Bridgewater Welcomes New Communication Professor

JMU graduate Emily Kohl joins Bridgewater College Faculty

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Photo by Emily Kohl

Sidney Beck, Staff Writer

Bridgewater, VA – Recent 2019 James Madison University graduate Em Kohl has joined Bridgewater College’s Communication Studies and Theatre Department. 

Sidney Beck: Where are you originally from? 

Emily Kohl: Originally, I was born in Melbourne, Australia. My mother is British and my dad is American. My mother grew up in Australia, so I was born there. After a couple of years, we moved to the states, and then we moved to the Middle East and lived there for a few years. Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I don’t really know what to say. I have spent the longest amount of time in Virginia; I moved back here in 2003.

Beck: Outside of teaching, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy? 

Kohl: So much of my life has been academia, it sounds sad to say, but I love reading. I’m always reading books and articles because I am always finding stuff relevant to what I could be teaching. I also shoot photography from time to time, and I occasionally make money from that. I am also in a band every so often; the last band I was in was an Amy Winehouse cover band. It was great, it was one of the coolest things I have done in a while. We are in between right now, but we are hoping to start a Fleetwood Mac cover band. I love going outside and being active [as well]. I try not to spend too much time indoors on the weekend since I am in an office and “seat-locked” during the week. 

Beck: What about Bridgewater brought you here to this teaching position? 

Kohl: I knew Bridgewater was up the road, being a JMU student. I am going on year seven in Harrisonburg; I have received both of my degrees at JMU. I actually only visited the town of Bridgewater last year, just from my friend and I driving around. This was before I even knew about the job opening, before I even decided on what step I wanted to take next. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a PhD or go into the workforce for a little bit. My friend and I drove down here, and just got out and walked around. When I found out about the job posting, I decided to apply. Then, I actually started doing some more research about Bridgewater , and found out that it was smaller and diverse. I was struck by how community-oriented it was. Not just in a way that bigger schools try to say, “Hey, we’re a community.” When in reality, they’re dealing with having 20,000 students. In the month that I have been here, I can honestly say that I know more faculty in other departments, I know more students, and I know more about the community of people here than I ever felt like I really did at JMU. 

Beck: What’s been the best thing to happen to you since you started working at Bridgewater? 

Kohl: Well, I had one of those days where I doubted that I was doing my job correctly, and I wasn’t sure if I was getting through to some people. Someone behind me had said to me “Hey, I know a parent of one of your students,  and they are switching their major to Communication because they decided that they love your class so much. Hearing something like that was super validating 

Beck: Currently, you teach Comm 100 and FILA 150. Are there other classes that you are planning to or hope to teach in the future? 

Kohl: I am open to anything, I have a wide variety of interests. I think the communication discipline is especially wonderful because it does open up the world as this playground of things for you to learn. Everything is communication-related, from the color of the walls, to how we dress, or even how we are talking right now. That makes me excited for the possibility of being able to teach about things other than basic communication. However, teaching basic communication right now allows me a lot of freedom to talk about things happening in the world. I am really enjoying teaching FILA as well.

Beck: Do you specialize in any specific type of communication study ? 

Kohl: My master’s degree is in Environmental Communication and Advocacy. I do a lot of work on social justice issues as they pertain to the environment as well. I also focus on how we are communicating environmental issues like climate change to kids. We are living in this very intense and immediate crisis, and we have a generation of young people that have to learn how to deal with it. So far, responses have been largely fear-driven, nothing has seemed to work or click in the way that we need it to yet. My research focus is on how can we prepare children to be more empowered about the future. My other field of research is how are we communicating that same idea into comic books and how are we doing things through popular culture. I was an English major for my undergraduate degree, so I still have a lot of that book “nerdiness”  in me. 

Beck: Any further questions or comments? 

Kohl: I love it here. The faculty and the students have all been so welcoming, and I don’t think I could have gotten any luckier in terms of getting a job right before I graduated, which is a pipe dream.