IPh.D. Candidate McGreavy Reflects on Her Selection for the Doctoral Honors Seminar and Her Research

University of Maine graduate student Bridie McGreavy was one of 29 doctoral students nationwide who were selected to participate in this year’s Doctoral Honors Seminar of the National Communication Association, July 18–21 in Bar Harbor. For more than three decades, the seminar has brought together the top Ph.D. students and faculty to discuss current topics in communication. The National Communication Association is the largest professional communication organization in the United States. UMaine has had an interdisciplinary doctoral program in communication since 2007.

McGreavy is pursuing an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in communication. She is a research fellow with Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), where her work as a member of the Knowledge-Action team focuses on resilience from multiple perspectives. She also studies collaboration in interdisciplinary partnerships.

McGreavy received a master’s degree in environmental studies/conservation biology from Antioch University New England in 2008, where her research focused on science communication and vernal pool conservation in Maine.

Tell us what it was like to be one of the 29 doctoral students competitively selected to participate in the Doctoral Honors Seminar. What did you take away from the experience?

Participating in the National Communication Association’s Doctoral Honors Seminar was one of the most significant experiences in my doctoral experience. This was a unique opportunity to advance a chapter of my dissertation and to meet early-career scholars in my field. The seminar provided me with an enhanced focus and sense of clarity about my work, as faculty mentors and fellow students in my session gave supportive and helpful insights for how to strengthen my writing. I also met new colleagues and friends with whom I am now planning to collaborate on future conference presentations and writing projects. I came away from the experience with a much greater sense of identification with and community within the national field of communication.

How did you get interested in your research field and how has it evolved from your master’s work on vernal pools to your IPh.D. studies with SSI?

I went into my master’s program with an interest in conducting ecological fieldwork that would contribute to vernal pool conservation. But as the thesis developed, I realized a growing interest in understanding the human dimension of conservation. By the end of my master’s, I knew I wanted to learn more about how to integrate communication and conservation. I came to the study of communication with a narrow idea about what this field would offer and have since expanded my understanding of the range of theories and methods that allow a flexible orientation to the study of human interactions in diverse contexts.

What are the major questions you’re pursuing in your doctoral research and what do you hope your work contributes?

I am interested in how communication, as a field of study, offers insights into the processes of sustainability and resilience. My core questions ask: How do we work together to figure out what to sustain and how to get there? How can communication help us understand and work through complexity? What does communication offer to encourage transformation across scales? My overarching dissertation theme focuses on the concept of resilience, which I approach through three different research projects: interdisciplinary and community partnerships; conservation action planning; and, as a discourse, a system of rules that produce particular ideas about what resilience is and what it is not.

What’s it like being a graduate student at UMaine? Aspects you appreciate most?

As a graduate student at UMaine I have received strong interdisciplinary and community engagement training in my program of study and research. I feel that I have gained depth in the field of communication and breadth across disciplines based on my dual experience in the Department of Communication and Journalism and with SSI.

There are a couple of aspects of my graduate experience that I deeply appreciate. I am grateful for the advising and mentorship I have received from Laura Lindenfeld, Linda Silka and Nathan Stormer. Working with them has enabled me to form and sustain multiple partnerships within the department and field of communication, across disciplines and with community partners. Collectively, we conduct research, write papers, develop curriculum, offer workshops, initiate grant projects, advance conservation plans, hold collaborative capacity sessions and more. I did not realize that my academic experience would result in so many relationships on which I will continue to build for the remainder of my career.

Are you going to be working with UMaine researchers on the latest $6 million EPSCoR grant funding health beaches work? If so, can you tell us about your role in the project?

I accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with the New England Sustainability Consortium (NEST), a collaborative effort led by UMaine and the University of New Hampshire in collaboration with many other academic, governmental and nongovernmental institutions. For me, this project extends research I have been doing with the Frenchman Bay Partners, an organization that seeks to build ecological and economic resilience in the bay. The NEST project aims to strengthen the scientific basis for decision making related to the management of recreational beaches and shellfish harvesting. My role is still emerging, though I expect that I will be studying collaboration within the core group of research partners and with various stakeholders as at least one point of focus.

Where will we find you in your career 10 years from now?

In 10 years, I see myself working as a faculty member in an interdisciplinary environmental communication program or serving in a leadership position at a nonprofit conservation and research organization. I will have published my first book, an outgrowth of my dissertation research, that explores material relationships and transformations among people and ocean tides. More than anything, you will still find me enjoying what I love most about this work: reading, writing, developing ideas with interesting people, and finding ways to make this knowledge useful in collective efforts to create a shared and sustainable future.

Contact: Margaret Nagle, 207.581.3745