UI names Afifi as Communication Studies Department Chair


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The University of Iowa recently named UI alumnus Walid Afifi to be the head of the UI Department of Communication Studies.

Afifi, currently a professor in the Department of Communication at University of California-Santa Barbara and the head of the undergraduate program in Middle East Studies, will begin his UI appointment in the fall 2013.

Nic Arp, the director of strategic communications for UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the committee decided to offer the position to Afifi after a long nationwide search.

Chaden Djalali, the dean of the liberal-arts school, described the committee’s thinking in an email.
“[Afifi] is deeply committed to undergraduate education, a popular teacher who often seeks out undergraduate students to assist him in his studies.” Djalali said.

Throughout Afifi’s career, he has cowritten three books and published more than 55 journal articles and book chapters, in addition to developing new communication theories.

Afifi is renowned for developing the theory of motivated information management. The theory, published in 2004, is concerned with how people deal with uncertainty and how the communication process affects that. More recently, Afifi has focused his research on community-wide uncertainties ranging from the Santa Barbara County wildfires to the uncertainties of living as an undocumented immigrant.

“These are the sort of things [in my research] that make meaning and excite me, not only that I understand them but knowing that I am also able to give back to the community,” he said.

Afifi has also served as head of the Interpersonal Divisions of the National Communication Association and the International Communication Association, at which, among other duties, he managed the most recent research from his scholarly community.

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from the UI in 1990. He then went on to earn a master’s and doctorate from the University of Arizona.

In 1996, Afifi secured his first job, at the University of Delaware. In 1998, he began teaching at Penn State, where he met wife and colleague Tamara Afifi. When Walid Afifi was offered a position as a full professor at UC-Santa Barbara, he said the location and program were too attractive to turn down. He, Tamara Afifi, their two daughters, and two dogs have resided in Southern California for the past seven years.

While the allure of Santa Barbara drew him away from the Big Ten almost a decade ago, Afifi said he looks forward to returning to Iowa City to serve as department head.

“One thing I am really excited about is that UI’s faculty thinks of communication in really diverse ways, as humanists, critical theorists, and social scientists, all in the same department,” he said. “I look forward to being chairman of a department with such diverse approaches to understanding and scholarship.”

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