Faculty Focus: Dr. Katherine Rafferty

CATEGORIES: Faculty Focus

Dr. Katherine Rafferty (she/her/hers) is celebrating six years of teaching in the Communication Studies program at Iowa State University. She has recently been promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Psychology. Dr. Rafferty is excited to continue her work in Communication Studies Program and says, “There is a special sense of camaraderie within our Program and the students who we serve. I’m excited to continue being a part of this Program.”  

While Dr. Rafferty attended college outside of Iowa, earning her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and her Masters of Arts and Bachelors of Arts at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, she was happy to return to Iowa. She grew up in central Iowa and enjoys teaching students like her who call Iowa their home.   

Iowa State University is known for being a student-centered public research university. One of Dr. Rafferty’s favorite teaching opportunities has been advising and mentoring students one-on-one in the Family Health Communication Research Lab: “I’ve been privileged to work with over a dozen students in my research lab that was created in 2016 with two other undergraduate students. The purpose of this lab is to expose students to research and foster research collaborations with community partners that gets family health communication scholarship in the hands of individuals who would benefit from the research.” She recognizes that the students that she has worked with are “some of the most hardworking, kind, and appreciative individuals.” 

If you’ve noticed the Cyclones Care campaign, which began after the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Rafferty is one of the people behind its success. She assisted in providing effective messaging surrounding the pandemic and finding scholarly research to guide how messages were worded. Some of her work can be found in “the ‘why'” section on the Cyclones Care website. The Cyclones Care Development Team recently won the Exemplary Team or Unit Effort Award from the COVID-19 Exceptional Effort Awards Program.     

Dr. Katherine Rafferty, along with Dr. Jeff Child (Kent State University), Dr. Kate Magsamen-Conrad (University of Iowa), and graduate student Erin Slattery (University of Iowa), were recently awarded the Federation Prize from the Central States Communication Association. This prize will assist in funding their research on how to improve support services for families of children with complex chronic conditions. Surveys will ask parents questions about their social support preferences and examine potential relationships between social support and information sharing.   

Dr. Rafferty teaches several Communication Studies classes throughout the year, including COMST 450B: Health Communication. Health Communication is a course that Dr. Rafferty created with the support of a $12,000 Engineering-Liberal Arts & Science grant. In this special topics course, students study research, theories, and concepts related to health communication. Topics include interpersonal health care relationships, health organizations, public health crises, and health campaigns. Students learn why communication is so important to health care and have an opportunity to create a health literacy guide about a health topic and population of their choice. Some of these health literacy guides are then piloted with community partners and published on the research lab website for anyone to access and benefit from the information. This fully online course has become a mainstay for the Communication Studies Program and has become a popular choice for many students from across campus, particularly those who aspire to work in health care or public health.