Ann Searight Christiano is the director of the Center for Public Interest Communications and a clinical professor of public relations. Public interest communications uses science-driven strategic communication and storytelling to advance positive social change.
Searight directs the frank gathering, which brings together hundreds of leaders from around the world who are working at the front lines of social causes, as well as scholars and funders to share the best of what they know in Gainesville every February. As the inaugural Frank Karel Chair in Public Interest Communications (2010-2020), she developed a first-ever curriculum in public interest communications, connecting practitioners and scholars already working in the field and nurturing and sharing research that can advance this newly emerging academic discipline.
Before she came to the University of Florida, Searight was a senior communication officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, where she directed communication efforts for programs that address the social factors like housing, education and mental health that drive health and well-being.
Searight’s writing has appeared in the Stanford Social Innovation Review and Quartz, and she was the University of Florida’s Teacher of the Year in 2014. Her work through the Center includes partnerships with the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, The Department of State, and several agencies in this domain. She has worked with several federal agencies, the Gates Foundation and nonprofits and other foundations throughout the United States. She regularly trains scientists and other leaders to convey the importance of their work more effectively.
Location::Gainesville, Fla. & The Road
Asorey is a lecturer in public relations at the University of Florida, based in New York. Before joining UF she was head of social media at BODEN, a leading cross-cultural communication agency based in Miami, where she oversaw the McDonald’s USA scope of work as Hispanic agency of record. She led the account team and collaborated with McDonald’s communication, marketing and digital teams to develop communication and social media strategies to reach the Hispanic consumer market.
Asorey also led the agency’s award-winning social listening practice, Escucha, to build brand advocacy through influencer and consumer engagement and real-time content. Previously, she worked on the Delta Dental, UnitedHealthcare, Dewar’s, America’s ToothFairy and American Academy of Pediatrics accounts.
Jack J. Barry received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Connecticut, and his Masters in political science from the University of Rhode Island. In his previous position he was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Connecticut working closely with the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs on their Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and Study of the United States Institute (SUSI) international programs. His areas of research focus on the impact of Information Communication Technologies on development, poverty, and politics, and also investigating access to the internet as a new emergent human right. He has a new article addressing how COVID-19 has exposed the need for internet access to be provided as a human right published on GlobalOpenRights.
Some of his other publications include a book “Information Communication Technology and Poverty Alleviation: Promoting Good Governance in the Developing World” (Routledge 2019); a book chapter “Social Movements in the Digital Age” in Mahmood Monshippouri, ed., “Information Politics, Protests, and Human Rights in the Digital Age” (Cambridge University Press 2016); and a more popular press piece published by the Conversation “Mexico wants internet access for all. Getting everyone online could reduce poverty, too.” He has taught courses at various institutions of higher education including the University of Connecticut, University of Rhode Island, and Trinity College (Hartford, CT). During his free time he enjoys surfing, playing guitar, traveling, and is a surprisingly good basketball player.
Hannah Lazar and I am a second year MA student in the Political Science – International Relations program at UF. My research interests are women’s rights issues, politics in non-traditional forms, and international and humanitarian law. I am currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the Political Science department for an introductory undergraduate class on International Relations, as well as a Research Assistant at the Center for Public Interest Communications. When I’m not researching or teaching, I enjoy reading, cooking, and thrifting.
Jasmine McNealy, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Media Production, Management and Technology department of the College of Journalism and Communications, and joins the Center as interim director of research. Jasmine will work with the Center team this spring and summer on research design and execution for our service agreement partners.
McNealy’s research focuses on information, communication and technology, with a view toward influencing law and policy. She holds a Ph.D. in mass communication with an emphasis in media law, and a J.D. from the University of Florida, and a bachelor of science degree in both journalism and Afro-American studies from the University of Wisconsin.
She’s now concluding a one-year appointment with the Federal Trade Commission as a technology policy advisor. In 2018-19, she served as a fellow at both Data & Society and the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.
