Dorrance Hall and Holtz honored with Teacher-Scholar Award: University award recognizes teaching and research excellence from two ComArtSci faculty

Two faculty members in Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences have received the 2022 Teacher-Scholar Award for their skill and devotion to research-informed teaching.  

Elizabeth Dorrance Hall and Bree Holtz are among the tenure system faculty who have worked at MSU for seven years or less who will receive the annual recognition. Bestowed since 1969, the Teacher-Scholar Award is built on the premise that the most effective teachers intricately link their instruction to their research and creative activities. Dorrance Hall is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Director of the Family Communication and Relationship Lab. Holtz is an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, the Director of the Health and Risk Communication Master’s program and Director of Faculty Learning Innovation and Excellence. Both have published and presented extensively and received awards and grants for their work. 

Elizabeth Dorrance Hall: Close Relationships, Family Dynamics, Support 

Dorrance Hall focuses her research on communication processes in close relationships, especially within the context of family. She has applied and extended interpersonal and family communication theories to explore how family communication and support are associated with the academic, relationship and psychological well-being of adults.  

Several of her current projects center on family member marginalization and changes in perceptions throughout life; she has also examined women’s experience in career fields that are traditionally male-oriented. Most recently, Dorrance Hall received a Fulbright grant to study family dynamics. She spent a semester in Slovenia to analyze how partners who both hold full-time jobs manage work-life balance, support one another, and engage in coping to combat job stress and work-family role conflict. 

Dorrance Hall takes pride in integrating her research into teaching. Part of her mission as a professor, she said, is to share with students why research matters, how it can be used to improve their lives and relationships, and what the research process looks like. 

“My biggest source of inspiration for my work at MSU is the people around me,” she said. “I research and teach about families and close relationships, which I am lucky to observe every day. It is amazing to me how difficult and rewarding personal relationships can be. I love talking about the power of communication in building, maintaining, and dissolving relationships. My students always have interesting insights to add and they teach me new things about relationships frequently.”  

Bree Holtz: Health Communication, Technology, Persuasion 

Bree Holtz’s research sits at the intersection of health communication, information communication technology, and the promotion of healthy behaviors through persuasion. Her research specifically explores the adoption, perceptions, and outcomes of telemedicine, mobile phone health apps, consumer-grade sensors like Fitbit and Apple Watch, electronic medical records, artificial intelligence, and social media for health topics. 

Holtz studies a variety of technologies, populations and conditions on an array of health topics which include chronic illnesses, mental health, and activities like fitness and nutrition that are conducted over longer periods. The overall goal of her research is to help improve health outcomes and quality of life for individuals. She said the award signifies the purpose of MSU as a land-grant institution, and the ability to translate research into action by working with students. 

“I am truly grateful for the award as it recognizes my dedication and work in the things I love about my job—those being students and my research,” she said. “It’s humbling to think that so many students wrote letters of support, and to read about the impact I’ve had on their lives. It makes being in the classroom such a meaningful experience.” 

By Ann Kammerer