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Meet the Authors

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Em Griffin

Em, with wife Jeanie and grandsons Sam and Josh, ready to take off!

Andrew Ledbetter

Andrew, with wife Jessica and daughters Kira and Sydney (2016).

Glenn Sparks

Glenn, with wife Cheri and grandson Caleb (2014)

Emily Langan

Emily's interest in sports communication is not just academic!

Glenn Sparks

After majoring in Physics for a little more than a year at Wheaton College in 1971, I made an abrupt change in order to study communication—an area that I found to be more intriguing.  I’m still studying. I was fortunate enough to have Em Griffin as one of my first professors and he’s been my good friend ever since.

Upon graduation from Wheaton, I wanted to continue studying communication so I went on to graduate school and earned a master’s degree at Northern Illinois University. I wanted still more. After a brief teaching stint back at Wheaton, I headed off to Wisconsin to continue my studies. After earning the doctoral degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1983, I joined the faculty at Cleveland State University for three years before moving to Purdue University in 1986. In the Fall of 2014, I’ll begin my 29th year of teaching and research in what is now the Brian Lamb School of Communication. In 2013, I decided to end a 12-year stint as the Associate Head of the school and returned to the ranks of a regular professor. I’ve been able to add a second course to my semester teaching assignment and I chose to begin teaching the introductory course in communication theory to compliment my new role as a coauthor on A First Look.

I’ve spent most of my academic career writing about the cognitive, emotional and behavioral effects of media. In my graduate studies, I was fortunate enough to work with Joanne Cantor, who was the recipient of a major grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study the effects of frightening media on children. After I became involved in that research, I was hooked on the study of media effects.

 Over the years, I’ve published a number of pieces on the emotional reactions that people have to scary media. I’ve also published work on the appeal of media violence, media depictions of the paranormal, the CSI effect, the impact of media on fear of criminal victimization and the depiction of males and females in news stories.

My scholarly interests are not limited to media effects. I’ve always been interested in interpersonal communication and I’m especially curious about how the media environment is changing the way we relate to each other. That interest inspired me to collaborate on a book about our need for close friendships and how our media habits may sabotage that need. You can read about that in the book, Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connection. I guess the main way I show my interest in communication is to write about it. In addition to the First Look text, I’m always working in one way or another on my undergraduate text on media effects—now in its 5th edition.

Now we get to the really important stuff—my wife and family. I met Cheri in my undergrad days at Wheaton and we were married in 1975. We’re looking forward to celebrating 40-years together in 2015. Cheri is a developmental therapist with a private practice devoted to helping young children (up to 3-years old) with special needs. We have three grown children. David, our oldest, lives with his wife, Jenna, in South Korea where they both teach English as a second language to college students. Erin, our oldest daughter, lives right around the corner from us with her husband, Cameron, and our first grandchild, Caleb. Erin and Cameron both work at Purdue University where Erin teaches psychology and Cameron works with computers. Our youngest daughter, Jordan, lives with her husband, Dave, in Minnesota. Jordan is completing doctoral work in clinical psychology and Dave is completing a master’s degree in economics.

I was blessed with such a unique childhood that I decided to write about it. When I was 11, my parents moved the family from Maryland to New Jersey to start a doughnut business. They ran it for 20-years. I had no trouble selecting stories from those years to put into my personal memoir that was published a few years ago, Rolling in Dough: Lessons I Learned in a Doughnut Shop. I believe that growing up in a doughnut shop provided me with a great foundation of communication experiences that inspired my later academic curiosity.

I’m an avid fan of Purdue sports—particularly football and basketball. I’m also a fan of the Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Saints (Drew Brees—Purdue’s own) the Chicago Blackhawks and the Baltimore Orioles. If there are no games to watch, I also like to tinker with the guitar and have even been known to write a song or two. I also try to play an unusual musical instrument called the theremin. The theremin may be the only musical instrument that is played without touching anything. You simply wave your hands around in the air. If you click here, that’s me playing along with my daughter, Jordan, who sometimes consents to provide piano accompaniment. Musicians say the theremin is the easiest instrument to play—and the most difficult to play well.

I always enjoy meeting new people so feel free to contact me by e-mail

Also available: Glenn's CV, and the syllabus from his offering of Communication Theory at Purdue (both as pdf documents).

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updated May 6, 2014

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