For you, Because of you, and In Memory of You”.

Faculty Spotlight: Kip Soteres

Faculty Photo of Kip Soteres


For this week’s post, I chose to conduct a faculty spotlight interview on Kip Soteres. With 20 years of experience in change communication, he has not only made a valuable impact on the field of communication but also on the students he teaches. In this interview, I chose to ask questions regarding both communication as well as his personal interests and how they intertwine:

Q.) One of the first things that struck me was that you are initially from a business background and merged that with a passion for communication. Would you be able to talk about how this combination of business and communication came to be within your professional career and highlight the path that those two disciplines have taken you up to this point in your career?

A.) I actually started my college career as a Creative Writing major and pursued that for about fifteen years. I studied with some very talented poets, received an MFA in poetry, and went to live and write in Athens, Greece. Even then, I was interested in philosophy, especially ethics, and my reading and thinking in those areas have served me well in both business and academic roles. I also had to make a living. So I started teaching English as a Foreign Language. After a short time, I realized that I didn’t like my textbooks, so I asked one of the owners at the language school if I could write my own. My point is that over time I pursued my passions and fed my curiosity. I didn’t have a master plan, or rather – I had several that never came fully to fruition – but the skills I kept learning prepared me for the next opportunity and adventure when the time came.

One way that I think I distinguish myself is a consultant is that I have a deeper appreciation for the strength and beauty of language. Your communication classes don’t always pause to have you listen to FDR’s first fireside chats, for example. Academia is your opportunity to find those prose stylists who write with simplicity and clarity, and who do it with considerable sensitivity to the channels they are writing for and the audiences they are addressing.

Communication theory also gives me a broader-than-average range of lenses that I can use to analyze problems. It’s not like I go to clients and say, “Let’s see how a Kotter change management approach might apply,” or “Let’s see what a Positive Deviance approach will shake loose.” But I have these different tools at my disposal, and that perhaps helps me present a broader and more creative array of options to clients facing tough problems. The reverse is true as well in that I bring my consulting experience to bear on than teaching and advising that I do. I think students value the ways we collaborate to connect the theory and research to life and work.

At its core, language is how humans build our worlds – both the private worlds that we inhabit as individuals and the shared worlds we create in our various social interactions. Through language and because of language, we have the potential to create that world anew every single day, though perhaps too often we choose to live in the same one for extended periods of time. Both in academia and through my consulting practice, I spend the bulk of my time engaging with others to tap into the massive potential that unfolds each day when we open our eyes in the morning.

Q.) How do you see the field of communication expanding in the future? I know that communication is an ever-evolving subject but how do you see it going further in today’s age?

A.) I think it’s going to take a long time for every social science to work through the foundation-shattering evolution of social media. It can take the form of remote work, gamification, learning tools, news feeds, office chat, and file-sharing apps and platforms like Teams, or just straight up evaluations of the dominant channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, etc.

Whatever facet you choose to explore, these tools/apps/platforms amount to an unprecedented power to amplify the best and worst of human networks. Information and disinformation have never been easier to create and disseminate. Our ability to wall ourselves off from disparate perspectives has never been easier. The people working in these spaces and addressing the challenges and opportunities that come with it – that’s going to be very important work with implications that will shape what our society looks like for decades to come.

Q.) You are also involved with creative writing as a personal interest. Being an English major in my undergraduate studies I am always impressed with how writers can convey engaging stories from a variety of platforms. Would you be able to touch on where this love of writing came from and some of the inspiration your published works came from?

A.) My writing is a compulsion. I think it’s important to read and appreciate good writing because that’s how it gets into your bones. That’s a different activity than just reading to lose yourself in the story. It’s learning to take as much conscious pleasure in the evocation of a moment or a feeling, or in the structure of a dramatic twist, as you do in the unfolding narrative. I’d recommend going back to the writing that you most enjoy and ask yourself specifically what it is that you like about it.

