Each year the Office of Research chooses a few of our many exemplary Presidential Doctoral Research Fellows to be Spotlight Students. We interview these students to learn more about their experiences as researchers and as graduate students at USU.
Jamal-Jared Alexander is a Technical Communication & Rhetoric student in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Jamal-Jared works in the English Department with faculty Dr. Kimberly Harper and Dr. Jared Colton.
Q: What is your name and where are you from?
A: My name is Jamal-Jared Alexander and I am from Atlanta, GA
Q: What are your interests outside of school and your research?
A: My interest consists of traveling (domestic and international), watching and playing tennis, and most importantly spending as much time with my family as I possibly can.
Q: What is one fun fact about you?
A: I am a cultural custodian with a goofy sense of humor
Your Studies and Research
Q: What are you studying?
A: I am studying Technical Communication & Rhetoric with an emphasis on Medical Communication.
Q: When did you know what you wanted to study?
A: During the great depression (haha) I had an epiphany that my love for medicine didn’t have to consist of me being an M.D. to help people. I learned about Technical Communication (by way of Scientific and Medical Writing) and discovered that the skills I developed while working in industry allowed me to reach a larger audience where my work can benefit more patients on a national and international level, and that alone inspired me to study my specific research.
Q: What led you to Utah State?
A: My mentor led me to Utah State University. With me being a first-generation college student, I knew I had to find allies and mentors to help me achieve greatness when I first started my undergraduate program. I was introduced to a new faculty member during my senior year and we developed a genuine friendship that continues to blossom 10 years later. She heard about a Ph.D. Tech Comm program at USU and sent me the information, and the rest is history.
Q: What is the focus of your research?
A: The focus of my research is to improve health literacy in low-income communities. Doing so will decrease chronic illnesses while also improving patients’ ability to advocate for themselves while ridding generational pathologies that have prohibited families from seeking medical services.
Q: What is your favorite part of your research?
A: My favorite part of my research deals with me being able to interact with different types of people. The term “low-income” consists of many different cultures, races, and social classes throughout the world, and being able to interact with different groups of people allows me to have a better (and clearer) perspective of what the issues are (regarding health literacy) and how I can find possible solutions.
A Typical Day
Q: Describe a typical day in your research.
A: A typical day as a doctoral student has been maintaining balance in my life (i.e. work-life combo). I’m finding ways to narrow my interest while also researching new theories and methods used by other scholars who have similar research interest as mine. I’ve learned to compartmentalize my professional and personal lives by not taking work home and leaving it in the office, and that alone allows me to focus on what’s important while also taking the necessary time to maintain balance and not overload or overwork myself. Doing so also allows me to be the best version of myself at any given time.
Q: What skills or expertise do you have/are you growing through your research?
A: The main skills that I’ve developed pertain to the research process. Although I’ve experienced quantitative and qualitative research before, I continue to learn new qualitative strategies that fit with my personality since I enjoy conversing with people. The more I can rely on my natural abilities to connect with people through my research, the stronger my study becomes.
Q: What is your favorite thing about Logan/Utah State?
A: The views and free bus transportation are my favorite things about Logan! I am fortunate to have great views at my home and enjoy being able to read a book sitting in front of the window while periodically glancing at the mountains. Since I am a city boy at heart, I also enjoy not having to drive to and from work every day (which saves money and limits the amount of wear and tear on my vehicle).
Q: What has been a valuable USU resource for you and your research?
A: The PDRF program has been the most valuable resource for me during my time here at USU thanks to the many workshops (e.g. grant writing, research, interviewing techniques, etc.) they’ve sponsored for the fellows. I’ve made a few connections through the program that have been extremely helpful (professionally and personally), and I am forever thankful and grateful for all they continue to do to help support our endeavors.
Q: Who is your mentor and what department are they in?
A: My personal mentor is Dr. Kimberly Harper, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at North Carolina A&T. Dr. Rebecca Walton is my department and PDRF mentor.
Q: How did they become your mentor?
A: Dr. Harper became my mentor through an event I was hosting for the English department at Albany State University. Dr. Walton became my mentor while working together on a diversity inclusion recruitment trip that took place in Fall 2018.
Q: What do you like about the collaboration process?
A: Collaboration is great and is always needed! Being able to talk about topics (personal and research related) and to hear different perspectives from people with different backgrounds offer new insights that can’t be produced when working alone.
Q: What is one valuable thing that research has taught you?
A: I’ve learned that I can’t conquer the world and need to narrow my research interest and use my career to make progressive contributions.
Do you have any advice for new research students here at Utah State?
Yes! Find a support group/team and force yourself to interact with them weekly. This may be hard for those individuals who are loners and don’t care to socialize much, but I have found solace in being able to go out for lunch once every two weeks with people I trust to decompress or just to completely forget about school and work for 1-2 hours. I also joined the tennis and curling team to ensure I maintain physical activity while having fun playing the sports I love. For those that want to do things by themselves, I recommend finding a hobby to partake in once a month. As mentioned earlier I am a city boy at heart, so I head down to Salt Lake City twice a month by myself and explore the city life with a little retail therapy, live jazz bands, theater plays, etc. Long story short, have a life outside of school/work! I promise you will be a much happier and healthier person (mentally and physically).