We Are UNCW

Ashley Gaddy, communication studies faculty member
March 21, 2022

Growing up, Ashley Gaddy ’09, ’13M wanted nothing more than to share people’s stories as a news reporter. An interaction with youth while conducting ethnographic research in downtown Wilmington changed her career trajectory.

Spending time with the young people made Gaddy realize that the sum total of their experience of Blackness was limited to a few block radius.

“I decided that I wanted to teach in higher education to allow Black and brown students to expand their mind about identities,” Gaddy said.

Over the next few years, Gaddy became a researcher, scholar-activist and educator. She recently joined the Department of Communication Studies as an instructor, where she teaches interracial communication. The course explores communicative behaviors between individuals from various racial and ethnic groups and contextual dynamics unique to such interactions.

 “I’m excited about teaching the histories of race relations, how society has shaped racial differences and how that shows up in interracial communication," she said.

As a scholar-activist, Gaddy studies and teaches text of scholars whom she says “push back against the white, patriarchal, elite narrative.”

“I have an intersectional approach,” she continued. “I study and teach about women of color, poor women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, those with disabilities, etc., in academic spaces. This is a form of resistance in itself, as the academy is used to teaching texts that are white male-centered.”

Gaddy, who is currently writing her dissertation for the Cultural Studies Ph.D. program at George Mason University, credits retired Communication Studies professor Deborah Brunson for creating an opportunity for her to teach. 

“She was a major part of my undergraduate experience,” she said. “She came out of retirement to teach this course, which speaks to her heart. In knowing my work, she lifted my name to Dr. Rick Olsen as a person she thought would be best to teach in the future. It is an honor to be seen by Dr. Brunson in this way.”

Gaddy hopes students will feel comfortable with having conversations about race after taking her class.

“I want them to understand it is okay to talk about race,” she said. “That race can be at the forefront of conversations and have a positive impact.”

Gaddy is excited to have the opportunity to teach fellow Seahawks and provide them guidance on their educational journey.

“These students are exactly where I was 12 years ago,” she said. “I want to be able to pour into them, support them, educate them and help them find their voice, which is vital in communications.”

--Venita Jenkins

#CAS
#ALUMNI