Alumnus Attributes Start in Research to the College

College of Communication Arts and Sciences alumnus Byron Reeves received both his M.A. and Ph.D. in Communication from MSU and is now a Professor in the Department of Communication at Stanford University.

Reeves, who recently returned to MSU to deliver the Department of Communication’s Bettinghaus Lecture, said he did not always want to do research and had no experience in the field as an undergraduate.

"I was playing baseball and making media, even doing graphic design," said Reeves, who during his senior year of college discovered there were people studying media and thought, "that's an interesting thing to do." He started looking at graduate programs and chose to further his education at MSU.

“MSU's Communication Department totally shaped my introduction to research,” Reeves said. “I got an accelerated look into what it took to organize a research project and worked on funded projects. That was all good visibility into stuff that's really hard to get experience in."

For Reeves, MSU also was a place that "truly was interested in making media part of (research), and not just the theoretical part." He said professors "were looking at things I wanted to look at."

At the time, there were only about four communication programs in the nation.

"Michigan State has a huge tradition and influence that started this field," Reeves said.

At Stanford, Reeves teaches courses in mass communication theory and research, with particular emphasis on psychological processing of interactive media. His research includes message processing, social cognition, and social and emotion responses to media. His research has been the basis for a number of new media products for companies such as Microsoft, IBM and Hewlett-Packard in the areas of voice interfaces, automated dialogue systems and conversational agents.

His Bettinghaus Lecture, "Switching Between Work and Play with Digital Media," discussed how people use digital media and seamlessly transition between work and leisure content.

This research came upon him unexpectedly from research he already was conducting that focused on computers.

"I'm not the type of researcher to find the facts and just leave it at that," he said.

Prior to joining Stanford in 1985, Reeves spent 10 years at the University of Wisconsin as the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Chair of the Mass Communication Research Center.