So one main source of inspiration for me has always been the writing of others. I notice an effect that moves me or just strikes me as beautiful, and I ask myself what I could write that would let me practice achieving the same effect. That applies to all genres, by the way, including non-fiction. I’ve been very omnivorous in my reading and that reflects the many genres of writing that I’ve attempted – poetry, literary fiction, young adult fiction, fantasy fiction, opera and musical theater librettos, plays, film scripts, etc. For heaven’s sake, I emcee a monthly Opera and art music theory on YouTube each month – Aria412. Check us out on YouTube! Lots of variances and so many great relationships across all of it.

I guess it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think I’m particularly good at it. But in the end, I hope people will largely agree that I brought my best self forward in the effort. In any case, that’s why I started off by saying it’s a compulsion. And I think my lifelong aspiration to be a great creative writer has made me a better person in other respects. It invites me to be empathetic. It encourages a world view that goes beyond mere utility. It helps me to remember that we are here in this life to inspire one another and to promote well being and happiness so far as we are capable.

Q.) Has being an instructor in communication and teaching the subject inversely taught you anything? Of course, there is the old saying that you never stop learning but is there anything that teaching has brought about that you wouldn’t have been exposed to without this experience?

A.) I learn at least as much as my students do every time that I teach. The perspectives of students coming through the graduate programs give me a real sense of where communication is going, where your interests are, what you care about. But with every class, as I do the reading along with you, I also refresh on theories that I’d forgotten about – new approaches to problem-solving. It’s always incredibly energizing. Of course, I’m fortunate to have such a varied life. I get to do my creative writing and participate in communities of the performing arts – my consultancy is thriving – and I get to teach topics that I’m passionate about. I don’t know that I’d be happy doing any one of those activities all of the time. But I’m delighted to be doing them together.

Q.) Finally, what kind of advice would you give to an incoming graduate student or someone who is thinking of continuing their education within the field of communication? Is there anything they should expect or should be prepared to be exposed to?

A.) Be tirelessly curiously throughout your life, but especially now. Use this time as a graduate student to explore ideas and pursue your passions unabashedly. Don’t worry about connecting the dots at first – read as much as you can and engage with each other (even if it’s only through Zoom) to have those intense graduate school conversations that are part of your degree – not just what you do in the classroom or as a part of taking classes.

I also think it’s never been more important to have broad and varied skillsets. In addition to the theory and academic topics that come pretty automatically as part of the curriculum, learn a little about as much as you can about graphic design, HTML, social media metrics, press releases, how to build a good survey, how to write a speech, how to develop a lesson plan or give a presentation. Or get outside the box entirely and interact a little with the other Social Sciences. Whatever you’re learning, challenge yourself to cross-relate it to other topics and to think of ways to put it into practice.

The more disparate items that you pull together, the more flexible you can be in your career choices, and the more likely that you will be able to spot opportunities that take you down fulfilling career paths. I’ve been a learning omnivore all of my life and taking joy in learning for its own sake. I’ve coupled that with a knack for being able to take theories and ideas and apply them for practical impact. Putting those things together has led to a career that I have found to be rich and varied, and it has also expanded my social network in ways that I think go beyond what a lot of people get to experience.

Finally, about a year or two ago I helped Chatham University organize a forum of Internal Communication leaders from major employers in the region. When I asked them what they were looking for in a new hire, they all said the same thing: “We’re looking for people who can write with clarity and sensitivity. In particular, we need communicators who can adapt their writing style and approach depending on the situation, the channel, and the audience.” So don’t neglect your writing and communication skills across all media. It will serve you very well, no matter what you end up deciding to do.

I would like to thank Kip for being able to conduct this interview and be able to share with others his thoughts and experiences. It is always a pleasure being able to work with him, especially this time being out of a class setting. Being able to pick the brain of an academic like like Kip is such a rewarding experience and I hope others get to see the value in an interview such as this. More importantly and to what Kip says, “It will serve you well, no matter what you end up deciding to do.”