As the Center’s director of programs and training, Ellen Nodine oversees the daily operations and provides leadership in the strategic direction of the unit. As a member of the frank strategic communications academy, she delivers in-person and online training to various constituents. She also teaches writing as an adjunct faculty member for the College of Journalism and Communications.
Ellen is the event manager for the frank gathering, which brings together hundreds of leaders from around the world in Gainesville every February who are working at the front lines of social causes, as well as scholars and funders to share the best of what they know.
She received her Master’s in Education from the University of Florida, with a specialization in Curriculum Design and Education Technology. Her master’s thesis examined the ability to establish social presence in an online community through the use of Twitter.
Matt Sheehan is a member of the journalism faculty at the UF College of Journalism and Communications. He’s spent his career, so far, working in established and emerging media, including as inaugural director of the UF Innovation News Center (the nation’s largest student-powered public media newsroom), COO of a media startup and as an assistant news editor at The Washington Post.
Location:Washington, D.C. & Gainesville, Fla.
Aaron J. Zeiler
Aaron Zeiler (he/him) is the director of partner strategies for the Center for Public Interest Communications. In this role, Aaron maintains existing projects with internal and external partners as well as steward and engage new relationships with potential partners.
Aaron’s background has centered on building the communication capacity of organizations and foundations working on issues ranging from public interest technology, prison abolition and public health. He has helped build social media and media relations strategy, facilitated trainings and coachings on storytelling and strategic communication, and led the communication efforts of a national non-profit.
Journal of Public Interest Communications
Linda Hon, Ph.D.
Dr. Linda Childers Hon is a professor in the Department of Public Relations. She is also Journal Supervisor for the Journal of Public Interest Communications, an open-access online peer-reviewed journal published by the College.
Hon was executive associate dean of the College from 2006–2012. She is an Al and Effie Flanagan Professor of Journalism and Communications and also held the title of University of Florida Research Foundation Professor.
Hon’s teaching areas include digital social advocacy and public relations theory and research. Her current research focuses on grassroots activism in the digital era. Hon also has conducted research on evaluation, relationship management, and gender and diversity issues in public relations. She is the author (with Larissa Grunig and Elizabeth Toth) of Women in Public Relations: How Gender Influences Practice, a scholarly textbook published in 2001. Her research has been published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, Journal of Communication Management, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, Journal of Applied Communications, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Public Relations Strategist, as book chapters in Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management, Teaching Public Relations, The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management: Challenges to the Next Generation, Responsible Advocacy: Perspectives on Ethics in Public Relations, and as a “Gold Standard” paper from the Institute for Public Relations.
Hon was the recipient of the 2001 “Pathfinder” Award for Best Recent Program of Research in Public Relations given by the Institute for Public Relations. She was the editor of the Journal of Public Relations Research from 2000-2005. In 2012, she was inducted into PR News’ Measurement Hall of Fame.
Hon was an inaugural member of the Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation, Institute for Public Relations, and an inaugural member of the advisory board for the Plank Center for Public Relations Leadership at the University of Alabama. She is a member of Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Public Relations Society of America, and Florida Public Relations Association.
Joseph Radice is the journal manager of the Journal on Public Interest Communications. He is a doctoral student in the UF Department of Linguistics and a graduate instructor in the Dial Center for Written and Oral Communication. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from UF.
Frequent University of Florida Faculty & Scholar Collaborators
Former fellows, associates and faculty
- Yewande O. Addie, Ph.D., research associate
- Ja’kari Clayton, research assistant (and inaugural master’s degree in public interest communications graduate)
- Kelly Chernin, Ph.D., journal manager
- Linda Hon, Ph.D., professor of public relations and journal leader
- Brendan Martin, partner services and operations
- Annie Neimand, Ph.D., research director
- Lissette Tolentino, Ph.D., research assistant
- Bienvenido ‘Benny’ Torres, affiliate faculty
- Zakyree Wallace, research assistant
Rakeem Robinson is a research assistant in the Center for Public Interest Communications. A graduate of Liberty University, with a bachelor’s in business administration, Rakeem is currently completing his master’s degree at the University of Florida and will enter the doctoral program at the College of Journalism and Communications in fall 2020.